That Reminds Me...
by Michael Beecham1983
In 1982 I was invited to help Michael Beecham (1917-94) with his memoirs. It was a delightful experience to spend so much time in the company of a fascinating, entertaining and extremely civilised man. I very much enjoyed visiting him at Gunnislake in a splendid study containing a superb collection of first editions. My duties were light: winkling out a few memories here and there, making the occasional suggestion and running a light eye over the emerging manuscript which was sent to me in London from time to time. Michael Beecham, the grandson of Sir Joseph Beecham (industrialist) and the nephew of Sir Thomas Beecham (conductor), was a born raconteur but, unlike so many raconteurs, had had an unusually rich life to draw on. Sadly he never intended the book for a wider readership than his family and friends and so it was published privately in a limited edition of 100 copies. Below is the introduction I was asked to contribute, with the author's preface.
Stories of rags-to-riches are not uncommon. Stories which run from riches to rags are all too common but would be depressing to read. What follows in this delightful book is both unusual and refreshing. It's the story of a man who might well have expected most of life's riches for ever more except that fate intervened.
Early in his life Michael Beecham faced sudden insecurity and by the end of the war [WWll], in which he served throughout, found himself married with a small child to support. What happened then, and later on, makes fascinating reading. Armed with boundless enthusiasm, a great ability to extract the best from whatever circumstances he found himself in, as well as strong measures of humour and determination, Michael Beecham has lived to tell a tale that ends happily with many adventures on the way.
What follows are some recollections from a life full of ups and downs which, if looked at as a lifetime's balance sheet, leave him well in credit.
Spring 1983 Christopher Long
Forward by Michael Beecham:
For Sylvia. Anne, Lucy and Katie with love and for many friends only some of whom are mentioned herein with affection. All have helped to enrich my life and, thereby, earn my unstinted gratitude.
I am greatly indebted to Christopher Long for his patience and encouragement without which this story would probably just have remained in an untidy form in a drawer in my desk and for his far too flattering introduction.
My thanks also to Helen White who, having eased my burden enormously and tolerated me for six years as my private secretary/assistant, came back for more and has typed this whole thing as faultlessly as usual.
Lucy took the photographs of the family at Christmas 1982 and my nephew Hugh did all the considerable work on the photographs herein to both I am exceedingly grateful.
Printed by the Trident Press, Taylor Square, Tavistock (1983) in a limited edition of 100 copies (155 pp) including photographs of the author, his family, his childhood home Lympne Castle, publicity material for Beecham's Pills and associated music portfolios of Sir Thomas Beecham, four wartime German propaganda leaflets from San Marino 1944, the monastery of Monte Cassino before and after its destruction in 1944, an etching of Urbino and a 1935 Hooper sports saloon Rolls Royce.
CAL was invited to help with Michael Beecham's memoirs That Reminds Me... thanks to his delightful daughter Annie Keenan (née Beecham). Annie and her two daughters were good friends from the early 1980s onwards. Their homes near Notting Hill Gate, and later near Earl's Court, always offered a generous and warm welcome. Through them came visits to Annie's father Michael and his wife Sylvia at their home in Gunnislake, Devon.
On 1 December 2008 Julie Barks wrote to CAL with the interesting information that Thomas Beecham and his housekeeper at Mursley Hall (Julie's great-great grandmother) appear to have had an illegitimate son who was named Merrick Mead and whose father was not named on his birth certificate. Financial provision appears to have been made for this child. Apparently the housekeeper's mother was also living at Mursley Hall before the child's birth, suggesting that she too may have been in the service of Thomas Beecham. Julie Barks, who has a copy of A Guinea a Box, was hoping to make contact with other descendants of Thomas Beecham.
On 17 December 2008 Julie Barks wrote to CAL: "Hi Christopher, thanks for your reply. I have managed to get in touch with Emma Beecham-Thomas' great grand-daughter... she believes it is highly likely that Merrick, my grandfather, was Thomas' illegitimate son as he was a notorious womanizer. Merrick died at the age of 32 in 1925. He had 3 children: my father and my two aunts. I have found Merrick's grave; it was an unmarked pauper's grave in a cemetery in Rugby. I am going to put a small plaque on it. Again, thanks for your reply! Julie :)"
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