Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From the Mailbox: A Budleigh Croquet Photograph

As we wrap things up here at Who Is George Mills?, one thing that does keep us going is our metaphorical mailbox. A message has arrived this week with a clarification and an interesting observation.

Here's a not from Chris Williams of the Croquet Association regarding a previous entry and the colour photograph you see below [click to enlarge]:

I spoke to Martin Granger-Brown over the weekend and he was a member at Budleigh in the late 60s/early 70s and remembers the Millses. I showed him the photo that you published on Saturday 9th July and he was able to name a few more of the people in the photo.

You have

Front Row: Unknown could be Robin Godby who lived in London, Joan Warwick, John Solomon (who was the subject of the poem I sent you by Gerald Cave), Bill Perry + Sally his dog, unknown, Sir Leonard Daldry.

Back Row: John Cooper (I think), unknown, unknown, unknown, Guy Warwick, unknown, Gerald Cave.

He reckons that the back row is

John Cooper, unknown, Ralph Bucknall, Jim Townsend, Guy Warwick, unknown, Gerald Cave.

He also thinks that the lady on the right in the front row is Lady Daldry.

He also said that Aggie was very haughty and posh and used to look down on people.


Thank you so very much, Chris! We are now able to put some names alongside a few more faces in the above photograph.

For our purposes here, though, what is even more interesting is the brief observation in the last sentence.

We know from the Devonshire Park photograph (circa 1957) that Aggie Mills, sister of George Mills, had no qualms about placing herself front and center in the image among women who were presumably her friends. Players and croquet personalities of greater notoriety than Aggie placed themselves off to the side: The legendary Hope Rotherham springs immediately to mind.

Her brother George and sister, Violet Mills, both found themselves positions towards the rear and away from the center in the image. You can see them all marked on the image above.

One wonders why so few people today recall George Mills, and really have dim recollections of his sisters much beyond a first impression—good or bad—of any of the Mills siblings.

Perhaps it was a bit of haughtiness, apparently on the part of sister Aggie, that tended to keep others somewhat at arm's length from the Mills. Agnes and Violet were already ensconced at Budleigh Salterton in 1947, and George apparently came to live with them somewhat later—likely around the occasion of that 1957 photograph.

While the family—apparently even including George—were quite social themselves, one can't help but wonder how reserved their friends and acquaintances may have been. It's interesting to note that despite the involvement of the three Mills sibs in croquet at Budleigh, none of them seem to appear in group photographs of cheerful players at the club.

Agnes, as they say, apparently was known to enjoy pulling the cork, as they say. Might it be that this social family—led by elder sister Agnes—may not have been enormously well-liked, at least not as much as they were well-known socially?

The reality that Budleigh Salterton was unaware that George Mills had once been a successful children's book author—and, in fact, his books then were being reprinted in the late 1950s for enjoyment by a new generation of readers—is completely mystifying to me.

Perhaps haughtiness and a condescending attitude played some role in it.

It is, at least, worth considering.

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