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Registered: 26.07.2007
Posts: 4

14.02.2008 - 10:35: A tribute to my father | Quote Quote

I was looking for photos for an assignment that had been given to Matt, my grandson who was in year 11 and had to write about a member of his family when
I came across a letter my father had written in December 1968 to a Professor Gilbert who had asked for personal impressions of Winston Churchill. He wrote:"Mine will be unacceptable because they are not in tune with the prevalent idolatry, but I take the opportunity to get them off my chest.... I am, I suppose, conditioned by my experiences in the First War, when on Christmas Day 1914 the Scots Guards versus the Germans played a spontaneous football match between the trenches, and when on Christmas Day 1918 I dined with a German family in Cologne and drank to perpetual comradship, and many experiences between and since. I thus became lukewarm to Churchill's policy of unconditional surrender and sceptical of "his finest hour.... " I find this interesting as it confirms my impression that Churchill had not been one of his heroes. My father was an incredible figure and looking back now I realize that as a child and even later in life I took for granted his achievements and high intelligence. I wish I had listened more attentively when he expressed an opinion, gave advice or just simply talked to me about his experiences and life.

My father, Edward Thornton Gleave, was born in 1889 in a small parish in Yorkshire where his father had been appointed vicar. He studied at Oxford University majoring in Modern History and spent a year at La Sorbonne in Paris studying French. When World War I broke out, he enrolled in the British army as captain and fought in France from 1915 to 1918. In 1919 he was demobilized at the Crystal Palace and later applied for a teaching job in Egypt. He met my mother in Cairo and they were married in England. They led a very interesting and eventful life meeting high-ranking Egyptian officials and even became friends with King Fouad. I remember one day coming back from school and finding my mother desperately trying to entertain a Sheik who didn't speak a word of English and had come to bring us his Christmas present. The present was flying around our sitting room and landed on the piano. It was an enormous turkey and I think there were another couple perched on arm chairs. She asked me to play the piano for him... I do not recall his reaction to my Chopin nocturne!

As Inspector General of schools my father had to travel all over the country and he was given a bodyguard Amin who later saved his life. He wrote numerous grammar books which were widely used in all schools for a long time as he still received royalties years after he retired. He led a charmed life because twice he escaped being lynched by an angry mob who surrounded his car and the day he was supposed to have lunch at the Turf Club he arrived late to find the Club in flames. Sadly he lost many friends that day. A few weeks later when his faithful bodyguard did not turn up for work (he had told my father that would be the signal), he knew his name was black listed and left Cairo immediately. While in Egypt he was offered a knighthood which he typically declined.

After Egypt he settled in Rome and Edward became a familiar figure sitting at a café in Via Veneto reading his English papers. He taught English for a while at the British Institute then retired to the Castelli Romani. He joined the Shakespearean Authorship Society, a society whose objective is to seek and if possible establish the truth regarding the authorship of Shakespeare's plays and poems. He wrote interesting articles on the subject and his arguments are very persuasive. To quote a few: When the name Shake-speare first appears on the plays in 1598, it is spelled with a hyphen. Williams's daughters were illiterate and he himself appears to have had difficulty in writing the few signatures which alone remain. No books are mentioned in his will....

Edward loved his last years in Italy although he never mastered the Italian language. He loved the people, their warmth and friendliness and the food and wine. He died in Rome and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, which is described as the cemetery of poets and artists. It is located at the foot of the pyramid of Caio Cesto built during the latter half of the 1st century B.C. He lies in peace in a tranquil oasis in the heart of Rome, close to Shelley and Keats and many other illustrious names. A rightful place for a dear and remarkable man.

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