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29 January 1976

Extracts from a letter from Nico Llewelyn Davies to Andrew Birkin, 29 January 1976

[...] Incidentally, there's an odd story occurs: I have told you of Jack's criticisms etc of Uncle Jim, yet at the time that there was discussion as to what should go on Michael's tombstone - Uncle Jim rather liking the thought of including words to the effect of `adopted son of JM Barrie' - Uncle Gerald [du Maurier] flew into a rage and said no Barrie should be mentioned etc (heaven knows why - he wasn't usually like that, maybe drunk - who knows!) As soon as Jack heard of this (and he loved Uncle Gerald), he stormed round to the dressing room at Wyndham's and told Uncle Gerald loud and clear what a shit he was and of course Uncle Jim's name should be there, etc etc! In fact though, Uncle Jim was to say No. But the point, from me to you, is how Jack could swing into championship of JMB. Jack was always the quickest-tempered of us. He was a wonderful sailor, I believe, but if his captain called him names etc, Jack would answer back with knobs on, and you can't do that in the Navy!

By a coincidence I had a letter from Gerrie (Jack's widow) on Monday and in my answer told her a bit about you and that you'd probably be getting in touch with her. She is remarkably well preserved for close on 80. Her trouble has always been she is a grumbler, i.e. thinks the world and the Almighty have been against her from the start. Very good to look at, married very young, very devoted marriage, she'll probably say some pretty unkind things about Uncle Jim (and others!) but I think you ought to see her.

Also, by coincidence, Daphne [du Maurier] rang me from Cornwall and before we rang off I'd told her a few things about you and that you'd probably be getting in touch. Let me know if and when you'd like to me to let one of the sisters know. As Angela is the elder and played Wendy twice (to Gladys Cooper and Dorothy Dickson), I think you should probably approach her and see Daphne at the same time. Here you will have much laughter and pleasure - how much help I don't know, though Daphne got to know Peter very well in his later years. Angela born 1904, Daphne about three years later. I dearly love them both.

Here are a few names of people you might think it worthwhile trying to get in touch with:

Lord Boothby. More or less contemporary with Michael both at Eton and Oxford (particularly the latter). Roger Senhouse used to tell me that for quite a long period after Michael was drowned, Boothby would say, looking upwards!, "I think you'll be pleased with what I did there, Michael!" etc etc. I only met him once, I think, a few years ago - and didn't like him at all!

Sebastian Earl. I knew him quite well. Edited the Eton College Chronicle with Michael, went to Oxford etc. Sir Roger Chance, Bt: a great friend of George's - he was at Amhuinnsuidh in 1912 - I remember walking off from the castle some six miles towards Tarbert to meet Roger as he arrived. During later years as a publisher in London I saw quite a bit of Roger and talked a good deal of Amhuinnsuidh. I haven't heard that he has "aged" anymore - must be 83! - and if available would, I know, be very pleased to discuss George etc and doubtless JMB, but doubt if he (or any of us) knew in 1912 of the association with Mary Rose.

I've just thought of a story that I don't think I've told you. Told to me first one night when Michael, I and Uncle Jim were spending the night at the North British Hotel in Edinburgh. Scene: my bedroom on, say, the third or fourth floor - Uncle Jim looking out of the window. "This reminds me, I was looking out of a hotel window once when to my horror I saw a man come falling past me - I was on the third floor like this - and as he went by I heard him saying, "Ach michty, what a clink I'll get!" Of course one misses a good bit not hearing Uncle Jim's slightly Scottish accent, and not seeing his slightly melancholic countenance until the story was finished and Michael and I were screaming with laughter, and his own eyes would start an ineffable twinkle.