Leeds woman’s tributes to mother and sister killed in Boxing Day tsunami

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge, who lost her mother Sally Macgill and sister Alice in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge, who lost her mother Sally Macgill and sister Alice in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

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AROUND THIS time of year, Edie Fassnidge heads to the bench she had placed on Ilkley Moor, by the Cow and Calf rocks, and remembers her mother and sister.

Not that they are ever far from her thoughts.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Images from tsunami survivor Edie Fassnidge's graphic novel Rinse, Spin, Repeat.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Images from tsunami survivor Edie Fassnidge's graphic novel Rinse, Spin, Repeat.

But today, ten years on from when they were both lost in the Indian Ocean tsunami, Mrs Fassnidge will be at her home in London with her husband Matt, remembering that day, and them, quietly.

On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, triggering a deadly tsunami which battered coastlines across Asia.

It hit 14 countries, killing around 230,000 people and making 1.7 million homeless.

It was indiscriminate, Thai fishermen working out at sea were swept away, as were tourists relaxing in luxury resorts. Stark images of villages razed to the ground filled television screens around the world.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Images from tsunami survivor Edie Fassnidge's graphic novel Rinse, Spin, Repeat.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Images from tsunami survivor Edie Fassnidge's graphic novel Rinse, Spin, Repeat.

In total, 149 British citizens or those with close links to the UK died, including many from Yorkshire.

Leeds University professor Sally Macgill, 53, and her daughter Alice, 23, of Burley, Leeds, had flown out to Thailand to spend Christmas with Mrs Fassnidge and Matt. It was a happy reunion for the close family, who had been worried about missing each other during the couple’s 18-month dream trip, which had started four months earlier and would culminate with a year working in New Zealand.

But the events of Boxing Day 2004 changed their plans, and their lives, forever.

Using simple, stark illustrations, Mrs Fassnidge has told the story of that day in her new memoir Rinse, Spin, Repeat. It is just one of the things that have helped her cope with her loss.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge with her mother Sally Macgill and sister Alice in Thailand before the tsunami struck.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge with her mother Sally Macgill and sister Alice in Thailand before the tsunami struck.

“I was very conscious that I didn’t want what had happened to be forgotten and lost, but didn’t know what form that would be in,” she said. “As the years passed, I started writing it all down and that led to using illustration. I’m not an artist but I did have all these thoughts and emotions inside that I wanted to present in a way that I couldn’t in writing.”

The couple, her mother and sister were kayaking at Ao Nang beach, Krabi, when Mrs Fassnidge noticed something on the horizon didn’t look quite right. The first wall of water that met them upturned the family from their kayaks, but it was the second that engulfed them, sending Mrs Fassnidge crashing into a bank of rocks, and swept Mrs Macgill and her younger daughter away.

Mrs Fassnidge’s injuries were extreme, her flesh torn so badly that she could see through to her bones, and later, in a Bangkok hospital, nurses discovered that maggots eating away at flesh in a head wound were the cause of blinding headaches.

While Mrs Fassnidge remained in hospital, it was Mr Fassnidge who tried in vain to find Mrs Macgill and Alice.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge with her husband Matt.

Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.''Edie Fassnidge with her husband Matt.

“He was also badly injured, but when the tsunami happened the degrees of injury took on a new meaning. In any other circumstances, he would have been hospitalised,” Mrs Fassnidge said.

“It was incredibly confused because something on that scale was so unprecedented.”

The couple received conflicting information, especially about Alice, but on January 1 they were placed on a Government evacuation flight back to the UK, without knowing for sure what had happened to them both. Mrs Fassnidge’s recovery continued in the UK, where she had required three operations on her injured right leg.

Mrs Macgill’s body was found in the spring, and a funeral was held in Leeds in September. Sadly, Alice’s body was never recovered.

“We were told in late 2005 that there was probably not much chance of her being found,” Mrs Fassnidge said. “It wasn’t a shock, but it still felt unfinal and unresolved.”

Determined to keep her sister’s memory alive, Mrs Fassnidge set up Music for Alice, a charity which funds the purchase of musical instruments and equipment for groups all over the UK. Alice, who played the cello, had been studying to become a music teacher when she died.

It has given money to a group in Otley, where the family lived when the sisters were young, and to Leeds Youth Orchestra.

“My mum was very successful, and I knew her memory would continue through her work as a professor at Leeds University. Alice was so young and still carving her path in life. I didn’t want her to be forgotten,

“She was such a skilled musician and had a real love of music, and communicating the enjoyment of music to children,” Mrs Fassnidge said.

Her mother was also a talented musician and sportswoman, and her legacy lives on at the University of Leeds Sustainability Research Institute, which she set up shortly before travelling to Thailand. The Institute recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, and Mrs Fassnidge returned to Leeds for the event.

“She was a real role model for me in terms of what women can achieve,” Mrs Fassnidge said. “She achieved anything she set her mind to, but above all she was the most caring, loving and thoughtful mother to Alice and me.”

A percentage of the profits of Rinse, Spin, Repeat will go to Music for Alice.

A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to publish the book, and has already raised £9,000 - more than 70 per cent of its target.

“If it helps anyone else, I would be really happy,” Mrs Fassnidge said. “The feedback I’ve had from people is that gives an important reminder of perspective and being grateful for what you have, and that’s something that I take out of it.”

To help get the book published by ordering a copy, visit www.unbound.co.uk/books/rinse-spin-repeat.

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