Over thirty years ago, aged twenty, I went to a party in South Kensington and met the
girl who I would later marry. It took just a few chats to ascertain that Judith's sister, also at the party that evening, had until recently lived in the Denbighshire village of Chirk. I immediately pointed out that my uncle Jack Dennis (married to my Aunty Dorothy - my mother's first cousin - so not really an aunty but enough to earn the title if you're Welsh) was the local vicar there. There were other connections too that my new girlfriend had with the area around Chirk. Her father, the late actor James Hayter, had once played in a repertory theatre company back in the early 1930s with a chap called Philip Yorke. Philip Yorke would later become the Squire of Erddig, a great house near the town of Wrexham in North Wales - a fairly short distance from Chirk. Philip Yorke had inherited the house and title of Sherrif from his late brother. As
children, my wife and her siblings had sometimes stayed at Erddig Hall and all had been deeply touched by the gentle kindness of PhilipYorke. After the death of his brother, the death duties were so punitive, that the lion's share of anything that was sold went off to enrich the taxman. Philip Yorke was a man of humble needs and lived on a meagre income in the vast crumbling pile that he dearly loved.
Some time later (approx 1978), when I was working at the theatre in Mold in North Wales, Judith came up for a brief visit and I took her to meet my Uncle Jack and Aunty Dorothy in Chirk. When Judith explained her connection with Erddig Hall and Philip Yorke, my Aunt told us this story - worthy of P G Wodehouse in its eccentricity and dottiness I think!
join them for tea. From Mr Yorke's friendly manner she assumed that he was already acquainted with her husband. Confident that she would soon be reunited with her partner she happily went along with the nice gentleman.
Yet, when she was shown into the parlour, there was no sign whatever of Jack, and the tea tray was only arranged for two. However, at this point she didn't doubt for a moment that her husband would be appearing very soon. Aunty Dorothy and Philip Yorke chatted, shared a pot of tea and ate some sandwiches together. But as time went on she couldn't help wondering where her Jack had got to. Mr Yorke was a charming host, but after another fifteen minutes or so, and with still with no sign of or mention of her husband, she was starting to feel more than a little bit uncomfortable.
Finally, after making much polite conversation, Philip Yorke graciously enquired of his guest, “And so my dear, why have you come here to see me today?”
of terrible accidents that may have befallen her Jack. However, fortunately, at that very moment the door opened and in entered her husband along with Bertram
Heyhoe. Bertram was an old friend of Philip Yorke's, also from his earliest days in repertory theatre, who had lived at the house with him for a number of years. It turned out that Jack, when he’d left Dorothy in the car, had ventured round the back of the house where he’d bumped into Bertram who'd proceeded to give him a brief tour of the house and its gardens.
They all had a jolly good laugh about the confusion and some more tea and sandwiches
(I think this tale dates from the early 1970s. We recently drove up to North Wales to attend my Aunty Dorothy's funeral. She was eighty-eight years of age, had experienced some poor health recently but died peacefully in the company of her daughter, Penny. Aunty Dorothy had a dry sense of humour; she was warm and kind but could appear to be a little vague and absent-minded. I am assured by her son, Michael, that the above story is not alone in the many misunderstandings that often took place around her. She and my own mother had played together as girls. When they met in later years it was always a pleasure to watch them
interact and see how swiftly their old cameraderie was resumed. Aunty Dorothy was a rich character and my family and I will most certainly miss her).