Writes of Way’s proletarian credentials dealt a shattering blow!

Freda Dudley Ward.jpg
Freda Dudley Ward in 1919

This has nothing to do with walking whatsoever, but I felt it might provide sufficient amusement to merit a post anyway.

I’ve always regarded the Upper Classes, the Establishment, the Landed Gentry and posh folk in general with considerable disdain, it’s always felt like a perfectly natural attitude to possess. I grew up on a council estate, went to a fairly dysfunctional secondary comprehensive from which I was ejected aged 15, for a litany of serious misdemeanours; I was always in trouble with the police, made a number of appearances at juvenile court, gained a criminal record, sniffed glue, took drugs; I became a vegan, hunt saboteur, rabid anti-monarchist and embryonic anarcho-class war fruitcake. I went on every demo going, and worked on fund-raising gigs for the striking miners. I hung out in squats in Brighton, London, Berlin and Amsterdam and I still held doors open for old ladies!

So, I’ve always felt that my proletarian credentials were pretty solid, yet people often take me for posh because of my speaking voice. I’ve always found that quite funny as to my mind being ‘well-spoken’ isn’t necessarily a class thing – definitely not in my case. In the early-nineties I found those ubiquitous middle class drop-out wannabe-New Age traveller kids very amusing when they attempted to disguise their accents by adopting something earthier, which often made them sound as if they were auditioning for The Wurzels.

Nope, definitely not posh me.

So why is it, then, that returning from a pre-xmas working and visiting trip to my native Sussex, TLF was able to derive a great deal of pleasure from repeatedly calling me a posh twat as we motored up the M6 on our way home?

The origin of TLF’s enchanting new pet-name for me was a little window onto the murky mists of our family history opened by my 85-year old mum. Details of our family past have always been a bit sketchy, not least on my father’s side; he was, to say the least, a bit of a dark horse. For instance, he was known to all and sundry as Tony Edwards, yet when he died in 1994, this is the name that was inscribed on his headstone;

Captain Henri Anthony Lemoine Edwards

While he was alive, no-one bothered to mention that his natural father was French, a mining engineer, who had been killed in 1914 (the war?) – the year my father was born. He was then shipped out to relatives in Blighty, but subsequently went to boarding school in France. He was a fluent French speaker, but never bothered to teach me a word of the language. All I really knew about him was that he had served throughout the second world war during the campaigns in the Western Desert, Italy, France and Germany. I was immensely proud of this. Other than that, he wasn’t a great communicator.

Anyway, while we were down in Sussex, myself and TLF visited my sister and family over in South Heighton to celebrate mum’s birthday. My niece, Abbie, cooked a roast and after we’d eaten my mum chipped in with a bit of a jaw-dropper…

I’d known for a long time that my father had a cousin, name of Penelope Dudley Ward, who had been a reasonably famous actress before and during the last war (starred opposite Larry Olivier in Moscow Nights (1935) and the wartime dramas In Which We Serve and The Way Ahead). This is a picture of her from the National Portrait Gallery:

Penelope Dudley-Ward in 'Victoria Regina', by Paul Tanqueray, 1937 - NPG  - © estate of Paul Tanqueray

Well that’s okay, isn’t it? Actress with posh name, never mind, starred opposite Larry O – that’s quite cool, ne c’est pas?

So then my mum tells us about Penelope’s mother – my great aunt – Freda ‘Fifi’  Dudley Ward,  also known as the Marquesa de Casa Maury. ‘Ooh that sounds a bit posh doesn’t it?’ I hear you say. Bloody right it does, but guess what? It gets worse: she was only King Edward VIII’s mistress for 15 years while he was still the Prince of Wales and before he met Wallis Simpson!

Great aunt Fifi, how could you? There goes my reputation…

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39 responses

    • Aha! Reuben’s owner caught in the heinous acts of anthropomorphising and using his pet dug as a Trojan horse for a gender-confused dig at the blameless author of a mediocre blog about walking and stuff. Innit.

    • Grace Darling is a top personage to have adorning your family tree, Chrissie! Illegitimacy is vastly underrated in my opinion…

      A positive about having great aunt ‘Fifi’ as a relative is that she is also related to Jane Birkin, which means that I’m distantly, convolutedly, improbably and totally irrelevantly related to Charlotte Gainsbourg! But then again, so is everyone else. Probably.

      • Now not only do I remember that record, I used to have a copy of it – not when it first came out though I hasten to add.

        The weird thing about the Grace Darling link mind, is that I’m actually related twice. Once on my dad’s mum’s side and again on my dad’s dad’s side. What does that say I wonder? But then, what can you expect from people who hung a monkey…

  1. best posh post of the year! Oooh, the class system, that’s the elephant in the room is it not. Always and forever for the Brits, will we ever get over ourselves?

    Anyway, I wouldn’t worry – she was only the kings tart ;D probably a hunt sab herself!

      • I know folk of every class, creed and colour and we’re all equally prone to brilliance and idiocy. I was the first of my lot to uni and didn’t fit there either. Chip on my shoulder so big I could barely get in the seminar room.

        a week tomorrow. And thinking about Ben Vorlich on the 20th – fancy it? I can tell you about my mother…

  2. Embrace your heritage, old boy…
    I come from a long line of Fenian rebels….must be why I like to run about in the hills, eat bacon and cabbage and play with guns…
    you is what you is, ain’t no use denyin’ it…

  3. That explains a lot, Mr Owdbum. My mum’s side are all Sweeneys and Doyles. Maybe that explains my temperament. Fancy getting out on the hills with our guns and a bucket of colcannon some time?

  4. My Mum started to look at our family tree. She stopped when she found half had died of Syphilis and the other half were in unmarked graves. It was all too much for her. I blame Sunday evening tv for raising expectations.
    “Power to the people” – as was once a popular cry.

    • You mean the ones without syphillis suffered the ignominy of unmarked graves? I’ve long avoided the whole family history business, Warren, but like Julian and Chrissie’s hanging monkeys the past tends to make its presence felt when welcome or otherwise…

  5. I’m more surprised by the man who can be bothered to cook venison in a bothy being a former vegan (the wife is a vegan and i’m not far off and my idea of bothy food is a pack of biscuits or a bag of dates) and by the age of your father.

    with your zest for travelling, taste for venison and knowledge of the south downs i always had you down as a champagne socialist!

    • Hello Mark!

      I think it was Dennis Healy who said when questioned about drinking champagne, ‘nothing is too good for a socialist’. I like Champagne, but a dram of a peated malt is my preference.

      My father was 51 when I was born, six years older than I am now.

      I was a vegan for years, but I developed an aversion to the ALF extremists that I encountered and decided that I’d make my own choices rather than conforming to totalitarian strictures on my diet. I’m happy eating free range meat and it don’t come more free range than venison.

      Personally I like as much fresh cooked food as possible when out camping or bothying, but we all do things differently – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

    • Pete was a vegan in his yoof Mark because it was a good way of attracting the alternative hippy girls of Brighton. I recon that Pete had a penchant for the stripey colourful leggins and dreadlocked look in the opposite sex.

      • You’re so very nearly right, Mr Bongometer! However, there are crucial details awry here: stripey leggings, yes! There was no alternative, frankly, but I went more of the hennaed hair look than dreadlocks, which have always given me the willies up close. You’re also forgetting my devastating good looks, oodles of natural charm and posh accent, which was only faintly adapted to the crusty vernacular and seemed to work wonders on the hippy chicks…

  6. I come here and enjoy this superbly amusing tale, along with photographs of two beautifully elegant women, and while perusing the comments see mention of hanging monkeys. Which is a roundabout way of saying the past, however tragic or comic, seems always to have a way of resurfacing. Unless you were the monkey…

  7. …forgive me by the way if anyone doesn’t know the story of the monkey at Hartlepool in the Napoleonic Wars, I’m called a ‘monkey hanger’ so regularly that I always assume that the whole world has heard about it…

    • No need for apologies, Chrissie, as I happen to be from Hartlepool, though I haven’t lived there for a very, very long time. Not long enough I’m afraid to have escaped the same taunts! Wherever I seem to go it follows me, which is probably the same for you, including to Pete’s blog it would appear!

    • A brace of monkey hangers putting in an appearance at writesofway! Ah, it’s not a bad old life.
      I’m fairly sure someone made a film about the monkey hanging business actually – or was that actually a French court that tried, convicted and hung a… a, erm horse? Donkey? Dog? Hmmm, bit sketchy on the details, but there was, erm, definitely a film, anyway. About something or other…

      • Getting two of them to confess in public is quite a feat indeed! We tend to keep to the shadows, lurking by the dunes at Seaton Carew on the lookout for passing primates…

        Being greeted in the village with ‘Yasoo! Big monkey hanger! would be an improvement on last April when I sauntered into the square to be greeted with ‘Yasoo! Happy Royal Wedding! God Save the Queen…’

      • Yes, it’s quite a lovely spot that I have a lot of affection for. My parents still talk about ‘plodging’ in the sea there! Nice meeting you here, Chrissie…

        Cheers,
        Julian

  8. Pingback: You Look Vaguely Familiar… | Dixie – Walking the Pennine Way With a Dog and Other Adventures

  9. Jeez….after reading about your youth I suspect we may well be twins ..!

    Bet you liked the Levellers too 🙂

    Had a bit of a crush on Jane Birkin in my younger days not entirely unrelated to the single,Je T`Aime”. Ahem…don`t have a phone number for her do you ?

    • I never actually liked the Levellers that much, Alex, though they were my mates down in Brighty. I used to roadie sometimes and I was an enthusiastic supporter of the cause, but I always felt the tunes were a bit sub-Waterboys, sub-Clash.
      I was good friends with John, the fiddle player, we used to work at the Royal Mail together, but we lost touch when they hit the big time and were touring constantly. He’s a lovely guy – just bought a farm in Devon to live the Good Life, apparently.
      I bumped into Jeremy, the bass player and creative powerhouse of the band, at Euston a few months back; turns out he spends all his hols in the Hebrides.
      I don’t have Jane Birkin’s phone number, unfortunately, as I’m rather fond of her daughter…

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