BRACERS Record Detail
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Crawshay-Williams Estate, Rupert
Australian Lecture Tour (1950)
Letterhead: Usher's Hotel, Sydney.
"I should be enjoying myself but for worry about Korea. I have just returned from dining with the Australian Foreign Secretary, Spender, who does not think the Korean trouble will lead to a world war. I think probably he is right, but I don't feel at all sure. I think the Chinese may come in, and if so everybody will. I hate being so far from home at such a time."
"If there is likely to be war, I should like to have a refuge in N. Wales for John's family." He asks them to bid for Penralltgoch, which Patricia owns.
"I am actuated by the fear of war."
"... I am haunted by nightmares of atomic death, and here, where I know no one, they drive me nearly mad."
BR TO RUPERT AND ELIZABETH CRAWSHAY-WILLIAMS, 2 JULY 1950
BRACERS 56056. ALS. Crawshay-Williams Estate. SLBR 2: #499
Edited by Andrew Bone and Nicholas Griffin. Reviewed by Sheila Turcon
2 July 1950
Dear Rupert and Elizabeth2
I arrived here without misadventure, and so far have had quite a pleasant time. I had heard of Australia as a land of drought, but I arrived in a downpour, with floods everywhere3 and people in boats rowing along railway lines. Now, however, the weather is delicious. Though it is winter, roses are in bloom. Sydney and the harbour are full of beauty, very like San Francisco. The people are like Americans, except that they are less bumptious and don’t hate England. I am saved an immense amount of work and worry by a charming young man appointed by the Australian Foreign Office4 to look after me. He answers the telephone, shoos off bores, provides typists, and when there is time takes me to the Blue Mountains,5 which are delicious.
I should be enjoying myself but for worry about Korea. I have just returned from dining with the Australian Foreign Secretary, Spender, who does not think the Korean trouble will lead to a world war.6 I think probably he is right, but I don’t feel at all sure. I think the Chinese may come in, and if so everybody will. I hate being so far from home at such a time.
If there is likely to be war, I should like to have a refuge in N. Wales for John’s family. If Peter still wants to sell Penralltgoch I should like to buy it7 if the price is not too great, but I suppose it would be necessary to find some one else as the ostensible buyer. If it is sold by auction it probably won’t fetch very much. If I could get half the purchase price on a mortgage I should be willing at a pinch to go up to £4,000, though that is the absolute limit. I don’t think I could raise more than £2000 in cash, so I should depend on getting a loan for part of the money. Or I should be willing to rent the cottage for any reasonable sum from a buyer, if I had a long lease. Would it be too much bother for you to get in touch with the agents and say you know of a possible purchaser (not mentioning me by name)? Perhaps it is already sold. I am actuated by the fear of war. If that recedes, I shall be less willing, as I am stretching finances to the utmost. Would you mind letting John or Susan know all this? And if there is an auction, will you or some one bid for me? I fear I am asking a lot of you, but as soon as my work is over and I get to bed, I am haunted by nightmares of atomic death, and here, where I know no one, they drive me nearly mad. I wish I resembled the Miller on the River Dee.8 Goodbye with more love.
[document] The letter was edited from the signed original written in BR’s hand on the recto and verso of a single leaf of letterhead from Usher’s Hotel, Sydney.
I arrived in a downpour … floods everywhere The preceding month had been the wettest June on record in Sydney, with flooding across New South Wales wreaking havoc on residential homes, roads and livestock. A Movietone newsreel of BR, filmed on the day of his arrival (23 June), shared billing at many theatres across the country with dramatic footage of the devastating effects of this weather on south-east Australia. And BR’s optimistic forecasting was premature, for the wet and wintry conditions returned for his last week in Sydney, then followed him to Brisbane — earning him the apt sobriquet of “Rainmaker”, for he repeatedly talked about transforming Australia’s arid interior by harnessing artificial rainfall and other scientific techniques (see Jo-Anne Grant, “Russell the Rainmaker: Touring in Early Cold War Australia”, Russell 36 [summer 2016]: 65–90).
I am saved … charming young man … Australian Foreign Office As this testimonial reveals, R.P. (Dick) Greenish, an official at the Department of External Affairs and honorary secretary of the AIIA’s Canberra branch, proved to be an inspired choice as BR’s private secretary in Australia. Greenish did much more than act as a buffer between his famous charge and an inquisitive press and public. The two men quickly established a close and easy rapport — trading vulgar limericks and sharing private jokes about pompous situations — which long outlasted BR’s return to England (see Alan Wood, Bertrand Russell, the Passionate Sceptic [London: Allen & Unwin, 1957], pp. 213–14). The AIIA had originally made provision for Greenish to be seconded to BR only until he left Sydney on 8 July. But Greenish would accompany him for the remainder of the tour after BR personally put this request to the Australian foreign minister (see n. 6 below).
Blue Mountains A large area of rugged natural beauty, famous for its plateau escarpments and dense eucalypt forests — which can appear blue in the distance because of the fine mist released by the leaves in the heat. See Plate II (top) in Papers 26 for a photograph of Russell and R.P. Greenish possibly taken at a scenic lookout during their excursion to the Blue Mountains, whose foothills start barely thirty miles west of Sydney’s city centre.
Spender … Korean trouble … world war Percy Spender (1897–1985) was Australia’s Minister of External Affairs for only the first sixteen months of Liberal–Country coalition rule after the general election of December 1949. But he left a considerable mark on the office, notably as a promoter of the Colombo Plan of economic and technical assistance to South and South-East Asia, and as the engineer of a mutual defence pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States (ANZUS). Not unlike BR (see his Australian lecture, “Ferment in Asia” [5 in Papers 26]), Spender regarded the amelioration of Asian poverty as crucial to combatting communism in the region. He certainly wanted to contain the Korean War but not by reducing United Nations military support of the South — which was vital, he stressed to a private briefing of journalists, to prevent “irrevocable loss of face throughout Asia” (Peter Gifford, “The Cold War across Asia”, in David Goldsworthy, ed., Facing North: A Century of Australian Engagement with Asia. Vol. 1: 1901 to the 1970s [Melbourne: U.P., 2001], p. 183). He was also far more eager than his Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, to commit Australian ground troops to the fighting, which was diplomatically shrewd for it made the hitherto lukewarm Americans more amenable to Spender’s security proposals in the ensuing ANZUS negotiations. Almost immediately after resigning on health grounds in April 1951, Spender accepted the high-level diplomatic posting of Australian ambassador to the United States. He remained in Washington for seven years, before becoming Australia’s first representative on the International Court of Justice and later (1964–67) serving as the court’s president.
If Peter still wants to sell Penralltgoch I should like to buy it Penralltgoch was a converted schoolhouse in Llan Ffestiniog, North Wales, “found” for BR by the Crawshay-Williamses and purchased by him in January 1946 primarily as a refuge for Peter from the Cambridge life for which she quickly developed an intense dislike after her husband embarked upon a five-year lectureship at Trinity College in 1944. Long before the feuding couple separated in April 1949, legal ownership of the extensively renovated cottage was transferred to Peter to avoid payment of estate duties in the likely event of BR predeceasing her (see Sheila Turcon, “A Trio of British Homes and a Refuge: 1944–1949”, Bertrand Russell Society Bulletin, no 157 [spring 2018]: 41–4). But he was permitted to reside there until moving to Queen’s Road, Richmond, just over a year later, and even paid rent on the property to Peter for several months. After deciding to sell, Peter soon got wind of BR’s ruse to repurchase Penralltgoch (for considerably more than the £3,000 he had originally paid) through his friends the Crawshay-Williamses. She ended up selling the cottage to the Cambridge economic historian Michael Postan (Rupert Crawshay-Williams, Russell Remembered [London: Oxford. U.P., 1970], p. 44). BR’s “hope of escaping Armageddon” in a Welsh refuge for his son’s family (with whom he was living in Richmond) was not unrealistic at a juncture of the Cold War when the nuclear arsenals of both superpowers remained small. Civil defence plans adopted after the H-bomb was developed and the nuclear arms race began to accelerate exponentially “were even more quixotic” (SLBR 2: 448).
I wish I resembled the Miller on the River Dee. Who “worked and and sang from morn till night, / No lark more blithe than he”, according to this English folksong (The Faber Book of Popular Verse [London: Faber and Faber, 1971], p. 214), also known as “The Jolly Miller” and which featured in Isaac Bickerstaffe’s libretto to the comic opera Love in a Village (1762). Flowing from its source in the Welsh mountains, the Dee empties into a broad estuary outside the English town of Chester.
SLBR 2: #499
Record last modified 2021/03/19
Created/last modified by duncana