Richard Saumarez Smith (3)

I have realised that one thing got left out of my brother’s obituary, which may have seemed insignificant, but to me was: that was his interest in the east end, long before mine. When he was at school, he spent a summer in St. Katharine’s Foundation and wrote an essay about the east end which won him a Shell Scholarship at Cambridge which made him rich by the standards of undergraduates in the 1960s. I don’t know what the essay was about, but I remember him talking about Cable Street as it was in 1963. I don’t know if the essay survives, but it would be interesting if it did. And I realise, in thinking about it, it must have been partly what made him interested in anthropology, alongside the influence of Edmund Leach, and perhaps what led to him to living later in Quilter Street. He knew all the restaurants in New Road and he must have known Raphael Samuel because he gave me a copy of East End Underworld when it came out in 1981.

Then, in 1964, he went to Vienna to learn the violin. But his violin was stolen from the boot of a car in Rome and he never played again. He learned the mouth organ instead and played Bach on the mouth organ, which he took with him to the Amazon in 1965. To a kid, as I was, this was impressive.


2 thoughts on “Richard Saumarez Smith (3)

  1. joan says:

    This is fascinating. In the mid 1990s I was approached by the East End social activist priest Ken Leech to write a biography of St Katharine’s most famous warden Fr John Groser (known for his activism and for appearing as Thomas Becket in the 1951 film of Murder in the Cathedral). I think Ken thought that the combination of my being local and having written a PhD on Roman Catholics and the labour movement made me a suitable candidate. I spent some time researching what I could about Groser and meeting one of his children but decided, in the end, that I was unfit for the task. I think that Groser retired from St Katharine’s the year before your brother was there. I don’t know what sort of archives the Foundation retains (a quick search reveals their main archive to be held by the London Metropolitan Archives) but it may be worth asking them if they have any record of your brother’s paper. There is some good research to be done about people like your brother who got involved in East End settlements and the like and took that experience out in to the world with them. Clement Attlee and William Beveridge (both at Toynbee Hall) are well documented but there must be many more. So sorry for your loss – but clearly a life well lived.

    • Dear Joan, Yes, my uncle worked at Oxford House during the war (he was a conscientious objector), so there is obviously a pattern. I don’t know who the vicar/rector was who would have overseen my brother’s work. Charles

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