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Monday, September 5, 2011

Hon. William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp

Lygon in fancy dress
What do Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited; the Hon. William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp (Governor of New South Wales 1899-1901), and Hugh D. McIntosh (the controversial boxing promoter/entrepreneur and parliamentarian) have in common. More precisely, what have they to do with Springwood?  An article in the Nepean Times provided a clue. 

On 11th March 1933 the Nepean Times related how, on Saturday 25th February, the Right Hon. Earl Beauchamp K.C. drove the first ball when he conducted the official opening of the Bon Accord Golf Links at Springwood.[1]  Among the well-heeled guests were locals Dr and Mrs Baxter, Percy Dawson, David Rogalsky and the Blue Mountains shire president, Councillor Percy Wilson.[2]  Others guests included Hugh Lygon (Beauchamp’s son), the well known Macquarie Street specialist, Dr. Sydney Jones and wife and Mrs. White who was the sister of Sir Daniel Levy.[3]
It had been barely two years since William Lygon, who, in his bachelor days served as the Governor of New South Wales, had been outed and banished from England because of his homosexual inclinations.  Jane Mulvagh suggested, in recent years, in an article entitled ‘The Scandal that shook Brideshead,’ that Evelyn Waugh used William Lygon as his model for ‘Lord Marchmain’ and son Hugo as the model for ‘Sebastian.’ [4]  Mulvagh stated the Lygons - who provided the inspiration for the ‘doomed aristocratic family in Waugh’s novel’ – put up a united front (except for his wife) when William was outed in June 1931.[5]  William had married Lady Lettice Mary Elizabeth Grosvenor in 1902, the daughter of Earl Grosvenor and accounts of his life, despite his sexual proclivities, credit William with being a loving husband and a devoted father to his seven children.[6]

Nevertheless, fearing the outcome of the scandal on his friend, King George entrusted Lord Stanmore and two other Knights of the Garter, with the task of presenting William with very limited options.  He was advised to resign from all his official posts and leave England immediately because if he remained the assured alternative would have been imminent arrest, a trial in the House of Lords and certain imprisonment.  Homosexuality was still a criminal offence.  

William did consider suicide but eventually fled to Wiesbaden where he was convinced by members of his family to put all thoughts of ending his life aside.[7]  Sadly, William thought that his exile would be short-lived, but David Dutton observed that in the years that followed William lived a ‘somewhat pathetic peripatetic existence.’[8] Evelyn Waugh - an Oxford friend to one of William’s sons - arrived at Madresfield shortly after his departure and later immortalised the Lygons in the novel Brideshead Revisited.[9]

It would seem that William’s outing had been a long time coming however, and interestingly Mulvagh blamed Australia for his final ‘undoing.’ His sexual tendencies became common knowledge when he visited in August 1930, as part of a round round-the-world trip.[10]  Accompanying William was a servant from Madresfield and Robert Bernays - a young Liberal MP - who acted as his speechwriter both said to be his current favourites.  Unfortunately, William’s ‘varied sex-life’ was reported back to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, who then passed the news on to the King. 

Mulvagh suggested however, that Beauchamp’s indiscretions had not gone un-noticed even during his tenure as Governor of New South Wales.  The poet Victor J. Daley once described an evening at Government House where ‘the most striking feature of the vice-regal ménage’ was the youthfulness of its members.[11]  Dutton observed that William bestowed his patronage on local artists and writers during his time as Governor which accounted for his friendship with people like Daley and Henry Lawson.[12]

As the Nepean Times article suggests, Beauchamp’s exile eventually returned him to Sydney in 1933, and it is a little known fact that it was he who performed the official opening of Bon Accord Golf Links.[13]  The lessee of the Bon Accord property at that time was the ever controversial Hugh D. McIntosh who is perhaps better known as ‘Huge Deal McIntosh.’[14]  McIntosh established a nine-hole golf course on the property, perhaps to enhance the attraction of Bon Accord Guest House.  Percy Dawson and his brothers were the owners of the Bon Accord property, located on Hawkesbury Road, Springwood which added to their other property investments which included a chain of international jewellery shops, the Strand Arcade and Ambassadors restaurant and night club.[15]   

Frank Van Straten has written extensively about Hugh McIntosh who dabbled in boxing and bicycle race promotion, politics, theatre productions and newspapers in Australia, and a chain of milk bars in England. In 1923, convinced he would spend the rest of his life in England, McIntosh leased Broome Park, the 17th century home of the late Earl Kitchener, and extravagantly re-laid its cricket pitch with soil from Bulli in New South Wales.[16]  McIntosh was a remarkable man; he moved easily in political, high society and theatrical circles, and rubbed shoulders with people like H.G. Wells, Nellie Melba, Anna Pavlova and Oscar Ashe, and promoted artists like Roy Rene, Mo, Ada Reeve and boxers like Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns.[17] However, the narrative of his life illustrates that McIntosh swayed constantly between bankruptcy and times of incredible wealth.
In 1927, McIntosh sought damages from Smith’s Newspapers Limited when Robert Clyde Packer was publisher.[18]  McIntosh wanted compensation for a headline that appeared in the Daily Guardian which read ‘Mr. H.D. McIntosh and how he met the Duke.’[19]  It was obviously defamatory.  Even though the offending article has yet to be found it may have referred to the Duke and Duchess of York who visited Australia in 1927.  The Daily Guardian was part of Joynton Smith’s newspaper empire. 

In 1931, McIntosh was awarded a farthing damages in another libel case he actioned against the Truth because the tome referred to him as an ‘erstwhile pie man who had blossomed into a newspaper magnate and drained the lifeblood from the Sunday Times.’[20]  He was well-known in Springwood; a one-time resident even remarked that the rafters of Bon Accord used to ‘ring’ in McIntosh’s time.[21]  It was not at all uncommon for well-known actors and actresses to attend parties held in the ballroom of Bon Accord and Rose Lindsay, wife of Norman, was particularly fond of him and invited him to her soirees.[22]
Brideshead Revisited became a book and then a television drama, William Lygon died in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel New York on 15th November 1938, and Hugh McIntosh was practically penniless again when he died at Golders Green (an area of London), in 1942.    Bon Accord Guest House burnt down in 1937 and Bon Accord Golf Links was absorbed into what presently exists in 1942 when the council purchased the property.

After his exile William Lygon spent a great of time in Australia.  He owned an apartment at Darling Point and became the president of the Australian Sporting Club.[23] It is obvious that the Blue Mountains was familiar to Lygon because Paula Byrne mentioned a trip made there by him and son Hugh.[24] Hugh McIntosh (said to be a business associate of their father) was so well-known to the Lygon children that his name was used disparagingly among their inner circle of friends (like Waugh) as a private code for anything remotely ‘boring.’[25] The warrant for William Lygon’s arrest was lifted temporarily to enable him to bury son Hugh when he died unexpectedly in 1936, and lifted permanently shortly before he died.
Pamela Smith  





[1] ‘Bon Accord’ Golf Links Opened by Earl Beauchamp, Nepean Times, 11.3.1933.
[2] Baxter was the local doctor, the Dawson family owned the Bon Accord property and Rogalsky was a part-time resident of Springwood.
[3] Nepean Times, 11.3.1933.
[4] Jane Mulvagh, ‘The Scandal that shook Brideshead,’ The Telegraph, 1.6.2008, , http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3553486/The-scandal-that-shook-Brideshead, accessed 12.7.2011.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] David Dutton, ‘William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp (1872-1938), Journal Of Liberal Democrat History, Issue 23, Summer 1999, pp. 18-20.
[9] Selina Hastings, ‘Country house high jinks,’ MailOnline, http://www.dailymail.co.uk, 4.6.2008, accessed 18.7.2011.
[10] Jane Mulvagh.
[11] Ibid.
[12] David Dutton; Cameron Hazelhurst, ‘Beauchamp, seventh Earl (1872-1938),’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp. 235-236.
[13] Sydney Morning Herald, 25.2.1933, p. 17.
[14] Frank Van Straten, Huge Deal, The Fortunes and follies of Hugh D. McIntosh, Thomas C. Lothian, South Melbourne, 2004.
[15] Pamela Smith, ‘David Stewart Dawson,’ The Making Of A Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District, Springwood Historians, pp. 84-85.
[16] The Register (Adelaide), 3 August 1923, p. 9, Pamela Smith, ‘Hugh Donald McIntosh,’ The Making Of A Mountain Community..., p. 214.
[17] Frank Van Straten, foreword Keith Dunstan OAM.
[18] Barrier Mine (Broken Hill), 31 March 1927, p. 4.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Advertiser and Register, (Adelaide), 12 September 1931, p. 16.
[21] Jean Davenport, Oral Taped Interview, BMCC Local Studies Collection.
[22] Mollie Fraser (nee Chapman) Oral Taped Interview, BMCC Local Studies Collection.
[23] Paula Byrne, Mad World Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, Harper Press, 2010, p. 198.
[24] Ibid, p. 204.
[25] Ibid, p. 243.

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