Friends from across the trade came together on Friday (29th September) to celebrate the life of Mo Siewcharran, head of marketing at Nielsen Book, who died in June.
The main auditorium at York House, Twickenham, was filled to capacity, the location changed to accommodate the large number who came to remember with evident affection and respect a woman described in the many letters received by her husband John Seaton as radiant, kind, understanding, dedicated, generous, gracious, elegant and fun-loving; a woman who lived life to the full. To be a friend of Mo, as Carol Clarke, a friend of 40 years observed tearfully, was to be “a part of an extended family”. She was a woman with whom you could “laugh the night away”.
The celebration was led by Kate McFarlan, who met both Mo and John in the 1980s when they were working at Penguin, a golden age that included Andrew Franklin, Clare Alexander, Fanny Blake, Liz Attenborough, and Tony Lacey, all of them in attendance. It fell to her to welcome Mo’s brother Michael and to announce that their mother had died suddenly the previous evening.
There were tributes from former Nielsen colleagues Francis Bennett and Jonathan Nowell, and current m.d Andre Breedt: words and anecdotes were different but told the same story. Stephanie Enderby, who worked with her for 17 years, recalled the ordered turrets of paper that marked out Mo’s desk and the cakes and other goodies that lightened Monday mornings, the delicious leftovers of Mo and John’s weekend hospitality.
Seaton spoke twice, first to read from Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning, though he did much more than read, setting the book in the context of their lives; the second time to paint a vivid portrait of his “Darling Mo”, which included an excursion into the rich hinterland of their years together, not least their travels. “I didn’t do pilates and Mo didn’t much like cricket but there was fertile ground between,” he said, describing their shared passions not just for literature but for music, art, architecture and much besides. Bravely he recalled their last weeks in hospitals in Corfu, where she was taken ill with a respiratory infection, and Athens, where she died, never coming out of a medically induced coma.
They spent 20 years together and Mo was “a glass half full sort of person and I’m the incredibly glum codger… Life was fun with Mo… She was my brown-eyed girl.”
McFarlan read from Donne’s Devotions and music included “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Mo’s favourite ballet, The Nutcracker, Nat King Cole’s “Stardust” – and Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”.