- St Johnston and Carrigans, Donegal, Ireland
Triple Death in Carrigans 1938
The small village of Carrigans was shaken by a gruesome tragedy
in September 1938. The scene was Dunmore House.
Back in the
dark days of the tragedy, Dunmore House belonged to Colonel
Robert Lyle McClintock.
He married Jennie Margaret Casson-Walker
(depicted left) on 11 Nov 1908. They had been both in India. Her
speed and skill at mathematics earned her the reputation of a being a genius in
the subject. She was
one of the three daughters of Sir George Casson Walker.
They had one child, a boy, William George known as William.
Monday, September 26th, 1938 was to be a day of celebration. A
wedding was to be held in Dunmore House with the reception afterwards also in
Dunmore House. When the day came, it was instead a day in which the
McClintock family and the community pondered the events of the previous Saturday
- a day of horror, bloodshed and death. Instead of a wedding, there were
three funerals. The mother of the groom-to-be, the groom-to-be and the
Some time earlier, William proposed marriage to a 22 year old Devonshire girl called Margaret Helen Macworth
She accepted and the wedding date was set. The day of his 25th birthday
was chosen - 26th of September. His mother strongly
disapproved of the impending union. His father who was involved in the Boer War and in World War
1 chose to say nothing.
William was a second lieutenant in
British Army. In April 1938, he was involved in a horse-riding accident at
Sandown Park and fractured his neck. As a result he was paralysed
severely. He spent three months in hospital in England. Dorothy
Trotter and Joan Hawkey were appointed as his nurses. Dorothy took that
position in June 1938.
William was put on a plane and
brought back to Dunmore House. The two nurses came to Dunmore as did
Helen Macworth. The wedding preparations soon commenced. William
didn't get out of his bedroom much. So he passed the long hours by
talking to Helen, his mother and by singing.
On Saturday 24th September, William asked to be taken out in the fresh air to the walled garden in the grounds.
The sun was shining. He was settled in a stretcher. He was
writing a letter to his aunt.
The wedding cake had been
set up in the dining room on the sideboard.
His mother Jennie Margaret
McClintock left the house. She arrived in the garden armed and shot him in the head. Soon after, the body was found
by his father. Nurse Crumlish attended to him but he was beyond saving. She had been in
Carrigans that day to deliver a baby as she was a midwife of the district.
The body was taken into the house. Jennie Margaret was not to be
seen. Later her body was discovered by the tool shed in the garden. She had died through a
self-inflicted shot to the head. The murder and suicide weapon lay by her
side. Dorothy and a maid, Maggie Bradley, had found her.
The bride-to-be, Helen, was distraught upon
learning from Dorothy that her fiancé was dead.
William was placed in his bedroom.
Helen was subsequently discovered missing and to everyone's horror
they found her wounded in the head from a gunshot in the bedroom where they had
placed the body of William. She had shot herself in the head with his rifle and
died an hour later of shock and haemorrhage.
No gunshots were heard at any time.
There were no witnesses to any of the deaths.
The nurse Dorothy Trotter who knew Helen well said that the girl had
been saying that if he died she would go with him. Helen wanted the
impossible and had deluded herself into believing that he would recover from the
paralysis. Perhaps this had an psychological effect on her that unhinged her mind and
his been shot dead drove her over the edge. Helen had had to deal with the
fact that William George was getting worse and in effect he was slowly dying.
The bodies of Jennie Margaret McClintock and William George
McClintock and Miss Macworth were interred in the Churchyard of Killea Parish Church, Carrigans. They were
buried on the day chosen by the tragic couple for their wedding. September 26th 1938 brought
sadness to the village not the joy of a marriage. Macworth's dog Barney
was put to sleep and buried with her.
The Inquest was held in the house on the evening of the deaths.
The Colonel testified that his wife had suggested that he and she commit suicide
after killing William. He paid little attention to her and she
stopped saying anything more about it. She had been raving at times within
the previous three months. Her mind snapped probably because she felt that
she would lose her son if she let him marry. She took the gun and then
shot him in a state of unsound mind. Presumably she then proceeded to shoot her husband but for
some reason she couldn't carry it out. He according to Nurse Crumlish had
been cutting a hedge on the estate at the time. So she may have given up and shot herself.
The inquest concluded that Jennie had gone insane and shot her son in the
garden, then shot herself dead and that Helen also died as a result of suicide.
Dorothy wrote a book that detailed the tragedy.
She became Dorothy Meyrick. She visited the crime scene twice in the 90's
with writer Ken McCormack. Soon after the deaths she had been instructed
to burn everything that belonged to William George. His books and even his
photographs ended up on this bonfire. She lit the bonfire in front of the
house. Dorothy died at the age of 91 in 2004 in Wales.
Two former maids of the McClintocks, Mary
and Martha, spoke to Mr McCormack at the time of his visits. They were the
last to see Jennie alive.
The McClintocks left Dunmore in 1940.
The Colonel died in 1943. He is interred with his wife and son in
Carrigans. Colonel Robert Lyle McClintock is depicted below.
There is a strong and seemingly dependable
oral tradition that Agatha Christie had stayed at Dunmore House as the guest of
the McClintocks and had been
introduced to some local people. Jennie Margaret Mc Clintock had a sister
called Dorothy. Dorothy married Campbell Christie. Campbell Christie
was Agatha Christie's brother-in-law ...
A new book is soon to be published
about the tragedy, called "The Mysterious Affair at Dunmore", by Frank McGurk
and Ken McCormack" ~
Also go to
www.dunmoremystery.com to get full details of the story and book.
Dorothy Trotter wrote in her book:
There was a
request to take a young Army Officer of 24 years of age from the King Edward
VIII Officers' Hospital, back to his home in Donegal, to a small village six
miles west from Londonderry. He had become engaged in the April and was
going to be married in the June to Miss Helen Macworth of Knowle End, Sidmouth,
Devon - related to the Lascelles Family. William was the only child of
Col. Robert McClintock and his wife Jennie. He had smashed his back up in
the Gold Cup Race, his horse falling on top of him, he would never be able to
sit up and was quite feelingless from under his arms down. He would have
to be fed, washed, daily enemas and catheterised.
The old Dr Rankin, who lived seven
miles away, came once a week from Newton Cunningham. There were four
gardeners, two resident servants, and Bridie the cook. No electric light,
except what was made by the Colonel, oil lamps, and the telephone was down at
the main gates - where John Galey, the Head Gardener lived.
I duly met Mrs Jennie McClintock at
11 am inside the gates of Hyde Park Corner, opposite St George's Hospital.
She was to be sitting on a seat on the left with a tweed suit on, wearing a rose
in her buttonhole and a newspaper under her arm. I went to buy myself a
new dress first, at Marshall & Snelgrove - it was a navy blue with a plaited
sky-blue chiffon scarf threaded through from the neck to the waist - just the
job, no hat but gloves and a navy bag and shoes!! I can see the scene now
as though it were yesterday, pigeons being thrown bits of bread, the band
playing in the distance and riders riding round in Rotten Row - sun brilliant.
After a talk of about twenty
minutes, I was engaged without any hesitation. My orders were to meet
early in the morning, about 7 am, on a stretcher on a trolley at Kings Cross
Station. With him would be his Fiancée, Miss Helen Macworth and Nurse Joan
Hawkey, who had been helping to look after him for a short time at the Officer's
Hospital. She was not fully trained.
A special compartment had been
booked for us, actually next to the Guard's Van, for our trip up to Strangraer
and we were to cross by the night boat to Belfast - Larne. There we would
be met by Mrs Landale who was Mrs McClintock's sister, have a wash and brush up
and go by special ambulance for one hundred miles to Dunmore House, Carrigans.
Mrs McClintock went ahead and I told her to see to get a hard bedboard for
The time came and went and I had to
see to all his treatment on the journey. We wore summer dresses, no
uniforms, which was GRAND and were miles out in beautiful country. That
afternoon seems like only yesterday that the ambulance went up the drive with us
at 3 pm and, of course, we had little Barney, Helen's dog!! The other two
dogs, Nol and Jambo, came out to greet us. There were tears and whimpers
because they could not understand why their young friend could not get up.
The gardeners were lined up and the maids and Col. and Mrs McClintock, and we
After we'd got William up the stairs
to his bedroom overlooking the garden, we all had some good cups of tea and I
got William washed and then asked the four gardeners to take me down the
staircase on the stretcher to the walled garden outside, where he would be taken
daily, while the summer was with us, to lie in a shelter. This was a
practice for me to tell them where the bumps were!
Helen had her own room across the
landing and Nurse Hawkey and I had two single rooms on the floor above.
Sheep bleated in the fields and summer was at its best - bats coming out at
night and coming into my room. I often found one or two hanging off my
clothes, asleep, in the morning. Nurse Hawkey kept her window firmly shut.
The corncrakes were in the long grass - craking - all summer and in the corn!
This was the place to observe the seasons and it reminded me of Netherfield -
there were ducks and hens too! The fields too were blue with the flax and
there were two ponds. I often swam in the lower pond amongst the weed and
bulrushes, when I was off duty. Helen and I went once a week in a little
Austin 7, to Derry to do the shopping and Col. McClintock took either Nurse
Hawkey or me out sightseeing. I have seven very old photos which I took
with my Brownie II - with Helen in and the dogs, Col. McClintock and one dog,
one dog on his own, and Helen took one of me swimming in the pond!
It was eventually arranged that
William and Helen would be married in the house on Monday 26th September, as he
was getting much worse and would not get better. His mother was dead
against the marriage and was in a very disturbed state.
On the Saturday, September 24th, the
four gardeners finished work at 12 noon, but were to come back again in the
evening to take William in from the garden. Whilst we had lunch, Mrs Mc
Clintock always went out to the garden and fed William his lunch. At 10
minutes to 2 pm, daily, I gave Col. McClintock the Mist. Pot. Cit. medicine to
take down to him in the garden, this he did, but came running in a few moments
later to me in the dining room, "Come quick nurse, William is dead". I
flew out down those steps from the porch and down through the little iron gate
under the archway to find that the whole of the top of his head was missing and
bleeding profusely. We both o us looked at each other and I said, "Where
is your wife?" Guns were the order of the day and all three were good
shots, Col. and Mrs McClintock and Helen.
Helen had gone up to her room to
rest - I made it a daily rule that she should go up and rest at 20 minutes to 2
pm, from the dining room. I asked the Colonel to go immediately and tell
John Galey at the Lodge to get the other three gardeners and come for me to take
William's body up to his room, and to ask John to phone Dr Rankin and tell him
he would be coming for him.
My mind was perfectly calm,
fortunately. I covered my dear patients body up with a red rug and walked
down the path where I found Mrs McClintock's leather gardening glove, she was
always pruning roses and cutting off bits and pieces. I thought she might
be hiding in the potting shed but dare not go and look. Soon the gardeners
arrived devastated and in tears - Master William! We carried his body in
and up the stairs and they laid it on the bed. We met no one. I then
went across the landing and broke the news to Helen. She wept bitterly and
then suddenly brightened up saying, "Of course I can never live without him".
She was surrounded by wedding gifts on the bed and downstairs the cake was in the
far room. I had made arrangements with Miss Alexander, who came almost
daily, to bring flowers for the little altar I'd made, at 3 pm. She was
the sister of Field Marshall Alexander. I then said to Helen, "I must
leave you" and kissed and hugged her - we had become such great friends and left
her with little Barney on her bed, "I must go and look for Mrs McClintock."
I went downstairs and found dear Maggie Bradley, the housemaid aged 24, and
said, "Come with me Maggie, we'll go and look for the mistress." I decided
we would go and look through the window of the potting shed, from the shrubbery,
but before we'd even got there I almost fell over Mrs McClintock's body - she
had shot herself from under the chin and was lying on her back. Her head
was hanging up in the tree with her earphone hairstyle fallen apart and the
rooks from the rookery above were at it.
I was horrified and dear Maggie fell
in a faint! At that moment I heard the Colonel's car chugging up the drive
followed by Dr Rankin in his. I ran through the grass to tell them and
they came over and examined her body. Fortunately Maggie had come round by
then and the next thing was Martha Magee, the other housemaid, coming running
out on to the step, "Come quick, nurse, Miss Helen has done it now!" - all
within the space of an hour.
Col. Mc Clintock, Dr Rankin and I then
tore up the stairs into William's room and found Helen lying in a pool of blood,
but not dead. She had gone across the landing with her dog and found
William dead on his bed, under the blanket. She was unconscious with brain
matter oozing from her ear. I prayed to God that she would die - her
little dog was running round in circles in a terrible state.
Fortunately the room was in shade as it faced south. The dog was removed
from the room and I remained with Helen till she died, just after 3.45 pm.
At 3 pm came dear Miss Alexander in her
car, up the drive, with flowers. I hung out the window. Someone went
to her and told her, and she just went on round and down again, and out of the
That evening the inquest was held in
the house with oil lamps burning and the maids were in a very distressed state
and when I went down to the kitchen in the basement to tell Bridie, she flung
her arms around me, and said, "I knew something would happen - the lid on this
stew jar has jumped up and down for days and days!"
Of course reporters were there in the
evening, and at the Inquest held at which I had to speak, and after midnight I
took the undertaker up to William's bedroom to see all three bedrooms. The
gardeners had got Mrs McClintock's body in and her head. The undertaker
literally vomited and Nurse Hawkey said she could not attempt to help me lay
them out, so I did it on my own, weeping and praying as I did so. It was 6
O Clock in the morning when I finished.
Sunday was a sunny warm day and
reporters were over from England invading the house. I kept well away.
Mrs Macworth had phoned to say she would not be coming to the funeral on the
Monday and, of course, we had to phone the few guests who were coming to tell
them of the tragedy. Mrs Macworth's request was that she wanted Barney
shot and he was to be buried with her daughter! in Carrigans church yard on the
Monday. At 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon I had to take Barney up to the woods
behind the house, with John Galey, tie him to a tree and watch him being shot.
That just about finished ME.
Mrs Landale was phoned and came with
her daughter and son, Roy, who was an officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary,
for the funeral on the Monday. Nurse Hawkey and I stayed with the two
remaining dogs to keep them quiet, they were missing the family so much.
Nurse Hawkey returned to London on the Tuesday and nothing has been heard of her
Back in England on the Sunday, Arthur
Pugh, who had got engaged to my sister Alice in London, was on his way up to
Yorkshire in the train from Marylebone and had got the "Sunday Times". In
the train, he saw on the back page - "STOP NEWS, Triple Shooting Tragedy in Co.
Donegal" and realised I was the nurse in charge. My Father had been on his
morning rounds and met Arthur at the station. He showed him the newspaper.
Of course, he was horrified and was frantically trying to get Col. McClintock on
the phone but was told there was no phone at the house, but they got through to
the Lodge. The report was, "Dorothy is perfectly all right and is in
command of the situation", which was a great relief to the family.
I was asked to stay for another two
weeks, which I did, sending back all the wedding gifts to those who had sent
them - mostly army friends in Britain, and the gardeners and I had endless
bonfires down in the garden. Col. McClintock wanted every photo of his
wife and son burned, all William's certificates from Wellington College where he
had been at school - the big Army School. I finally left and was taken
back to the boat and seen off at Larne by Mrs Landale and her daughter and back
by train to King's Cross, arriving in the October. There on the station
were my parents and I did a dead faint.
By Dorothy Trotter in her own words
the Irish News Sept 27 1938
Tragic Donegal bride-to-be is buried in her wedding dress
William George McClintock (24), his fiancé, Miss Helen Macworth (22) of Sidmouth,
Devon, who were to be married yesterday and Mrs McClintock, his mother, were
buried in the parish churchyard at Carrigans, near Derry yesterday. Mother and
son were interred in the McClintock family grave and Miss Macworth close by.
was in her bridal gown and the bridal bouquet was placed on her coffin.
shot her son, who had been crippled in a hunting-field accident, and then
finding her fiancé dead, shot herself.
with only a few people as mourners, apart from the half dozen family members,
the funeral took place from Dunmore House, Carrigans, Co Donegal yesterday. Mr
McClintock and Miss Macworth were to have been married yesterday afternoon at
cake, prepared for the celebration, was given back to the family cook who had
made it and all signs of festivity had been removed. The coffins, which
were conveyed in Individual hearses to the parish church at Carrigans, were
carried up the aisle by estate workers. In a seat close to the remains were
Colonel McClintock, the 65-year old veteran of the Boer War and Great War, with
bowed head, and District Inspector Landale, Antrim. His wife's nephew.
wept as the coffins were carried out of the church to the burial ground, the
organist playing How Brightly Those Glorious Spirits Shine. The colonel,
who had kept up bravely during the last couple of days, broke down and wept as
the coffins were being lowered into the graves. No member of the family of
Miss Macworth attended. Other mourners included Mr Bertram Barton
(cousin), Mr James Stevenson DL. Banagher (relative) and Lt Col Gledstanes DL.
The service was
conducted by the Rev David Kelly BA, rector of Glendermott who was to have
officiated at the wedding. As the coffins were carried out by estate
workers to the burial ground adjoining, the organist played The Sands of Time
Are Sinking. The graves had been lined with asters, sweetpea, laurels and ivy, a
service voluntarily performed by tenants of Carrigans village which is on the
Dunmore estate. In a reference at the service, Rev Mr Kelly referred to Mrs
McClintock's work for the Protestant Orphan Society and foreign missions, and
added in reference to the triple deaths: "This was a tragedy. A triumph of love.
The bond of love was stronger than the thread of life."
Jennie McClintock with her dogs. She sent this
photograph to her friend Mrs Long.
Jennie McClintock's handwriting on the back of the photograph
Cecily Mackworth, who has died aged 94, was a writer, traveller,
war correspondent and rebel. Her friendships included Ivy
Compton Burnett, Nancy Cunard, Stevie Smith, Dylan Thomas,
Tristan Tzara, Lawrence Durrell, David Gascoyne, Natalie
Sarraute, and Conchita de Saint-Exupéry. Life took her from the
London School of Economics in the early 1930s through the
Reichstag fire, the fall of France and the birth of Israel to
the Paris of the 21st century.
Born in Llantillio
Pertholey in Gwent, Cecily came from a coal-owner family with
military connections. Her paternal great-grandfather, Sir Digby
Mackworth, one of Wellington's officers, married Julie de
Richepense, daughter of one of Napoleon's generals. Her maternal
grandmother was born and brought up in the Victorian English
colony in Dieppe. Cecily was four when her father, an army
officer, was killed in action early in the first world war. Her
mother remarried and moved to Sidmouth.
Cecily managed to get through several governesses. When
she was 18 her aunt Margaret, Viscountess Rhondda, editor of the
weekly Time and Tide and a governor of the LSE, found a place
there for Cecily. She stayed for two years. Her first love was a
Hungarian LSE student, Nicky Kaldor (the economist Lord Kaldor),
who became a lifelong friend.
Aged 22, Cecily married Leon Donckier de Donceel, a
young Belgium lawyer she met at a Swiss sanatorium, where both
were being treated for tubercolosis. Widowed at 25, she was left
with a daughter to bring up, a role for which she was entirely
unsuited. She returned briefly to England. Her first poems were
published in the London Mercury, but she found England dull and
wanted to travel.
The loveless nature of her family was
illustrated when Cecily's sister Helen and her fiancé and his
mother were found dead in Donegal from shotgun wounds in
mysterious circumstances. Cecily recalled her mother being
asked: "What shall we do with her dog?" Her mother blithely
replied: "Shoot it as well". Helen was buried in a distant part
of a cemetery in Ireland, which none of the family ever went to
visit. The dog was apparently buried with her.
Cecily left England, and spent much of the early 1930s
in Hungary and Germany, before moving to Paris in 1936. She was
in Berlin for the burning of the Reichstag, an account she wrote
up but could not get published.
In the summer of 1937 she was taken to meet Henry
Miller, then living at the Villa Seurat, in his ground floor
studio in the Rue de la Tombe Issoire. He took to her and she
became part of his Paris circle. Through Miller she met
25-year-old Lawrence Durrell, newly arrived from Corfu with the
manuscript of his novel, The Black Book.
"Send me everything in your jam cupboard," Durrell once
wrote on a scrap of paper he slipped under her door. She showed
him her poems, which Miller published - Eleven Poems (1938) - as
an offshoot of his magazine the Booster, of which three numbers
had appeared. The fourth, subtitled Air-conditioned Womb Number,
brought it to an abrupt end.
A fraught love affair with an exiled Czechoslovak
painter led to two books on his country, which she suppressed
from her bibliography. She stayed in France until June 1940 when
the German victory necessitated her escape via Spain and
Her first big success was in 1941, with a vivid account
of that defeat, I Came Out of France. TS Eliot read it and
invited her to tea in Russell Square, interested to meet the
young woman. She worked for a spell with the Free French in
Carlton Gardens in 1940, in the office of Colonel Howard, the
head of security.
She was at Carlton Gardens throughout the blitz, and
she remembered the restless atmosphere of ill-temper in the
building. There was distrust between various factions of the
French and British intelligence services. It was there she met
Colonel Passy, whose real name was Dewavrin, chief of De
Gaulle's secret service. She also became close to the future
French foreign minister Maurice Schumann, who was at that time
head of the press office. He broadcast twice a day to France,
Les Français parlent Aux Français, which included coded messages
to Free French agents.
Cecily remained in London for most of the war, where
she gave lectures to the army. She contributed poems and
articles to the literary magazine Horizon and other reviews.
She moved back to France after the war and published
François Villon: a Study (1947) and compiled A Mirror for French
poetry 1840-1940: French Poems with English Translation by
English Poets (1947) . She also worked as a journalist, visiting
many countries as a correspondent. In 1947 she went to Palestine
for the journal, L'Aube. She returned in 1948, travelled
throughout the Middle East, and wrote an account of this wartorn
region in The Mouth of the Sword (1948).
In 1952 she published her first novel, Spring's Green
Shadow. Her second, Lucy's Nose, appeared 40 years later. Of her
own works she was most fond of The Destiny of Isabelle Eberhardt
(1954). In spring 1950 she had gone to Algeria to follow in
Eberhardt's footsteps and travelled alone in the Sahara. Her
research led to the first biography of the young woman, who was
born in 1877 and brought up by Trophimovsky, a half-crazy former
Pope in the Orthodox Church. Eberhardt became a Moslem, lived
the life of an Arab nomad, disguised as a man, and was initiated
in an esoteric sect of Islam. Eberhardt died, aged 27, in a
desert flash flood.
Cecily married the Marquis de Chabannes La Palice in
1956. She had lived in Paris since the 1940s. During the next 30
years she published widely books and reviews. Notably, Guillaume
Apollinaire and the Cubist life (1961) received the Darmstadt
Award. English Interludes, (Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé,
Paul Valéry, Valery Larbaud - stays in London 1860-1912) was
much praised. Her contribution to Mallarmé studies is
Of her earlier memoir, Ends of the World (1987),
Lawrence Durrell wrote to Cecily: "Just reading, sipping,
devouring to prolong the pain/pleasure of your beautiful, cogent
and brilliant memories."
She published on various occasions reminiscences of her
friendships, of writers and of the literary scene from the 1930s
to 1950s: at 93, she embarked upon her candid autobiography. It
was typical of her, that in her last weeks, with her
autobiography just completed, she was in search of a new
project, this time to embark on learning Arabic.
She is survived by her daughter, Pascale.
Cecily Joan Mackworth, writer, born August 15
1911; died July 22 2006
Cecily Joan Mackworth, writer: born
Llantilio Pertholey, Monmouthshire 15 August 1911; married 1935 Leon
Donckier de Donceel (died 1938; one daughter), 1956 Marquis de Chabannes la
Palice (died 1980); died Paris 22 July 2006.
Cecily Mackworth was a poet, critic, novelist, biographer, journalist
and globetrotter. In her autobiography, Ends of the World, published in
1987, she explained her restless travelling as a form of
Mackworth was a tall, handsome woman - magnanimous, sociable and
gifted. She was one of the few remaining links to the writers and
artists - European and American - who flourished in the 1930s, and her
work on Villon, Apollinaire and Mallarmé mark her as an authority on
French poetry. Although as a child she had been introduced to Thomas
Hardy, and later enjoyed friendships with her fellow Welsh poets Vernon
Watkins and Dylan Thomas, she made more impact as a travel writer,
biographer and critic than as a poet.
She had a delinquent streak, and the urge to travel seized her when
young. As a teenager she eloped with a Hungarian. At 22, in Berlin, she
watched the Reichstag burn. Later she trekked across the Algerian desert
in search of the shade of Isabelle Eberhardt, the Russo-German
adventurer and Muslim convert.
Cecil Mackworth was born at Llantilio Pertholey, Monmouthshire, in
1911, a member of the Mackworth dynasty - Welsh coal-owners of the more
liberal persuasion. Her father, Francis, died in 1914, fighting in
France, her mother was one of the first women to drive a car, her aunt,
Margaret, Viscountess Rhondda, was the founding editor of Time and Tide.
She was privately educated, attended the LSE for two years and worked
briefly for Time and Tide before escaping abroad. In 1935, she married
Leon Donckier de Donceel, a Belgian, by whom she had a daughter the
following year, but in 1938 he died of tuberculosis. Mackworth, still in
her twenties, settled in Paris. There, in 1937, she had met Henry
Miller, frequenting his salon at the Villa Seurat. Through Miller, she
met the young poet David Gascoyne, who had published his first book at
the age of 16 and A Short Survey of Surrealism (1935) at the age of 19,
and the electrifying 26-year-old Lawrence Durrell, then wrestling with
his third novel, The Black Book. Gascoyne and Durrell became her
lifelong friends. She contributed to The Booster, the magazine Miller
and company were intent on destroying with obscenity, and Miller
published a collection of her poems (Eleven Poems, 1938).
Paris became her home until the blitzkreig of June 1940. Forced to
flee from the advancing Germans, she joined the flood of refugees
trudging westwards, strafed as they went by diving Stukas, and finally
made it back to England via Spain and Portugal. The account of that
dramatic escape appears in her books I Came Out of France (1941) and the
later Ends of the World.
Working in London for the Free French (Maurice Schumann, later French
Foreign Minister, was her boss) she published two books on
Czechoslovakia (Czechoslovakia Fights Back, 1942, and, with Jan Stransky
for the Cross-Roads Series, Czechoslovakia, 1943, with a preface by her
friend Jan Masaryk). On one occasion during the Blitz, while she was
visiting T.S. Eliot in his office in Russell Square, a bomb fell close
by, shattering the windows. Eliot, quite unperturbed, brushed the
splinters of glass from his desk and carried on as if nothing had
Wartime London brought her the friendships of a number of writers -
Arthur Koestler, Nancy Cunard, Stevie Smith, George Barker and Dylan
Thomas. Once, at a party, Dylan's wife, Caitlin, stubbed a cigarette out
on Mackworth's hand, annoyed, it seems, that she was gossiping too
intimately with Dylan.
After the Second World War she returned to a France now in the grip
of a new intellectual passion, existentialism. In 1947 she published a
well-received short biography of François Villon (François Villon: a
study) and edited an equally successful verse anthology, A Mirror for
French Poetry, 1840-1940. She became a friend of Stuart Gilbert, James
Joyce's biographer and translator, and Samuel Beckett's friends Roger
Blin and Arthur Adamov.
Writing commissions took her to Palestine to cover the birth of the
State of Israel. She had a haunting encounter with Menachem Begin, on
the run from the British, and a curious one with King Abdullah of
Transjordan, later assassinated for his moderation. Apart from Clare
Hollingworth, the great Daily Telegraph foreign correspondent, Mackworth
was the only female journalist covering the event. The book that
emerged, The Mouth of the Sword (1949), shows her at ease with both
Jewish settlers and the Bedouin whom she especially admired.
The lure of the desert took her next to Algeria in pursuit of
Isabelle Eberhardt, who lived disguised as a man among the Arabs. The
Destiny of Isabelle Eberhardt (1954) greatly influenced Paul Bowles, who
later translated some of Eberhardt's writings.
In 1956, Mackworth married a French marquis, becoming from that time
the Marquise de Chabannes la Palice. Although this was a love-match, she
later came to see her marriage as an interruption of her writing career.
The Marquis died in 1980 and afterwards she lived alone in Paris, close
to the Picasso Museum in the Marais district.
There she lived an interesting double life - Cecily Mackworth to her
artistic friends, the Marquise to her aristocratic ones. She was a
sociable figure on the Paris scene, a frequenter of bookshops such as
Shakespeare and Company and the Village Voice, where she was often to be
found attending talks by visiting writers. As a critic she had appeared
in Cyril Connolly's Horizon, and she contributed also to Le Figaro, Time
and Tide and Twentieth Century - for which she produced the first
important review of Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet.
As a writer she had great powers of endurance. She published her
first novel, Spring's Green Shadow (1952), aged 41, and her second,
Lucy's Nose (1992), aged 81 - the latter based on an obscure case of
Freud's and a brilliant work of what one critic called "deductive
imagination". She worked on her second volume of autobiography, Out of
the Black Mountains, until a few weeks before her death.
Her company was delightful and invigorating, and her friendships were
enduring; her friends will remember her for her wisdom, empathy and
critical insight. She was buried beside her second husband in Normandy.