20 September 2010

Treacherous parents and a treacherous fund-raiser

Further to this, here is another piece of history which my colleague Dr Charles McCreery has sent to the person who is planning to write a book about his father, the late General Sir Richard McCreery.

Herewith an account of a meeting in 1965 between myself, my mother and our then fund-raiser, Charles Scott-Paton, together with some of its sequelae. In writing this account I have referred to copies of letters, contemporary with the events described, from Scott-Paton to Sir George Joy (our chief Trustee at the time), from my colleague Dr Celia Green to Scott-Paton, and from Scott-Paton to Celia Green.

* * *

In the following account I describe some of the damage which my parents did to our fund-raising campaign in 1965, the effects of which are felt to the present day.

Far from ‘cutting myself off’ from my family, as they liked to make out, I made great efforts to keep in touch with them, and indeed rope them in to our war effort, in the first year after finishing my degree.

At that time we were employing a professional fund-raiser, Charles Scott-Paton, in an attempt to build up the charity’s financial position. Since 1963 the charity had been in receipt of a seven-year covenant from the publishers of the Daily Mirror, IPC, arranged by its then Chairman, Cecil Harmsworth King. At the outset Cecil King had said that his covenant was intended merely as a ‘pump-priming’ operation, and we were therefore attempting to get the charity set up on a more adequate scale. Cecil King himself had referred to various organizations, including the Gulbenkian Foundation, from which he might be able to get us more substantial funding in the future, if we could demonstrate productivity on a small scale.

I conceived the idea of taking my mother to meet our fund-raiser, Scott-Paton, thinking that he would be impressed by her social status, and she in turn would be impressed by his professionalism.

Scott-Paton worked from home, in a house in Hampstead. To my astonishment, my mother and I had scarcely sat down in his presence before he immediately launched into a disavowal of any identification with our project, and stated that he had only taken us on as clients as a favour to his friend, Charles Gibbs-Smith (Keeper of the Department of Public Relations at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a friend of one of our Patrons, Mrs Mary Adams, a former Head of Television Talks at the BBC).

I had been making regular visits to Scott-Paton from Oxford, as part of the planning for the launch of our fund-raising campaign with a function at the English Speaking Union, and I had never heard him speak in this way to myself. In the circumstances (we were paying him to promote our charity, so one might have thought he was answerable to me and my colleagues, not to Gibbs-Smith or my mother) this struck me as a betrayal.

Meanwhile, my mother sat listening attentively and with evident approval, not intervening at all with any remarks that might have counteracted his treachery and given him pause as to whether he was adopting the right line to her.

It should be borne in mind that I had invited both my parents to be Patrons of our charity, and they had accepted these positions, so one might have thought that my mother had a moral obligation to keep our end up when in public relations situations such as this.

This meeting continued as it had begun, with Scott-Paton and my mother reinforcing each other’s negative attitudes, and myself a mortified onlooker, largely silent while they talked across me to each other. I found it impossible to intervene to retrieve the situation, because to attempt to do so would have involved explicitly disagreeing with one or both of them as they expressed their ‘reservations’ and negativities to one another. Instead I was forced to watch as they carved me up in front of my eyes.

A sequel to this meeting with Scott-Paton was that my mother either initiated or propagated a slander to the effect that our charity was ‘in financial difficulties’. As with the drug-taking slander that my parents were later responsible for triggering, it is not clear who first thought up this slander. My mother tried to make Scott-Paton sound responsible by claiming she had got the idea from ‘reading between the lines’ of a letter Scott-Paton had written to her; while Scott-Paton, when taxed with this, claimed that it was my mother who had introduced the idea to him.

Needless to say, to imply that we were on the verge of financial collapse as an organization was likely to be a strong deterrent to anyone considering supporting us financially.

Soon after this episode our relations with Scott-Paton broke down completely, and the function at the English Speaking Union, for which invitations had already been sent out to the Press and potential donors, had to be cancelled. Scott-Paton sent in his final bill with notable alacrity, as if fearful that he might not be paid.

Up to this point Scott-Paton had held out the prospect of being able to arrange a charity premiere for our benefit at the Mermaid Theatre, then run by Sir Bernard Miles. Nothing more was heard of this thereafter.

I should make it clear that although in the preceding account I refer primarily to my mother, my father would have been fully complicit in the damage that was done to our fund-raising efforts. In matters such as this my mother never acted without my father’s approval. Indeed she was often at pains to emphasize the identity between her views and my father’s, both in family matters and about life in general.

I should also like to make it clear that I consider that my siblings owe me immediate reparation for the slanders and disinheritings, as follows:

Each of my siblings to make over to me a fourth part of any inheritance they received from my parents or any other member of my family and from which I was excluded. The sum to be calculated as follows: the size of the initial legacy to be compounded at the rate of 10% per annum from the date of receiving the inheritance up to the present day, to allow for inflation and the accrual of interest on the capital over that period.

Similar considerations apply to any lifetime payments or gifts any of them have received from my parents or other relatives, such as help with school fees, the gift of farms, London flats, etc. For me to consider restoring normal relations I require that a fourth part of the value of any such fees, property, etc., be paid to myself, with accrued interest and adjustment for inflation as described above.