9 October 2012

Lionel Britton's Will (Revised)

One of the most amusing parts of my PhD thesis, I thought, was when I wrote about working-class writer Lionel Britton's will at the end of the second part of my Introduction. Coming from an atheist who cared little or nothing about animals, and his literary estate never likely to bring in any revenue, I thought this was his final joke to the world:

'[T]he copyright of all of Britton’s work, revealed in Britton’s will, went to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, the World Wildlife Fund, and — inexplicably, as he had no apparent connections there — the vicars and churchwardens of Polstead in Suffolk.'

However, Britton's great-nephew Robert Hughes, a tireless seeker of the truth relating to his family tree, has just discovered this information:

'I finally phoned the Ipswich Probate Office today, and it is now apparent that Lionel Britton did indeed make the bequests to the animal charities and to the vicar of Polstead and his churchwarden, genuinely and sincerely.

The only qualification is that this was not our Lionel Britton. Uncle Lionel died on 9 Jan 1971, and this guy, Lionel Henry Britton, on 9 Jun 1971. The latter Lionel was 72, and his will was indeed probated on 3 Aug 1971 at Ipswich. His last place of residence was an address in Billericay, but the registration district was Bury St Edmunds, which I would not have thought would include the home town of Tricky Dickie and his Cortina.*
 Probably he died at or near Polstead despite his home being officially Billericay.'

So he never made a will, and the University of Texas in Austin, whose database of writers' wills I retrieved the information from, has got it wrong. Ah well. The truth can be mighty boring at times.

* I can see the reference to Ian Dury's 'Billericay Dickie' here, but wasn't 'Tricky Dicky' a nickname for a certain disgraced US president: Country Joe McDonald's 'genuine plastic man' from Yorba Linda, CA?

Country Joe McDonald – Tricky Dicky
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Billericay Dickie

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