Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Barbara Cartland on the impact of the death of Dennis O'Neill

I have in front of me an extraordinary book - The Years of Opportunity: 1939 -1945 by Barbara Cartland.

To someone who remembers Cartland only as a figure of fun, it's a revelation. Informed by Cartland's wartime voluntary service, it's full of interesting observations on the role of women and the needs of children.

Perhaps Cartland's liberal Conservatism should not be such a surprise. One of her brothers was the Conservative MP Ronald Cartland. (Like her other brother, he died in France in 1940.)

Barbara Cartland was to become a councillor in Bedfordshire and was notable for her support of Romany and travelling people.

Ronald Cartland was an opponent of Appeasement and pressed for the government to do more to tackle poverty. I've not read the book, but he is one of the gay MPs celebrated in Chris Bryant's The Glamour Boys.

One day I will put together a post of Barbara Cartland's observations from The Years of Opportunity. But here are three points on wartime concern about the treatment of children from a reading of the book.

First, Cartland bears out what historians say about the impact of the evacuation of children to the countryside. Because many wealthy people had children billeted on them, they encountered the effects of poverty and poor education for the first time.

Second, she pays tribute to the work of my heroine Marjorie Allen - Lady Allen of Hurtwood - to bring the plight of children living in institutions to public attention.

And third, she confirms the extraordinary effect that the death of Dennis O'Neill had on public opinion:
I shall never, in all my life, forget the horror I felt on reading of how that little boy had suffered before he died - his hunger, his terror, his maltreatment haunted me, and like thousands of other women in Great Britain I could not sleep for thinking of him.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

Barbara Cartland had wealthy friends who allowed her to pursue expensive hobbies. She organised a party of MG owners who permitted girls and wives to race them in 1931. It was part of Brooklands fun at the time.

Barbara Cartland was also a skilful glider pilot.