Those OWDs who, like me, are now in their mid-fifties will certainly remember those years when West Downs was housed in that most romantic of dwellings, Blair Castle in Perthshire. They will probably also recall those long walks in the heather, when the whole school, or so it seemed to a shy and somewhat disorientated nine-year-old boy, took off into the hills two-by-two like animals entering Noah’s Ark.
These walks were pleasant and joyful expeditions when the summer sun shone, the sky was blue and the going dry and springy, but tedious and miserable in the winter when the cold wind blew, dark rainclouds scudded overhead and conditions underfoot were wet and squelchy. It is of my deliverance from one of these latter that I would like to tell.
It is unlikely that it was actually raining when we set off, otherwise we would not have gone, but everything else was just as I have described it, and the rain itself duly arrived when we had gone too far to turn back. So there I was, a picture of misery, plodding along in my Burberry and gumboots through the wet boggy heather, the rain running down my neck, my hands cold and blue, tears not far from my eyes. On and on we marched, I had no desires for conversation and there was nothing in my mind except a faint hope that sometime in the distant future I would be warm again,
We had reached the mid-point of this hellish journey when a car drew up alongside the master in charge (D H-G as I recall). This in itself was a rare occurrence in that part of the world in those early months after the war, so we all stopped and stared. A man got out, immaculately dressed in a dark green uniform, and approached D.H-G in a smart and confident manner. I was standing close enough to hear the conversation. He said, and from that day to this the various accents of America have been music in my ears, “I am a friend of Brigadier Wodehouse” (my father, then Military Attaché in Dublin; where this officer also worked). D.H-G turned to me and said “This is Wodehouse” or similar words. I shook hands with my Saviour (whose name sadly I cannot remember, nor can my mother) got into the car and we drove away. I will never forget the expressions of envy on the faces of my fellow pedestrians.
The rest of the story will not take long: I was whisked away into Blair Atholl, filled up to the brim with delicious cakes and buns and subsequently taken back to the castle armed with sweets and, most forbidden fruit of all, chewing gum. These were immediately confiscated by Sister, though how she discovered that I had them I will never know, for I am convinced that I did not declare them, but it was a small price to pay for my rescue from durance vile.
As I have said, it is my great regret that I have forgotten the officer’s name, but if this tale is deemed worthy of inclusion in the annals, and if by chance it reaches the ears of my Deliverer as he enjoys the evening of his life in the United States, he can be sure of the best dinner money can buy if he should get in touch with me.