Sunday, February 19, 2006

Things I didn't realise Pt 1

I have been watching the BAFTAs. I wasn't going to but my brain's numb at the moment and I do like watching Americans struggle to understand Stephen Fry. They've just done the quiet, reverential bit during which they pay brief tribute to the luvvies who have been permanently unavoidably detained and I spotted the name of John Brabourne. He died in September last year and I didn't realise.

Probably only known to none bar the most efficient pub quiz team (name the film producer who survived being blown up by the same IRA bomb that killed Earl Mountbatten), he was nonetheless a semi-permanent fixture of my late adolescence.

I lived the first 18 years of my life in Ashford in Kent and John Brabourne's family, the Knatchbulls, have been linked with the town for 400 years or so. My old school was named after one of his ancestors when it turned comprehensive in 1973 and John was a very active chairman of the governors. Occasionally he would turn up and give the only decent assembly of the year by regaling us with jolly film producer japes, none of which I can remember but as he produced those 70's Agatha Christie star vehicles such as Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, they probably featured Peter Ustinov or Ingrid Bergman. Reading his biography on IMDB I note he was also responsible for Up the Junction, Sink the Bismarck! and Othello, which is other stuff I didn't realise. Despite being very well known and all that, his community spirit was strong and he was chairman of Ashford Hospital Broadcasting Service, with whom I enjoyed a year and a bit long tenure as Saturday Night Rock Show host in the late 70s (you see, I'm quite used to preaching to audiences in single figures so this blogging stuff doesn't phase me one byte). He was "honoured" (if that is the right word) with a This is Your Life a decade or so ago and while I didn't see it, I was told that Wingnut, my old headmaster, made a typically embarrassing appearance in a determined effort to discredit the school.

Unlike say, the Dukes of Norfolk, who live in Sussex and the Devonshires who live in Derbyshire, Lord Brabourne actually lived very near to Brabourne, a village a few miles outside of Ashford, at a place called Mersham le Hatch and I do believe some of my antecedents may have been in service there aeons ago. My mother's paternal side are very much locals and also lived in Brabourne between the wars. The grounds were a favourite local venue for charity events such as sponsored walks and also (I have this on good authority not, I hasten to add, my own experience if you're reading this, mother. But yes, you were right, I did have some 'funny' friends), a very productive source of the psilocybin mushroom. I would wager that Her Maj the Q, a frequent visitor to Hatch Park, is unaware this popular naturally occurring medicinal restorative is so immediately available. Had Lord Brabourne partaken of enough of this homegrown fungal bounty to send him on a particularly murderous spree he may well have ascended the throne as he was 460th or so in line. He would however have had to waste not only his wife (daughter of Earl Mountbatten) but also the three reigning Scandinavian monarchs in the process and I think that may have got him noticed.

But yes, before I delve even further into the land of Wikipedia, it is a somewhat poignant loss. He was a decent cove.

3 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Steve Middleton said...

I was in the same hall at University as one of the Knatchbulls - and not knowing how well connected he was we were somewhat taken aback to notice him standing on the balcony at Buckingham Palace at some Royal wedding, RAF flypast or whatever.

9:35 pm  
Blogger Richard Seamon said...

That would be Norton, presumably. He's now Lord Brabourne, was Lord Romsey and is Wills' godfather. Well connected. Norton is the family forename; my school was renamed "The Norton Knatchbull School" in 1973.

12:15 am  
Blogger Obertra said...

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12:37 am  

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