Monthly Archives: January, 2013

Brief lives

Major Lawrence Johnny Johnston (1871-1958). The habitual cycle of Johnny’s year – autumn and winter at his French villa, Serre de la Madone, near Menton on the Cote d’Azure, and spring and summer at Hidcote – was broken by the second world war. At its end, with peace in Europe re-established and Johnny now in sometimes fragile health, the climate in France became ever-more appealing; and, as he prepared to settle there, he now began seeking ways to assure the survival of his garden at Hidcote in posterity. After complex negotiations, the property was made over by Deed of Gift to the National Trust in August 1948, two months after the death of Norah Lindsay. The deed had a proviso that he could use the house on his (increasingly rare) visits to England; and Nancy Lindsay was appointed to act as his deputy on garden matters. In August 1956, the Trust was informed that, due to illness, there was no possibility of Johnny ever being able to reside at Hidcote again. He died in April 1958: the funeral was at Menton and he was buried in Mickleton parish church next to the grave of his mother. ˜ Norah Lindsay (1873-1948) was the hostess of legendary bohemian parties in her house and gardens at Sutton Courtenay; and she was the foremost society garden designer of the age, with a client list embracing the likes of The Prince of Wales, Nancy Astor and Philip Sassoon. She died on 20 June 1948; and in July a memorial service was held for her at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, London. ˜ Nancy Lindsay (1896-1973). Nancy did not take easily to her role as Johnny’s deputy at Hidcote, soon developing a rather prickly relationship with managers appointed by the National Trust. She was sidelined in 1951 when the Trust formed a local committee (including Heather Muir) to oversee the garden. Miss Lindsay inherited Serre de la Madone from Major Johnston; and in her own will she left a small fund, administered by Oxford University, to promote the participation of women in plant-hunting expeditions. ˜ Dorothy Moore (1906-1995) was severely injured (and her fiancé, a US diplomat working in the office of Ambassador John Winant, killed) when the Pimlico mansion block in which she lived suffered a direct hit during the blitz in 1941. After a long convalescence she enrolled, in 1942, as a Red Cross nurse, serving in Italy in 1943 and in France following the liberation of Paris in 1944. She married another US diplomat in Brussels in 1945, returning to the US in 1956; and although she had only one child, a daughter, she had seven grand-children and six great-grandchildren at the time of her death. ˜ Edward Albert David Windsor (1894-1972). Although he was known to all his closest friends as David, The Prince of Wales became Edward VIII in January 1936, on the death of his father, King George V. News of his decision, in December 1936, to abdicate (in order to marry his mistress, the American-born Wallis Simpson) came as a thoroughly nasty shock to the British public at large. Thanks to a long-established understanding between newspaper proprietors, the Government and the Royal Family, British media refrained from revealing details of Edward’s affair with a married woman or reporting on the constitutional crisis that would ensue should he insist, against the dictates of the established church, on marrying her once she’d obtained a divorce, which was granted in the autumn of 1936. So the King’s subjects were wholly unaware of what was about to happen right up until the last minute. Having abdicated, Edward became David once more, was given the title, Duke of Windsor, and briefly (1940-45) fulfilled the role of Governor of the Bahamas. After the war, the Duke and Duchess lived in relative obscurity in France. ˜ Henry Chips Channon (1897-1958) married Honor Guinness in 1933 and in 1935 their son Paul was born. In 1939, Chips met garden designer Peter Coats, with whom he formed a long-standing close personal friendship. Chips and Honor divorced in 1945 after a long separation. Chips was knighted in 1957. Following his death, Coats, along with Paul Channon, oversaw (partial) publication of Chips’s celebrated diaries, with unexpurgated publication expected in (or after) 2018. ˜ Nicholas Classen (1903-1967). Architect. ˜ Jamie Waterbury (1910-1936) was the passenger in a twin-seated Tiger Moth he’d hired to bring him back from the Olympic Games in Berlin. It was believed that, in misty conditions towards dusk on the last day of August, the pilot had been making for Long Newnton aerodrome. The aircraft came down in woodland just north of Malmesbury. Neither Jamie nor the pilot survived.

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