Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Hughie had now turned six years old, and was in a class of about ten little boys of this age, with their teacher Bernard Mansfield. Bernard had just come back from being a Prisoner of War, and it was really cruel to give him, as his first job at school, this particular class, little boys of that age being too lively to make what you might call disciplinary material! Poor Bernard had a pretty rough time with them. I can’t remember how many girls were in the class, but I think only four. Hughie brought one of his friends home for the holidays, who was rather a wild little character. Elmfield had by now developed into a fair-sized school, so I brought Hughie back, and he boarded again with Mrs. Jenkins and her sons, Jocelyn and Lawrence. This time his teacher was George Brice, yet another P.O.W. under the Japanese. George had kept himself going through those ghastly years by studying Steiner’s Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, and living for the time he could teach in a Waldorf School. He had also been able to procure a hat, which saved him from the scorching sun!

John did not do so well at Eton, where he had a lot of illness, which badly affected his work. For various reasons, it was decided he should leave after two years. He was suffering both physically and mentally. I thought that the best person to help in both these directions was Deryck Duffy. Deryck did not stay very long at Home Farm, and he and his family moved up to Aberdeenshire. It happened that Lord Glentanar was interested in the Bio-Dynamic methods and wanted someone to help him with some conversions on his estates in Aberdeenshire. Deryck had got in touch with him about this, and Glentanar invited him to come up and work with him. So the family moved into a large old house, Westhall, near Inverurie, and it was there that John went. Deryck had, after all, many years’ experience with young people and their troubles.

John quickly realised that he had found someone he could trust, admire and have confidence in. He enjoyed the work enormously and was soon Deryck’s star pupil. John decided that he wanted farming to become his career and to that end he needed to go to the Agricultural College at Cirencester. But a full year’s work on a regular farm was needed first.

First he had to have passed his Matric or school certificate, so to get this qualification, after a year at Westhall, he went to a crammer in Eastbourne. There he met Ronnie Hersov, from South Africa, working to the same end, and they became lifelong friends. Ronnie was later Best Man at John’s wedding. It happened that not far from the crammer was a girls’ Domestic Science College, and quite a few friendships developed between the two establishments.

To get further experience in the farming world, Hugh then got John taken on in Birmingham at an accountant’s who dealt with farming accounts, and from there to another firm.

After a year spent in these offices, John then went to work on a farm of a friend of Hugh’s, Hugh Sumner, in South Worcestershire. John was allocated a very generous petrol allowance as a farming student, which annoyed me, while I still had mostly to bicycle.

After a year at Sumner’s farm, John went to the Agricultural College at Cirencester, where he took the one year course and graduated without having taken a single lecture since he was having too enjoyable a social life. For a lot of this time, we were still very strictly rationed with certain food supplies, although we had done well in stocking up before the war began and those supplies lasted during the war. Also the kitchen garden was a big help. While John was working on the farm, and part of the time from home, it took a large part of our bread ration to make his sandwiches.


During these years, I used to go as much as possible over to Clent, taking part in the Festivals as they came round and attending study groups. I worked a lot in the garden, making large compost heaps and spraying. I also made a large herb garden for Mrs. Hauschka at Clent, who was a chemist by profession, and made a great many of the medicines needed by the children.

A lot of our holiday time was spent at St. Bride’s House, and John brought Ronnie Hersov there one time. I also went up to Scotland, visiting the Duffys on Bio-Dynamic business.

Hughie’s summer holidays were a bit of a problem, him being virtually an “only child” with no one to play with. I took him up to Westhall, from where one day we went to look for the Loch Ness Monster. Another time I joined up with the Pritchetts, and I thought our young people would be able to get on together. But from that point of view it was a wash out. Anthony Pritchett was only interested in trains, and Celia spent most of the time complaining about everything. Allison Pritchett, Hugh’s first cousin, and her children went with Hughie and me to Italy, amongst other places to Florence, and visited various art galleries, in which I picked out the special pictures which Hughie ought to look at intelligently! Allison and I enjoyed ourselves very much and had rather a hilarious time over our respective difficult and impossible families! But Hughie and I spent a lot of time at St. Bride’s House, where I was his “handy man”, available to help him with his various projects.

As the girls left school, they went their different ways. Idonea went to the Domestic Science branch of London University. She worked at Institutional Management and Cordon Bleu cookery; from both of which courses she came away with highest marks and diplomas. Tiggy went to Oxford, with the aim of entering one of the Colleges. She stayed with a very nice family, who became great friends. She also met there her first cousin Jeremy, whom she would later marry. She did not unfortunately achieve her academic aim, but I do know she thoroughly enjoyed her time there – perhaps to the detriment of her school work! I suspect she was having too good a time. Bridget decided that she wanted to learn dancing, including ballet, and I was able to get her into a dance school in London. Hughie outgrew Elmfield, and Hugh decided to send him to Gordonstoun. His brother Roger was a Governor and Jeremy had been Warden. I went up and had tussles with one master in particular concerning his attitude to Hughie. I did win! Subsequently Hughie’s time there did improve a bit, according to the master, although my youngest son recalls he hated every minute of it. He left Gordonstoun and, through a friend, went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Not long before Idonea’s wedding, Hugh was due to go to New York on a business trip, and as there was nothing more for me to do in connection with the wedding, I accepted the invitation to go with him. We were to stay with old friends of Hugh’s, the Percy Jennings, and they were going to look after me while he was away on business. Just before we arrived, Percy had a very serious heart attack and we could not go there. Their daughter Betsy Truslow, who lived on Long Island, kindly had us to stay but what were they going to do with me? It so happened that friends of theirs, in charge of the National Art Gallery in Washington, agreed to have me to stay. One day, in the course of conversation they told me of a visit they had had from a fellow art curator in London, who told them how his daughter had been left an enormous property by a cousin who had disinherited his own family. To my utter astonishment, here was my own family’s story, and I told them that I was part of the disinherited family! It was certainly very strange to meet up with all this in America! Apart from showing me the picture galleries, I was taken to all the famous places round Washington, including Williamsburg with its slave quarters. Also there was the herb “knot garden”, famous and copied many times over.

My next visit to America occurred a few years later. I went to visit Hughie at Montreal and met his Under Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at McGill University. The Dean looked after student affairs. Hughie told me that this was the first person he had ever had real respect for. I had flown direct from Cape Town, stopping off at Heathrow, to meet Bridget, who had a change of clothes for me, as I was going from semi tropical heat to winter conditions. Snow was still lying at Montreal and it was very raw and cold. From there, Hughie drove us down the East Coast into the U.S. and to New York where we stayed with Betsy Taylor Truslow. We met some very interesting people through Weinstein who had been a publicity agent for Chance Brothers. Hughie earned an engineering degree after that and then came back home.

My interests at home were greatly to be involved with the bio-dynamic work, joining Deryck Dully in some of his projects. He and Lord Glentanar had disagreements over some of Glentanar’s projects, but also Deryck saw how the bio dynamic produce was, for the most part, not reaching the people who wanted it. So he left Westhall and found a property, Peffermill House, on the South side of Edinburgh. Here Deryck was able to get in contact with various bio dynamic producers and inaugurate a Growers Producers Association. This spread quite quickly and soon became a large concern. I was able to find organic fruit growers in Worcestershire who supplied Deryck with apples which I took up myself by car.

There seems extraordinarily little to report about the following years. I was always involved in the lives of my children with their jobs, their marriages and many grandchildren who arrived at fairly short intervals. As my three eldest children all married in three years, I soon collected quite a large family. Idonea had six children with her two first husbands, Tiggy four and John four out in South Africa.


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