v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

This soubriquet, famously applied to Lord Byron by his best-known squeeze Lady Caroline Lamb, was rather more applicable to her, as I understand. In many respects he was more sinned against by her than sinning on his own account.

It's well known that it's hard to live up to a famous father, let alone an illustrious lineage stretching back several generations. In fact it's easier to live down a succession of rather bad hats by just holding a reasonably straight bat oneself, as I hope to have done. Time will tell.

Edmund 'Buster' Findlay did have a pretty hard act to follow : they were clever, sober, industrious, philanthropic – what was to like? What could he live up to? So he seems to have decided not even to try!

By all accounts he was a totally irresponsible alcoholic womaniser, epically extravagant, and prone to target practice in the oak-panelled precinct of the Scotsman boardroom, of which he was of course chairman. A typical Tory, as current political type-casting would have it, and he was indeed a Unionist Member of Parliament by the time his first wife had decided to abandon him.

Indeed, he didn't do the decent thing, as it was seen in those days, by letting his wife divorce him, but rather the reverse. However, he had a rather private guilt-trip of his own that has only just come to light...

... following a good few snifters and a substantial lunch, whenever the House of Commons was sitting, he was in the habit of repairing to a nearby cinema, in which he could sleep off their effects and restore himself for the evening session in the House.

Well, a day came when he was awoken by the searching torch-beam of a kindly usherette, who sold him a choc-ice or strawberry ripple, and listened understandingly to his personal history. Reader, she married him!

And her name had of course been Laura Elsom.

I think that he was very fortunate. She was plain, homely and supportive – as the Americans say, cooking lasts longer than kissing.