18 March 2009

Further reflections on my past history

Sir George Joy and W.H Salter, who at first supported me (at least within normal social parameters) were both relatively cut off from the full impact of the modern ideology.

Once it became known that I aimed to remedy my position by building up capital, aiming at enough capital to provide endowment for at least a small residential college in the first instance (although even that first objective appeared hundreds of years in the future), Rosalind Heywood quickly and effortlessly turned everyone against me. By that time she knew of Somerville’s hostility towards me and that it was the wish of the Principal, Dame Janet Vaughan, that I should be driven away from Oxford. The Principal had socially conferred status and everyone wanted her to have her way. Of course Rosalind might, and probably would, have concluded quite independently that I was the sort of person who, once thrown down, should be kept down, but she would never wish to stand up for an outcast person against a Dame Janet.

So, to prevent my returning to Oxford which would make Dame Janet livid – she had already been made livid by my returning after a fashion with the Perrott Studentship to do a post-graduate degree - the offer that the Coombe-Tennants would buy me a large house in Oxford had to be withdrawn. At the time I did not understand Sir George’s look of shocked apprehension when I said that I could not take any more prevarication and would have to use my own pathetic savings to buy a much smaller house.

In retrospect I do understand it; the breakdown of the Coombe-Tennant house offer was intended to prevent me from returning to Oxford, and if I bought myself a house, however small, I would be living in Oxford against the will of Dame Janet. ‘You can’t do that’, Sir George said, shocked and apprehensive. ‘Well, yes I can’, I said. I did not add, ‘But only just’, because he knew that anyway.

I was forced to sell all my equity investments at a bad time in the markets (none of my ‘supporters’ offered me a bridging loan to enable me to sell at a better time) and it took every penny I had. I had scarcely any income, so everyone devoted themselves to driving me out by starvation.

You may say that the hostility which has always surrounded me (at least after being thrown out) emanated from Somerville as its centre. One of the things I became aware of at the Society for Psychical Research was that it is a small world at the top; all influential people are on the same networks, and all think and act alike. So, as I sometime say, ‘Once one person is against you, everyone is against you’.

The intensity of Professor Sir Alister Hardy’s hostility towards me probably owed something to his wife’s connection to Somerville via her sister, the Bursar, although the flame was constantly fuelled by Rosalind.

When I got some minimal support from Cecil King[1], Mary Adams[2], a little shocked but not too much because she could foresee how soon he could be turned against me, said, ‘It’s a miracle’. And in a way, I suppose it was. Cecil King had plenty of top-level contacts and it could not have been long before he knew of Somerville’s intentions concerning me; but he had approached the SPR out of the blue and I had managed to make use of Sir George’s last remnant of ambivalence towards me to squeeze out an absolute minimum of support. Which immediately made everyone very angry indeed.

[1] Then Chairman of IPC, publishers of the Daily Mirror.
[2] A former Head of Television Talks at the BBC.