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NZ manuscript tells about 228

PRIMARY SOURCES The publication of a New Zealander's account of events surrounding the 228 Incident gives historians a new perspective

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following the recent publication of a New Zealander's account of the 228 Incident and the donation of the original manuscript to the 228 Memorial Museum, critics say the third-party account of the atrocities serves as a unique opportunity for the general public to reflect on the horrors of the past.

Colin Shackleton donated his father's manuscript of his book Formosa Calling to the 228 Memorial Museum on Saturday -- more than five decades after his father Allan James Shackleton wrote about his post-war experiences in Taiwan as a UN rehabilitation officer.

The manuscript describes how the Chinese moved to Taiwan after the KMT's defeat in the Chinese Civil War, how they pillaged the industrial society created by the Japanese on Taiwan and the corruption he witnessed among KMT troops.

After the KMT's arrival in Taiwan (usually, at the time, referred to as the Nationalists), "the Formosans soon found that property was not safe when soldiers were about and that they had no redress at law for any robbery committed by the military," Shackleton wrote in the manuscript.

Lap Phok-bun (葉博文), director of the 228 Memorial Museum said the manuscript was a valuable document.

"This is the kind of book that was banned from publication for more than 50 years. More than 50 years later, it has come to light," he added, displaying the Mandarin version of the account, which was published in Taiwan last June.

The English version was only published in 1998.

Unexpected discovery

Before 1997, nobody except Shackleton's family members knew of the existence of the unpublished manuscript, which had been kept in a metal cabin trunk mixed with other documents relating to his experience during WWI.

"After he died, we went through the trunk, and threw out just about everything. But we kept Formosa Calling, and got it moved up into the study into a filing cabinet. It got `promoted,'" said Jenny, Colin Shackleton's wife.

"It's an important part of father's life, so I couldn't have possibly destroyed it," said Colin. Even so, Allan Shackleton's descendents considered the manuscript merely as a family keepsake.

"We didn't consider it important. We thought it's just our family history and that nobody else would be interested," said Jenny.

It was an unexpected telephone call from a stranger in 1997 that changed the fate of the manu-script.

"When I called Colin the first time, he sounded shocked," said Stanley Liao (廖評昱), the stranger in question, who was then acting president of the New Zealand Taiwanese Association.

Liao said that when preparing an event in New Zealand to mark the 50th anniversary of the 228 Incident in 1997, a friend told him of two New Zealanders he could contact for related materials.

Liao's friend said that George Kerr had mentioned two New Zealanders, Allan James Shackleton and Louise Tomsett, in his 1965 book Formosa Betrayed as sources he consulted about the events of 1947.

Making numerous phone calls, Liao found out that Tomsett, though still alive in Sydney, had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak. Tomsett communicated with Liao via fax to say that all her related files had been lost.

Liao's search for the Shackleton family yielded mixed results. The bad news was that Allan had died in 1984. The good news was that he had left behind him an unpublished manuscript.

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