3. Behind The Scenes

The E-AG Office in Chelsea,  1987-2006. The Group at Work and at Play

Chapter 4. THE E-AG JOURNALS ->

<- Chapter 2. PENSÉES AND THINKING IN THE E-AG

The E-AG office under the aegis of Mrs Dangerfield was in a basement[1]. 

Who worked there? Lord Limerick observed in writing that it was ‘…the energetic, but solitary Justin’. This was not so at the start of the Justin era. The office was staffed by a blue rinse brigade whose name was not ‘Efficiency’ – a word, like ‘Networking’, that was somehow rather common.  But one didn’t say so, of course. One by one they departed.  One advantage of this was that it cut down on the interminable wall-to-wall chatter. They had curtsied before the King in their Debutante days, but in harder times they were in thrall to Mrs Dangerfield and to a paltry stipend. The work was demanding. Fulsome praise in 30 pages of letters attest to this but the exigencies of the long working days did not permit any resting on laurels Maxine Vlieland, late of the British Königswinter committee, and Jane Page, whose letters exude an upstanding graciousness, were on the E-AG staff and the Ladies Committee in the 1970s, but they had departed and those left in situ, domestic staff aside, when Justin arrived were Daphne Olorenshaw and Clarissa Lada-Grodzicka. Clarissa’s grandeur was softened by a touching humility, largely born of the demands of a tough modern world on a lady alone in straitened circumstances.  Tall, fine of feature and form, she had once been a beauty.  It sounded as if her early adult life had been spent drifting through Edwardian drawing rooms: “Not a very nice man, Evelyn Waugh!” she recollected, having been snubbed by that writer.  Her exchanges with callers on the telephone often began thus: “Who are you!”  It was a proclivity finally remedied when Lady (Shirley) Williams[2] snapped back “And WHO are YOU?” Clarissa knew ‘how to behave’, but this did not mitigate her Scandinavian depressive tendencies.  An insect flew into the office. Clarissa gasped, “Oh my God! It’s a WASP!”  Her lugubrious facial expression and vocal tone descended to mock-horror as if in anticipation of noxious fumes rising from a newly-opened coffin as she concluded darkly: “…SPRING must be coming!”

Clarissa Lada-Grodzicka

Sneering at Clarissa (pictured above) oh-so-politely was no-nonsense Daphne Olorenshaw, slightly less grand, more portly, the very model of a modern English gentlewoman, with a career in embassies behind her. The term ‘gentlewoman’ could not in her case easily be associated with its two worded consort ‘gentle woman’. “That’s a nice dress you have on!” Justin exclaimed after years of working with her in the same office, only to be put back in his box with, “Don’t make personal remarks!”  Mrs Glass, being French, was impressed by the tough English specimen in the person of Daphne, having seen her after an event on a midwinter night wearing a light chemise with not so much as a scarf round her neck, an octogenarian shrugging off the freezing cold while people half her age were shivering in furs. Daphne did have a friendly side, but could always be relied upon to ‘keep her end up’.  She needed to watch the pennies – only known to others after her demise – but this disposition became her as a proper deportment for those brought up to take on the mantle of ‘The Lady of the Manor’.


The garden at Gertrude Street.
Copyright: Julia Couchman

The physical surrounds and quaint garden seemed to recall the period of the Boer War, when the house was built. Fustian furnishing, the clanking, ancient boiler in the kitchen, and an olde worlde feel, lent to modern gadgetry a semblance of incongruity. The voluminous Helen, Elma’s domestic assistant, a ball of irrepressible fun like her great-great-uncle, Dan Leno, the Music Hall comedian, played her part in this parallel universe of the Edwardian age, being transfigured by Elma into the obligatory Parlour Maid.  One day, the boiler clanking began rising in volume by the second; Helen scared the living daylights out of everyone, rushing into the office in the prescribed manner of a Below Stairs drama queen, the many folds of her body wobbling in so-un-English panic, screaming out in her best cockney: “ITZ GONTA BLOW!”, before diving for cover – outdoors.

Office Christmas party 1995:  Left:A ‘Parlour Maid’ (Helen) caught in the act by Elma (Comment added in jest later by Rosemary);   Right:  Rosemary, Justin and Lisa

Elma was impervious to the advantages of new technology. ‘Where is Justin?’ Elma was once asked. The tone of her answer – “Fiddling with his computer!” – was ample testament to her scorn.  It was an anxiety-laden part of preparing painstakingly the detailed guest lists, a job Justin made inviolably his, that the grand result might be snookered by mechanical failure in any or all of the three printers crammed into a tiny space. And sure enough, they all went wrong the day before an event, necessitating a 7am rendezvous in a publisher’s office.[3] Some 200 names, post-nominals and exact credentials (no errors allowed) with ‘tribal notices’ of extra-mural Group activities were feverishly listed for delegates with deadlines ever looming, and non-stop telephone calls and the usual business correspondence. 

The office furniture was rudimentary and functional, with old wooden tables and stiff chairs, and the only thing that changed over the years was the content of the clutter. On one wall a painting of an imaginary South American scene encouraged thoughts of flight from dreary old England[4].

Downstairs and Upstairs
Left:  Justin ‘fiddling with his computer’ [5]; Right: Elma’s living room and office. Copyright: Julia Couchman

Elma, no foodie, pointed approvingly to the example of the Circassian dancers who drank by sucking a finger dipped in water.  Helen’s culinary aspirations, however, were decidedly not Circassian.  Elma ordered broccoli and fish fingers for every single lunch. Helen, aided and abetted by Lisa, whose cheerfulness was a breath of fresh air in the office, cooked up a revolution which was evidence of the truth that all triumphs in life are worth a struggle.  Solid food was borne on trays into the office. American interns could not believe the contrast between the spartan workaday surroundings and what they had been told, and saw, of the elevated status of those with whom the Group dealt.  Justin told them that they were to live primarily in a cerebral world. There was no Skype back then. Callers on the phone could not see that the Empress had no Empire. When speaking to Elma it was hard to believe that the Empire was no more or even that Mrs Dangerfield did not own it.  Elma, receiving her OBE[6] at her investiture, broke with protocol to say to Prince Philip how odd it felt to be made a member of an Order of a non-existent Empire. The royal response was after Elma’s own heart: 

 “We don’t talk about that sort of thing!”

“Where is the E-AG?” asked a recently retired Colonel when meeting Justin by appointment in that basement office. He had earmarked the E-AG as an upward career move on being demobbed, having never forgotten the grandeur of the E-AG 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of NATO at Guildhall, and his dinner placement near Robert Maxwell – famous then for his zillions not his frauds – or the Royalty, the glitter, and what appeared to be an organisation that ran like clockwork.

“It is right here; you are here!” Justin answered.

“Yes, of course, but where is the E-AG?” the Colonel persisted. 

“Right here!” 

“No but, I mean, where is the E-AG?” 

The man simply could not believe he had penetrated the Sanctum Sanctorum of the institution that had featured prominently in his fond ambitions for a decade.  He must have been thinking that it was surely not feasible that ‘So Much Had Been Achieved By So Few For So Long in this …this….NISSEN HUT!’  Until he fathomed the man’s problem Justin thought he was dealing with some fruitcake in mufti.

The genesis of many E-AG policies that held sway for decades can be traced back to its early thinking. A tradition that survived for many a long year was put in round terms in the E-AG Minutes of 1964: ‘In view of the unsettled world political situation it was felt that Meetings should not be planned too far ahead’. Thus the programme of events was never ‘six months ahead’, as some wanted, unless planning for Royalty. Urgency, therefore, was endemic in the system. The ‘Unforgiving minute’ was revengeful if frittered away nattering over fry-ups. This was understood by the charming, efficient Rosemary, a secretary who withstood all the pressure for two years; the blame for her retreat to Ireland cannot be laid at the door of the E-AG. Whatever the burning topic of the day, let alone year, it was all grist to the E-AG mill. It was life on the cliff-edge.  There was the constant danger that in four weeks from any given time a yawning gap in the monthly programme might appear. The seedbed that germinated E-AG events needed constant watering lest it became a desert. Elma’s greeting almost every morning in her active years right up to her early nineties was, “What are the horrors today?” 

Once a speaker succumbed to an invitation, the few hands available scrambled to the tiller until an all too brief anchorage – a good hour or so was generally given to the castigation of some misconduct at the event of the previous evening – and then course was set for the choppy waters of the next international crisis.  This involved homing in on a new set of experts, sweet-talking them into coming.  Can the millennial generation envisage the sheer amount of time consumed researching and identifying new specialists in a new topicbefore the internet took hold? The divide that separated those, high or low, who could present a forensic or impressive case from the doers who got things done, was thrown into sharp relief.  Results, not intentions, were everything. The unforgiving minute seemed to metamorphose into the unforgiving second, and the spirit of Elma’s father lived on in the E-AG in the regimen of his daughter. He had run the famous Jardines in Hong Kong, and permitted no chair in his office apart from his own, as a hint to would-be chatterers.  Justin had to summon up all his reserves of self-restraint in order not to snap, “GET TO THE POINT!” at a telephone caller starting to blather on with a, “How are you?’”  An Oxford writer, on being told that E-AG work of the utmost importance was pressing, earned his place in office legend due to his perspicacity in matters relating to deadlines. “Of course….. yes….. I very well know what it is to be busy….. yes indeed….. Oh I say, that’s funny. There seem to be a lot of planes flying overhead today…..” 

Who today would think to follow the example of Elma’s father, doyen of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange who, after a crash that harmed investors, gave them most of his own money rather than have the imputation levelled at him that “He’s done alright out of it!’ The E-AG was run in the old way, with the old sense of upright morality and trust in someone’s word even if at times and in a less ethical world this could verge on naivety.

There was no better way of recording minutes of a meeting than in Elma’s prescribed way.  Elma would look aghast at Justin’s efforts when he first joined the office, her pursed lips the prelude to her slashing through words and sentences in red ink, replacing them with the infinitely better ones of her choice.  Several weeks after a committee meeting, Elma forgot that the minutes being prepared for circulation had been edited already by her. Justin presented them to her and omitted to mention this fact.  Imprecations spurted from the pursed lips until, after the inevitable dressing-down was well under way, Justin enlightened Elma as to the true authorship of said minutes.  Not for a second did Elma falter.  On and on, unchecked, went the slashing and the imprecations with no hint, but for a realignment of gender, that she knew that she had been hoisted by her own authorial petard.

“…The silly bitch!  Honestly, HOW could she write such TRASH!”

Their abiding cause, the E-AG, was shared, but it may well be wondered how Justin managed to withstand such a human tempest as Elma if disagreement arose over policy, even if Elma had a soft spot for him and a very sociable side to her nature.  His expedience worked like a charm; perhaps ‘charm’ is not quite le mot juste. Justin in his first years would agree with Elma.  And, until he took over, he would continue to agree with Elma through thick and thin…unless… he was sure, 100% sure, that he was RIGHT!  Then Tempest met Typhoon:

“If you were a gentleman, you wouldn’t SHOUT like that!”

“If you were a lady, I wouldn’t have to!”

Elma was not one to brood or sulk. The curtain would be rung down on protestations from any injured party by her ending the conversation with: “FINISH!  FINISH!  FINISH!”  

Elma came to know that when Justin stood his ground he had reason on his side.  She once backed him against heavyweights on the Committee.  He was proved right.[7]  One of their number left under a cloud.  Elma then informed the Committee of Justin’s appointment as her Joint Director[8].  Lord Rippon told Justin that he had never seen anyone look so surprised.

Royalty, said not to sully itself by carrying money on its person, had a spiritual disciple in Elma, no doubt fortified by a family trust and a concept of money pegged at pre-inflation value.  It sat oddly with a parsimony manifested by her never buying a Christmas card, preferring instead to cut off the picture on the front of cards that had been sent to her. She pressed them back into service as stand-alone cards. It happened only rarely, but it did happen, that Elma sent such a card to the person who had just sent it to her. Her personality characterised the Group persona. Corporate members paying a small subscription, relatively speaking, of between £100 and £200 per annum were to Elma the life-blood of the Group, even when sponsorship truly worthy of the name came under Justin’s aegis. He entered the State Bedroom one day flourishing a donor’s cheque for £25,000. Elma looked straight through it, seemingly uncomprehending, a reaction akin to that of nineteenth century Tongan islanders as a European warship docked in their harbourit was a thing so utterly alien, so immense, that they did not even see it. Tens of thousands of pounds came from Meg Allen’s trust and from sponsors of dinners at some £2000 a throw. These included Steven Philippsohn[9], Jan Boulting[10], Graham Cole[11], and Sandi Baxter[12], to name but a few, but, nothing daunted, the life-blood of the Group to Elma remained ever ‘The Corporates’ with their annual £150 for the coffers. 

Dinners made a handsome profit, part of the secret of which can now be revealed.  People came at the last moment without a dinner place, but bearing cheques. Some ten people out of 150 who had booked almost always failed to turn up. A few minutes after the start of a dinner, Justin, qua Pied Piper, would enter the dining room, ten anxious people trailing behind him, nosing out the ‘ghosts’ in unoccupied seats.  All changed for the better following the bequest in Mrs Dangerfield’s will and – Voila! Now guests like President Kaunda could have their travel expenses reimbursed. Kaunda’s son, however, demanded three first class return tickets; the subsequent refusal nearly became a diplomatic incident. The Group could issue gratis invitations to the FCO and the Diplomatic Corps for the 2009 NATO Banquet.  In the early days, donations from Lord Chalfont and his Dulverton Trust, which paid the costs of the European-Atlantic Journal, and the hand-outs from Henry Tiarks and other well-wishers, rarely topped the £200 mark.  Their generosity was acknowledged in the minutes in prose that came closest to purple in the Record. 

Elma with damp cigarette dangling from lower lip was clad daily in a many-holed, old dressing gown.  Jove, the Thunderer of the Phone, was described as ‘Fag-ash Lil’ by Helen.  Such a sacrilege was hardly for the ears of Elma’s personal assistant, Mary Melville[13], of dormouse manner, the daughter of the Attorney-General and a Spanish mother who had said to her, “Mary, you must never take a paid job and steal the bread from someone who needs the money!” A certain toughness ruled Elma’s head and heart. Lady Killearn, Jackie, a close friend of Elma, unburdened herself to Justin on the phone. “What did I do! Elma slammed the phone down on me!”  Soothing balm was to hand. “But Elma does that all the time!”  Mary didn’t show up for work or phone in. She could have had a stroke.  ‘Can’t be helped!’ said the Blue Rinces. Thought of Mary vanished in a haze of the latest society gossip.  The lovely Carole, Elma’s assistant, prompted Justin to ring the police.  They broke down Mary’s door and she had indeed had a heart attack.  Helen never quite ‘got’ the upper crust and their genuine emotion and was surprised how, at the drop of a hat, charm taps were turned off and on.  Helen’s people mucked in together.  Autre temps autre moeurs!  Lady Killearn who died aged 105, always asked after Justin’s wife of 25 years, “How is the blushing bride?” Elma invariably suppressed heartfelt emotion, yet at her Dennis’s death in 1973 (see below for stories about Elma’s paramour and colleague) she sobbed her heart out and was so loath for him to leave her that she forbade removal of his body from her bedroom until it became imperative.

It was clear that by 1988 the E-AG was on the slide, navel-gazing within its old, familiar circle whilst membership numbers shrank[14].  Elma invited Justin into the E-AG as a cri de coeur when, with only days to go, hardly anyone had booked to come and hear Sir Geoffrey Pattie’s talk on the space race.  In the event it was a sell-out due to the fact that Justin went to the library and sifted through a variety of manuals and compendiums concerning those involved in this sphere, and then contacted them all. Surprised at the burgeoning number of guests unknown to him, Lord Bessborough famously remarked: “Who ARE all these people?”[15]

Achievers, not necessarily with a ‘handle’ to their name, had to be coaxed into the office mix. Gaby gave computer training; Jeffrey Long sourced E-AG ties. Destiny would not deny the E-AG its haul of grandees.  Not long thereafter Gaby became Countess de Bessenyey and Jeffrey was appointed MBE.  In Anthony Westnedge OBE, Justin’s successor, the criteria combined, again with a satisfactory outcome.[16]

Anne Hodson-Pressinger

Bluebloods like Anne Hodson-Pressinger (above)[17] could ‘meet and greet’ E-AG guests as did her mother, Lady Torphichen.  Le crème de la crème was part of the Group’s success story.  It was not a recipe to be jettisoned without adverse consequences. The prevailing fashion rules the day.  It was the way things were. Justin once got chatting with a public lavatory attendant. “I love my job!” she said happily. “Every morning when I come in, I never know what I will find new to clean up!”  Hers too ‘not to reason why….!’

E-AG exclusivity was gradually ameliorated. Boris Andonov, a Russian-Bulgarian joined the office straight from school, stayed as Financial Director and became a Director of European-Atlantic Publications Ltd[18].  His patriotism, too, could be tolerated within the new Broad Church: Taxed about the millions of his own compatriots murdered by Stalin, Boris muttered in a voice pregnant with innuendo, “He may have had his reasons!”  The ‘Double Arch’ theory of international relations (see cutting below) expounded by the Shadow Foreign Secretary – “No two countries with MacDonald’s ever go to war with each other!” – could have gained in impact by Boris’s growl, “That was why we bombed Chechnya.  They don’t have MacDonald’s!” 

Left: Londoners Diary, Evening Standard;  Right: The Telegraph of 31st October 2000

Not all the committee judged mainly by results. Sir Reginald Hibbert felt that the HQ was too much of a personal fiefdom and, for all its politesse, this was simply not the way to do things. He weighed in to bolster the power of the Committee. Sir Julian Oswald, with good reason, knew where and how the real work was being done. He and the Chairman, Lord Dahrendorf[19], saw off Sir Reggy.  Such insurrection was rare, but not unknown. Lord Montgomery as Chairman, the example of his father of El Alamein fame before him, had a short way of dealing with any hint of jibbing at duly appointed Authority so long as they didn’t question that of the Directors, and woe betide them if they questioned his.

A cast of extras, interns or friends in the main, would stuff envelopes and turn a hand to whatever was needed – bemused moths at the flame of this powerhouse run in the gentleman amateur tradition long after the world had moved on to worship at the shrine of professionalism. Some were most helpful as well as unpaid – starting with Justin’s wife, Catherine – such as Graham Jarvis who wrote reports on meetings, designed the website and, as a journalist, planted articles in the press. None of it satisfied an incoming Chairman, a General and a Peer, who preferred the show run in a manner more akin to the army.

Office adherents: the Hon Dominick Browne, Graham Jarvis, Patrick Emek, Raymond George

This was not going to wash. The supernumeries sharpened their spurs. A man of deeds, not words, was Patrick Emek[20].  Trusty webcam in action, he sent a recording to the office of his portrayal of ‘Luigi’, the Mafiosi with a wardrobe of cement underpants that were tailor-made for recalcitrant E-AG Chairmen.  Raymond George, an actor not to be out-performed, followed this with his video portrayal of a Hun Stasi agent. Alas, his prey, the target of his grim, deadpan warnings, never heard them. Melissa, an American intern, complete with fern in her hair, which was cracked up to have been used as camouflage during an FBI agent field trip, got in on the act with an on-screen blast at the Chairman worthy of a female 007.  A free-for all ensued, unleashing hitherto dormant acting ambitions.  It was three tense weeks before E-AG top brass, notably the Earl of Limerick, ended the run of home movies by piloting through the Chairman’s resignation, completely unaided by E-AG staff.

Elma had a flock of Big Beasts whose horns she could bring to bear on other Big Beasts, few admittedly, who tried to give her grief. It would put Justin Glass in an invidious position if he singled out those ‘of his party’, but apart from Sir Julian Oswald, who had so keen a mind and so warm a side, and with the profusest apologies to others not listed here, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Lord Judd, Sir John Osborn and Sir Neville Trotter have his undying gratitude.

The letters from, among others, Lady Hooper, Sir Michael Burton, Lady Symons and Lord Montgomery, and the other Chairmen, bespeak a commitment and a dedication beyond the call of duty, and much good sense.  They were wonderful people.  The same could be said of Trustee Christopher Arkell and Dr Julian Critchlow of the Elma Dangerfield Trust. Thanking them here properly is beyond the reach of Justin’s pen.

The organisation was one for flying the Union Jack.  Sir Michael Burton told the Group: “What is clear is that Britain will always be at the centre”. Sir Michael, a brilliant analyst among many other qualities, picked the right stage, the E-AG, to tell of how he once attempted to call up a gunboat to make a diplomatic point.  He was the last of a line of diplomats, vaunted in the nineteenth century, as exponents of the practice of ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’.[21] 

Left: Sir Michael Burton GCMG GCVO; On his left are Lord Limerick and Lord Judd. 
Right: Sir Neville Trotter with Lord and Lady Hamilton at NATO banquet in 2009

The nonpareil of those who discharged their self-imposed duty to the full was the stalwart person of The Rt. Hon. Lord Hamilton of Epsom. ‘Archie’ was inveigled into the E-AG Chairmanship on what transpired to be a false prospectus – “Don’t worry, Justin does everything.”  For the first time in two decades troublemakers – two who knew each other – arose and whose attitude called to mind Elma’s oft-quoted biblical reference: “All is vanity.”  Up against Archie, all demonstrably erroneous contentions were swept into the dustbin of E-AG history, the smell lingering a short while as a last vestige of the bellyachIng.  Cometh the hour, cometh the man! 

Lord Judd, the former Labour Minister, as Chairman stood out as being kind, indefatigable, and meticulous.

Left: Sir Julian Oswald and Roni, Lady Oswald, with Mrs Catherine Glass (on the left).
Right: Lord Judd, reading an E-AG Guest list

The Group was part of a social whirl.  Work and amusement went hand in hand. 

Elma and Dennis Walwin Jones, apart from their stays in Malta, spent weekends on the Thames usually in country houses along its banks.  On Dennis’s memorial tablet Elma had the lines of Lord Byron from Childe Harold inscribed: ‘I live not in myself but I became portion of that around me’.  It is a prime example of selective quotation. Elma chose not to add the sentiment in the next line of that poem: ‘and to me…the hum of human cities (is) torture’.  A dedicated urbanite, Elma’s claim to fame may hinge on her being the first nonagenarian who was out on the tiles every single night.  Elma was wont to remark of her socialising – “Didn’t we have FUN!”  Not that a sense of humour was a noticeable trait in her.  The only joke that Elma made that Justin can remember was after he told her that he had met a friend in the West End.  She gasped, “I hardly thought you would have friends in the …EAST End!”

Friends in high places had friends in high places, as well as clients. The E-AG was recommended with confidence by friends as well as successive E-AG Chairmen and Committee stalwarts like Sir Neville Trotter.  Where better than the Betty Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, to speak, eyed by her likeness as rendered by Shenda Amery-Khazal’s art?[22]  Lady Killearn spoke of “My lovely guests”.  Her parties were the toast of the town, and when she died at the age of 105, mourners at her funeral seemed to feel short-changed by being deprived of their usual carousing laid on by this Queen Bee.  After a morning service the reception in the church courtyard went on and on almost till dusk. The Hampstead mansion of Princess Gagarin-Moutafian was another port of call for Elma. There, she could hobnob with the likes of Boris Pankin[23], the Russian Ambassador.  He had also been a lovely guest’ of Lady K.

Left: Lady Killearn at an open day at her fourteenth century country seat, Heremere Hall; (centre); Lord Kitchener; (right) Mr and Mrs Boris Pankin, the Russian Ambassador and his wife

The elegance and wit on the party circuit usually drove talk of the hard realities away, much the same, it is said, as revels at the Palace – “We don’t do misery here!”  Inevitably, there were some characters who enlivened the social scene of the E-AG.  Dennis Bardens, to take one example, had been in the Secret Service in WW2 and his many books include a biography of Elizabeth Fry published by European-Atlantic Publications. His authorial and espionage credentials were enough to endear him to a Russian Ambassador wanting advice on publishing his memoirs.  Dennis (pictured below at his home)[24] was trusted by Mr Pankin, not least because he rated him a member of the inner E-AG circle.  His wit was laced with a trace of the laconic.  No phrase of his evokes this trait better than the note (see below) appended to the front door of his mews house in Kensington, for any passer-by to see. 

A sense of this E-AG mix of social and political worlds reached into ‘Hullo’ in its article on the event of the E-AG for Otto von Habsburg.

The thousand or so E-AG members, impeccably respectable to a man and woman, in general were happy to sniff the rarefied air in which most E-AG high-ups lived and all members had the Cavendish Club near Marble Arch in the centre of London as a perquisite of E-AG membership. Talk among E-AG aficionados often had much to do with the political world.  Evidence of this is in letters written at length and often with acuity which attest to wishes of members[25] to bring concerns to the melting pot of debate with those in the centre of political affairs.

The Byron Society, since its re-founding by Elma in 1972, had its part to play in the way things were.  Michael Foot, leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, was a Byron Society Vice President, poetry being a love of his, but he surfaces as a book reviewer in the E-AG Journal. In choosing Viscount Montgomery of Alamein as his subject, this Left Winger picked out a safe choice for the E-AG.[26]  Lord Bessborough reigned almost supreme in the European-Atlantic Group hierarchy when Justin Glass plunged into this world.  It was by way of a Byron Society invitation to a play about Lord Byron in the private theatre of Eric Bessbough’s country seat, Stansted. He arrived, knowing no-one save, barely, Elma just as an altercation between His Lordship and Elma was heating up to its sorry climax. Eric Bessborough refused point-blank to go on stage and play Byron, opposite Elma as Byron’s lover, Lady Caroline Lamb.  Mr Glass first set eyes on a tall man in a smoking jacket who angrily divested himself of that garment and, placing it around Justin’s shoulders where it took on the look of a dressing gown, demanded, imperious forefinger pointing at him:

“YOU!  You will play Lord Byron!” 

They are not the words that Mr Glass will remember till his dying day.  These came shortly afterwards.  Mr Glass, bemused, script in hand, was onstage beside Elma, in character, sobbingly protesting her thwarted love for him in front of a Byron Society audience mainly of respectable ladies of a certain age. Mr Glass was desperately looking down the page to see what he was about to reply and then saw, looming up – in an age much more prudish than now – the awful words that explained the belted Earl’s sudden cold feet:

 “YOU NEED NOT JUST KISS AND TELL!  YOU CAN FUCK AND PUBLISH!”

As far as Justin was concerned, Lady Caroline had to be blinded by love to describe Byron merely as ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know!’  In interpreting the way Byron slammed into his whimpering mistress, Justin’s whisper was elevated almost to an art form. Years later Lord Bessborough addressed him as “my Lord in waiting!”  Justin’s induction into this métier and embrace by the E-AG hierarchy owes much to the Byron Society.

The photograph (below left) was taken during a Byron Society visit to 11 Downing Street, home of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ken Clarke, who remarked of the beautifully refurbished Locarno Room at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

“All we need now is an Empire to go with it!”

Left: Maureen O’Connor, Secretary then Director after Elma of the Byron Society; Christine Symeonides, widow of Simon, proprietor of ‘The Byron Taverna’; Alexander Bryett, ‘the Maestro’ of ‘Opera Italiana’; Patricia Ellison, who lived in a Grace & Favour house in Buckingham Palace. Her daughter, Rose, was the violinist at the 30th Anniversary celebration of the E-AG; and Mary Melville;
Right: Evidence of the indelibility of early memories, the one person of whom Elma was seen to be in awe, Maria Gussago, known as ‘Nanny’ and whose every word to Elma was as a command.  On her right is Lady Killearn

The apotheosis of the Upstairs Downstairs geist permeating the office came when Penny, ‘the maid’, had had her fill of an attitude so out of step with the times.  After an altercation, Elma’s words “Finish! Finish! Finish!” or their equivalent, for once did not weave their customary spell.  Penny lodged a complaint against Elma and it went to an Employment Tribunal.  It was water off a duck’s back to Elma.  Justin suggested her plea be on the grounds of the greater respect surely due to one of her advanced years and background.  Addressing the Judge, he was pointing out that Mrs Dangerfield was 90 years old.  Elma would not stoop to anything short of the truth even if to gloss over it was in her interest.  Penny’s case, which was faltering by then, took wings when much merriment was caused in court by Elma’s angry rebuke, clear as a bell and louder than most, enfeebling the punch behind his presentation:

“I AM NOT 90!  I AM ONLY 89!”

It was not a case of ‘All play and no Work’; there was no obvious boundary between the categories.  Work and play were intertwined and never stopped.  Justin, exactly as Elma before him, made up his mind that 25 years before the E-AG mast was sufficient. In this, Justin succeeded for once where Elma failed.  

Elma reigned in her living room and, wary of invading its sacrosanct space, interns slaved below stairs and later in the Finchley office (see comments below). Most of them were American; another one, Keay, was a credit to South Korea; they were birds of passage who provided invaluable assistance.  To these interns, the pick of the Centre which sent them, who helped make the E-AG flourish during that period, the Director must say a very big THANK YOU!

Comments from the E-AG interns

Sent to the E-AG by CAPA, the Centre for Academic Programmes Abroad[27]

The E-AG seems to really be humming along.  The newsletters looked fantastic. Kaunda seems fascinating and I’m sure he did not disappoint.  As you noted in your newsletter, the E-AG appears to be on a new trajectory of providing up-and-coming leaders a platform with which to promote their ideals.  Has this become the E-AG’s new mandate or was this more of a coincidence?  You’ve also managed to procure promising people from nations that need liberal leaders who can inspire their citizens – (Griffin)….. I want to say again thank you so much for letting me work with you – (Tania)…. I hope you’ve found a bit more peace and quiet coupled with a little less stress with all the inherent responsibilities that come with the E-AG and the dinner-discussions. They were definitely an intriguing part of my experience abroad and I’m very thankful I got the opportunity to sit in on them and take it all in. – (Bryan)…I just  wanted to write to you to thank you for everything over the course of this internship.  You are a wonderful boss who works and runs a great organisation – (Kristin)…Thank you so much for everything – (Kasia)… I wanted to write a note and thank you for everything.  Working with the Group was wonderful and proved to be much more than I ever expected.  I appreciate the time and patience you allowed me.  I feel I learned a lot and gained valuable experience due to your efforts.  Thank you for the responsibility and trust.  I hope to have kept the standard high.  Also thank you for the “push” in asking the question at the second dinner.  As I spoke I heard your voice saying “Speak slowly, loudly and confidently.  This allowed me to keep my composure” – (Kim)….. I was saddened to read that Lord Limerick had passed away. He was a great man and we were privileged to have known him.  I think about my time in London often.  If ever you are planning to visit the Chicago area and need a place to stay, just let me know. – (Robert) …Thanks for a great new experience – (Gabe)… I have really started to miss being at the office.  I trust that the summer conferences have gone well and I hope the E-AG website will be at full service to give the transcripts a look in the future. – (Ryan)… I just wanted to say thank you so much for a terrific internship experience.  I still can’t believe the amount of work that you and Boris put into the events and I think that you should demand more credit.  I really appreciate how you trusted us to handle very important tasks, and in all honesty will remember the experience forever – (Sarah)…I would like to take this time for having me part of the company for the internship.  Having this internship has been an invaluable experience and one that I will treasure for a lifetime. – (Kyle)…I am feeling so grateful to you as the placement at The E-AG has been real asset on my C.V. Now about the next meeting, of course I could come and help you out….(Assitan)…..I just wanted to say “Thank you” again.  Thank you very much indeed for the great opportunity!  It was a fantastic time and a very awesome work climate! – (Christiane) …Thank you so much for everything.  It was such a pleasure to work for you – (Amber)…Thank you for all of the opportunities that you have given us. – (Nicole and Jenn)

Thank you very much for providing a work placement for Juan.The feedback from the group was extremely positive, and we are most grateful to you for making Juan so welcome and for the time you have given to make the experience worthwhile. – (Vivenne Todd, European College of Business and Management)


[1] Elma’s home at 6 Gertrude Street, Chelsea, SW10 0JN.  The office was previously was at 64 Kingsway, WC2

[2] One of the ‘Gang of Four’ who broke away from the Labour party to form the Liberal Democrats

[3] Nothing of mechanical failure in that period was as nail-biting as when years later the computer imploded with all the information on it pertaining to the NATO banquet in St James’s Palace – it would have been lost but for the 16 hour repair session of Mr Seris Leonidas, not so much as eating until he had it all restored. He also helped to sub-edit this book.

[4] The painting is beneath Elma’s Obituary below

[5] Kimberlee is the US intern standing; the other young lady was passing by, briefly helping out. Carmen Bouverat, a very helpful and efficient professional, was working at the E-AG at a later date.

[6] The Report of 1959-60 lauds Elma for her honour in the New Year’s Honours List of the O.B.E. (‘Order of the British Empire’). It is rare to be advanced, as was Elma later, in 2002, to the CBE (Order of Commander of the British Empire).

[7] Invaluable help came from accountant, Colin Baker, over how to stop VAT bankrupting the Group

[8] In 1992

[9] An extremely competent solicitor, a Partner of PCB Litigation

[10] Director P & JP & Company; See photograph at end of previous section

[11] Government Liaison officer, Augusta Westland, and on the E-AG Committee

[12] Sandi Baxter is the Guiding Light of Baxterbear, the mascot of the British Military Tournament.  300 bears were handed out at the dinner for The ABF The Soldiers Charity EU Dinner. Baxterbear sponsorship is acknowledged in the NATO brochure, featured herein   

[13] See references to Mary Melville above and photograph below

[14] Evidence of this is in the choice of Book Reviewers, almost all being Group affiliates

[15] Speeches and Book Reviews of Lord Bessborough are in the Speeches section

[16] Some did not make the Honours List. Cliff ‘Brains’ Ireland, for instance, was an internet expert whose help was invaluable. Jeffrey Long became an E-AG Vice-President. Anthony Westnedge had enjoyed a successful career in Johnnie Walker whisky.

[17] On one occasion Anne Hodson-Pressinger, a successful PR lady, suggested the Speaker and bought 30 guests, a record. Anne was always helpful and ready with advice on protocol.  Anne became an E-AG Vice-President.

[18] He much helped with the sister Publishing House of European-Atlantic Publications in publishing a biography of Michael Jackson, the pop singer.  General Sir Mike Jackson was most displeased when his publisher did not deliver his autobiographies in time for his E-AG speaking event but he almost exploded when Justin, never one to knowingly short-change E-AG guests, offered to distribute this book as an alternative.

[19] Ralf Gustav Dahrendorf, Baron Dahrendorf KBEFBA

[20] Patrick ran a private school, a career spiced up in vacations by trips to Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, There he interviewed terrorists and thereafter wrote up findings for those charged with dealing with such threats. 

[21] Quoted in ‘The Diplomat’, February 2001.  Sir Michael Burton, a former Ambassador and Chairman and President of the Group, was giving the Vote of Thanks at the E-AG meeting with the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Maude. Sir Michael’s attempt to call up a gunboat was when he was a junior Diplomat in the Trujal States, now the UAE, because he felt that it was a sensible way to intercede in a dispute between ruling sheikhs. NB Lord Brammall told the E-AG in 1991:  “…It is my experience from eight years in Whitehall that ‘Send a gunboat’ is still a seductive option in any political leader’s armoury.”

[22] The Rt. Hon. Betty Boothroyd, MP spoke to the Group on ‘Women in Parliament’ on June 21st 1993

[23] The speech to the Group of H.E. Mr Boris Pankin on June 12th 1995 is in the Speeches section

[24] A poem by Dennis Bardens is at the end of the Section on the E-AG Journals

[25] Sonia Ayres of the Harpenden United Nations Association was a good example of an avid and very sensible correspondent. Her summary of the speech by Sir Kieran Prendergast in 2000 is in the Speeches section. Other Members such as Darius Furmanovicious and Lilly Sigall, in many ways, gave of their time and valuable advice.

[26] See Speeches and Review section

[27] The department concerned in CAPA was run expertly by Terry Sheen, who understood exactly the E-AG requirements and singled out candidates every one of which fulfilled amply the expectation of them.

Chapter 4. THE E-AG JOURNALS ->

<- Chapter 2. PENSÉES AND THINKING IN THE E-AG