I am not sure when I first met Captain Hugh Frewen (or Cappie as he was known), but it must have been in the early sixties. I clearly remember him from New England New State Meetings and from our car drive on Sydney. There he stood out in his tropical drill suit, frail but still erect.
At the time, I had no idea of his history. He was just a friend of my grand-father's. It was only later that I found out the full story, and then after a BBC TV series telling the story of his mother's family.
I was reminded of all this because I have just be re-reading his Imogene an odyssey (Australasian Publishing Company, 1944). In her forward to the book, Dame Mary Gilmore wrote that it was a record of impressions and reflections in verse during journeys across four continents and over many countries.
It is also the story of a man from his birth to his arrival in Dorrigo and New England where he was to spend the rest of his life.
The forest melts as we o'ertop the crest,
Yielding to homely scenes and paths we know,
While grassy uplands open to the west,
The rolling hills and downs of Dorrigo;
There is an enormous difference between the quiet world of Dorrigo and the world of sometimes wealth and imperial power that Hugh Frewen came from, from New York and the imperial courts of Europe to the hall meetings where New England's future was debated.
We can begin our story in 1849 with the marriage the New York financier Leonard Jerome and Clarrisa (Clara) Hall. The couple had four daughters, one of whom died young.
Leonard Jerome was variably successful in financial terms. He speculated in stocks and had interests in a number of railroads, making and losing several fortunes. However, he seems to have been very much a New York person, content to fund his wife's interests.
Clarrisa was very different. One tart biographer records that her sole goal was that they each marry nobly and lucratively. So in 1867 she and the girls and sailed for Paris where, she believed, the Court of Napoleon III would inevitably fulfil her most ambitious social fantasies.
Foll0wing Napoleon's fall, their mother took the girls to London where they attracted considerable attention, cutting something of a swath through society.
The beautiful Jennie was the first to marry. On 15 April 1874, she married Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill at the British Embassy, Paris. Their first son, Winston Churchill, was born in November 1874, making him a somewhat premature child if my maths is correct!
Leonie Jerome ('the witty') married Irish Baronet Sir John Leslie, 2nd Bt. (1857-1944). They had 4 sons.
In the middle, of these two weddings, Clarita (Clara) married Moreton Frewen at Grace Church New York on 2 June 1881.
Moreton , also known as Mortal Ruin because of his habit of borrowing and losing money on grandiose schemes, is best know in the US for his Wyoming cattle venture where he is reported to have arrived with 16,000 pounds, leaving owing 30,000 pounds! Kipling observed that Frewen lived "in every sense, except what is called common sense, very richly and wisely to his own extreme content, and if he had ever reached the golden crock of his dreams, he would have perished".
Who fashioned first these stones of hoary grey,
All streaked and weathered now with gold and chrome,
Set in the foreground of a fairy bay
With land-locked waters rippling into foam?
Hugh Frewen was born in 1883. He grew up in the old manor house of Brede Place, a house that his mother managed to keep somehow, despite the family's financial tribulations. This was a world that mixed access to the old European aristocracy with the embarrassment of a father who sometimes could not pay the school fees! However, it is clear from his notes in Imogene that Hugh Frewen did not share the negative perceptions of his father.
I am not sure what Hugh Frewen did first after leaving school, but from 1906 to 1909 he was private secretary to Sir Percy Girouard who was Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Northern Nigeria and then a little late political officer in charge of a Nigerian hill station. However, he had to resign from the Colonial Office when his concerns about what he saw as British profiteering on Nigerian currency issues, concerns that he raised with his father who was then a British MP, led to the appointment of a Royal Commission.
On February 21 1914, Hugh married donna Maria Nunziante, daughter and co-heiress of the Italian Duke of Mignano. While they had two sons, the marriage ended in divorce in 1922. Hugh then married Rosalind Jones, a marriage that brought three further sons and two daughters.
Hugh served throughout the First World War, including the Gallipoli Campaign.Following the war, Hugh ended up as a special services officer in Iraq. This was not always easy.
Here for a little while did I contrive
To measure wits with Oriental wiles
(my predecessor had been burnt alive).
Like many English men of the time, he had a great love and respect for the Arab.
So slow to reason, and so swift to slay,
I love thy spirit - thy contempt for gold
But as a toy to give or take away!
Thine are the manners of an earlier day.
Thy nature decorous as ours uncouth,
In love - a lion,
purring for his prey,
In hate - inexorable as the sleuth,
Like Lawrence, this led to another falling out with elements of the imperial system when he took the side of King Feisal against the British High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox.
Frewen's description of Cox is scathing - tall, cadaverous, tight-lipped as a Spanish Hidalgo, he seemed to have stepped straight out of the pages of Don Quixote. By contrast, King Feisal was a truly regal personage, and a man of outstanding character, .. not to be treated as a cipher, neither were his people of a mettle to brook subservience.
I cannot comment on Frewen's role in subsequent events without checking my historical facts. But Frewen summarised one key issue this way:
Yet the principle for which he (Frewen) stood, and which has since been vindicated
by the course of history in the granting of complete independence to the Iraqian state, was simply the honouring of Britain's pledged word to her faithful ally, the Arab people.
In any event, Hugh Frewen now began the wanderings that were to bring him finally to Dorrigo and to our meetings.
Hugh Frewen died in 1967. In 1972 I was campaigning in Dorrigo for Country party pre-selection. The story of the three sisters had just been retold as a major BBC TV series.
My pilot, the local who was guiding me, said that we were going to meet one of Hugh's sons, Winston Churchill's nephew.
As I trod the steps cut into the hill towards the house, a typical Dorrigo farm house with the washing drying on the veranda, I could not help but compare the scene with the the world of European aristocracy that I had so recently been immersed in.