Jeremy Nicolas Hutchinson, Baron Hutchinson of Lullington, will celebrate completion of 102 years on this planet in about 10 days, God willing. Given his life and causes followed, probably God won’t interfere.
In any case, if the life of Jeremy Hutchinson were to be celebrated in his seat of life peerage, it would be quite an inadequate affair as, apart from its Baron, the other claim to fame of Lullington is having arguably the smallest church in England – more a ‘churchlet’ that can seat just 20 persons, not even enough for a rugby team with reserves. Yet it is not recorded whether rugby is among the great loves of the long life of Jeremy Hutchinson though sailing is. Several other features of his bloodline and activities are of sufficient interest to post a few snippets.
He is descended from one of the 59 good souls who signed the death warrant for King Charles 1, a certain Colonel Hutchinson. But this member of the family tree seems to have taken a less strident view of sin. Up to Oxford, philosophy and politics to be certain, called to the bar of course. His memorable cases for the salacious at heart included being part of the successful defence in 1960 of Lady Chatterley.
In the history of mankind, changes of morality may never have been so rapid as in the last century with massive swings from libertarian to prudishness. Jeremy Hutchinson, with a quick mind and tongue, also led the defence of director Michael Bogdanov just over 20 years after Lady Chatterley, defending against a charge of indecency in the play ‘The Romans in Britain’. The case was brought by Christian morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse, bless her soul. Curiously the chief witness against Bogdanov, was Whitehouse’s solicitor who revealed under cross-examination that he had been sitting at the back of the theatre when he saw what was claimed to be a penis.
The prosecution withdrew after Hutchinson demonstrated that what could have been witnessed was the actor’s thumb protruding from his fist – the case was abandoned (extract from Wikipedia). It would have been a fun evening at the bar afterwards as fisted men of silk stood for a beer. Jeremy Hutchinson entertained the bar with several more cases of equal interest to the excitement starved judges and juries.
Why are we talking about Baron Hutchinson today? Well, he has just been anointed as joint winner of Oldie of the Year by the British magazine The Oldie. His ‘partner’ in the crime of growing old gracefully is Olivia De Havilland, the oldest living actor (actress) with an Oscar, who followed Peggy Ashcroft in film versions of plays. The curious connection to this pairing is that the first wife of Jeremy Hutchinson was (Dame) Peggy Ashcoft whose first husband (2 before Jeremy) claimed her to be the world’s best living actress (possibly he had an admiration for those already deceased).
For the war time researcher, note that Jeremy was on board HMS Kelly off Crete when it was sunk by German bombers in 1941. He survived clinging to wreckage in the sea alongside Lord Mountbatten. Always keeping good company.
After the war, seeking a stint in politics, Jeremy Hutchinson entertained the journals in 1945 by challenging Churchill in the seat of Westminster Abbey. When attempting to canvas for votes, he found that the resident, Sir Winston, was away, so he entertained the staff with his political persuasion. Later, as a life peer, Baron Hutchinson sat in Lords, but took an extended vacation before retiring gracefully.
I do hope that he has a quiet chuckle to himself, remembering all his triumphs and joys and recalling being on the stage for over a century of a truly British life.