Brian Saperia

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I studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where I read "Greats" (very occasionally) and then went into health service administration where I have been ever since, having done just about every job in the book.  I am now almost completely retired, but working part time running a number of senior medical staff committees in the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust.  I am interested in all sorts of things (the arts, photography, choral singing etc etc) and now have the time to play a little golf and tennis and even to learn the piano - from scratch.

I am married with two children. My wife, Diana is of Central European stock (but born in Oxford) and is an actress under the name of Diana Brooks - she played Minnie Driver's mother in the film The Governess, Mrs Cohen in the acclaimed BBC TV adaptation of Daniel Deronda and is to appear in the forthcoming BBC TV adaptation of Jake Arnott’s novel, The Long Firm.  Ben works in the financial information services sector, having graduated from Leeds University in French and Management.  Julia graduated from Bristol University with a Maths degree, which formed the basis for her MSc in Medical Statistics. In between times she gained a qualification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language which she used worldwide for a year or two. She now works as a Medical Statistician.

My father, Wolfe (aka Will) was born in Leeds and he was one of eight children of Leber (Louis) David and Shiffra (Sophie) Saperia. Alas, time has taken its toll and only one of the eight is now alive, Bryni (Beattie) Black, who still lives and flourishes in Leeds. The others were Betty, Dora, Rae, Goldye, Maurice and Henry (an incorrigible gambler and the black sheep of the family). Leber (Louis) David came to England in 1898, following his brother, Barnet, who arrived in the 1880's. Barnet had (at least) seven children:
Gertie McKennell, who had a son, Cecil;
Rae Berson, who had a son, Mark and daughter, Goldie (Thompson). Goldie had a son, Stanley;
Leah Wolfberg, who had a son, Maurice and daughter, May;
Sadie Gould, who had a son, Cedric (a chemist in Melbourne) and a daughter, Brenda.

We have never been able to trace our surname back satisfactorily and it's not for want of trying! My grandfather followed his brother over to England from Kushner in Lithuania at the turn of the century. Their family name was Hirsch or something very like it, but his brother changed his surname to Saperia, either just before he left Lithuania or when he arrived in England. Perhaps he had something to hide or was on the run from the army, otherwise why change it? Or, it could be one of those changes that occur when illiterate or semi literate or just plain confused people come through immigration. I'm sure you know the apocryphal story of the Chassidic Jew who is asked his name by the official and in his confusion explains in Yiddish, "Schon vergessen" (I've gone and forgotten it) and his name is put down as Sean Ferguson.

Anyway, David was a tailor and lived in Samuel Street in an area of Leeds which has now been 'developed' into underpasses, overpasses and other concrete monstrosities. In fact, he stayed until the bulldozers were virtually at the door and lived until he was 95. He had a wonderful accent, a mixture of Central Europe and broad Yorkshire! One of his granddaughters is called Janet and her brother, Stephen, is one of the few remaining Saperias in his family, although his two sons and mine may carry the name on. I have often thought of changing my surname, because it really is such a nuisance and I get fed up with the endless jokes about Mother Superior etc, but I have never got round to it and I certainly won't at this stage.

As it happens, my wife's sister is very friendly with someone, also from Leeds, who was a Saperia, but has changed it to Speier. His first name is Howard, but he doesn't seem to be connected to my family. His telephone number is (44) 20 7935 8266. He thought that his family was originally Shapira and they came from Russia in about 1880. His father, David, was a tailor too and David had a sister whose name Howard doesn't remember.

There is a Geoffrey Saperia who lives in Efrat, Israel and comes from Whitley Bay in North East England. He was a very senior Civil Servant in Israel and has now retired. We see him from time to time on our frequent trips to Israel where my wife has many relatives. Now, he went to Oxford University, as I did, although several years after him, and people were constantly thinking that I was him and perhaps vice versa. That caused me to contact him and I have a feeling in my bones that he is actually related to me. There are certain physical similarities, but the actual connection has proved elusive.

I also discovered a Peter Percy Saperia who lives in Chigwell, Essex. His father was called Maurice and lived in the same street in Leeds as my grandfather - and was of course also a tailor! His grandfather was, he thought, called Nathan and he had an uncle on his father's side who was a boxer and emigrated to Canada.

Howard Saperia told me about Doreen Saperia who married Irwin Bellow, a very well known politician in Leeds and Westminster, who was elevated to the peerage as Lord Bellwin and died in March 2001.

We are very grateful to Nigel for having taken the initiative in setting up this website which not only has a wealth of information about the various strands of Saperias, but has been instrumental in bringing people together in a unique way. Diana and I have now formed a wonderful relationship with the aforementioned Cedric, my second cousin, and his family in Australia and even attended the wedding of their son, Richard, in Melbourne in March 2004.