WHEN BBC television director Andrew Hartley contacted local woman Jan Long about featuring in a short programme, she showed no hesitation in accepting the invitation, for the simple reason that the subject was Gertrude Bell.

An authority on the life of Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, Jan gives lectures and presentations about this extraordinary woman, having researched the subject for many years, meeting members of the Bell family and treading in Gertrude’s footsteps. Jan created a photographic exhibition about the life of Gertrude Bell which was exhibited widely and shown in the House of Commons, opened by the then speaker, Betty Boothroyd.

Jan remarked: “Professor Helen Berry and I were at Mount Grace Manor and Priory, on the Cleveland/Yorkshire border and the idea was to walk slowly across the lawn with the Priory as the backdrop, deep in conversation about Gertrude Bell, while the cameramen were filming. It was difficult to appear relaxed when the icy wind numbed face and jawbone, but we managed not to show chattering teeth in the bitter cold. It was hugely enjoyable and I was glad to have the opportunity of promoting the unsung heroine of Iraq.”

Gertrude Bell was an extraordinary woman, born into a family of great wealth, but Victorian constraints, she travelled alone through Arabia and the near east, befriended tribes, spoke eight languages fluently, was a gifted archaeologist, photographer and cartographer who was instrumental in helping to map the boundaries of modern day Iraq. As Oriental secretary in Iraq, she provided vital information for British intelligence. During the 1921 Cairo conference, she was the only woman amongst those attending who held a key position negotiating terms for the Anglo/French agreements. Gertrude Bell influenced the bringing about of the coronation of the Emir Faisal as the King of Iraq. She worked with TE Lawrence (of Arabia) and Winston Churchill. This amazing woman became a legend in her own lifetime and it seems that the light that burned so brightly faded after her mysterious death in 1926, two days before her 58th birthday. Jan said, “When Gertrude died she was given a state funeral. King George said ‘The nation shall mourn her passing’ and her obituary was written up in the Times and other newspapers, yet it seems that the sands of time have covered her name and brilliance. But we hope that 2015 will be Gertrude’s year. The feature in which I was interviewed will be out on BBC One on January 12. Then the Werner Hertzog film about Gertrude Bell, starring Nicole Kidman, will be released in February or March, and a full-length documentary film called Letters from Baghdad will be shown in the autumn. There are also two books awaiting publication. All of which will serve to ensure that Gertrude Bell comes to prominence and will be remembered for her service to the people of Britain and Iraq.”