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Remembered Today:

Ian Hay (Major General John Hay Beith)


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Pals,

I've just read "The Ship of Remembrance" by Ian Hay. I've read elsewhere that his real name was John Hay Beith and that he was a Major General at the time he wrote the book. I would be very grateful if any Pal could give me a brief biographical sketch, please (A search on the Forum turned up some mentions of him earlier in the war, when he held a lower rank).

Regards,

Philip

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the gunners dream

Not much, but it's a start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hay_Beith

Also:

Ian Hay was the pen-name of John Hay Beith, (1876-1952) a Scottish novelist and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. For many years he earned his living as a schoolmaster, only gaining publication in his thirties. He served as an officer during the Great War, ending up as a major. During the twenties and the thirties he blossomed as a writer, with the majority of his work being published during this period.

He is most well known for his books The First Hundred Thousand, 1916, and its sequel, All in it K1 Carries On, 1917, but he also wrote many plays, short stories and war related non-fiction.

The First Hundred Thousand, which I read last year, does not form part of my great grandmother’s collection. It is based on his experiences as an officer in a K1 battalion of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. K1 was shorthand for the first hundred thousand volunteers requested by Kitchener in September 1914. It is still in print and takes a humorous look at life in such a battalion as it trained, although the slightly patronising tone towards the other ranks was not to my taste.

He is credited as articulating the difference in meaning between ‘funny peculiar and funny ha-ha’ in his 1938 play The Housemaster.

In addition to his novels, plays and non-fiction, he also wrote a number of screenplays, and acted as a consultant to Cecil B de Mille. See the Wikipedia article for more info.

My great grandmother had two of his novels, Knight on Wheels, 1914, which I rather liked and A Safety Match, 1911, which I’m not sure that I do at all. I’ll discuss them in due course.

Serious non fiction included, 9th (Scottish) Division Memorial, Arras, 1922

Getting together. (Essays on the relations between America and Great Britain.) 1917

One hundred years of army nursing. The story of the British army nursing services from the time of Florence Nightingale to the present day, 1953

Their name liveth : the book of the Scottish National War Memorial, 1931

Plays included a collaboration with PG Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith, 1933. While some of his plays are still in print, most of them are long forgotten, the majority dating from the twenties and the thirties.

He wrote about fifteen novels, some of which were adaptations of his plays, for example, Little Ladyship, 1941 and vice versa – The Housemaster, 1936.

Steve

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Here's his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Sue

Beith, John Hay [pseud. Ian Hay] (1876–1952), writer, was born on 17 April 1876 in Manchester, the third son and sixth child of John Alexander Beith (d. 1896), cotton merchant and magistrate, and his wife, Janet, daughter of David Fleming, also a merchant in Manchester. He was the grandson of Alexander Beith, one of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and then at St John's College, Cambridge, Beith obtained in 1898 a second class degree in classics, and distinguished himself at rowing. He showed early interest in the theatre, writing reviews for the popular press.

In 1901 Beith taught at Fettes before returning to Cambridge for a short period to study science. In 1902 as a junior science master he joined Durham School, where he also coached the rugby teams and river crews. A charming companion, with a developed social sense, he was extremely popular. Durham featured in one of his best books, Housemaster (1936).

In 1906 Beith returned to Fettes. While sharing largely in school life, he spent most of his leisure time in writing. He was a resourceful if unconventional teacher, knew public-school boys instinctively, and enjoyed schoolmastering. When in 1912 he left Fettes to make writing his career his decision was generally regretted, perhaps even eventually by himself.

Beith's first novel, Pip (1907), coloured by early Manchester schooldays, was a best-seller and was followed by other equally light comic novels, among them The Right Stuff (1908) and A Man's Man (1909). With the publication in 1914 of A Knight on Wheels and The Lighter Side of School Life, which owes much to Fettes, his career as a writer was assured. His humour, gift for story-telling, shrewd observation, sentimentality, and truly ‘English’ talent for sympathetically conveying eccentric characters perfectly suited the age.

In the First World War Beith served first with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, then transferred to the machine-gun corps. In 1915 he married Helen Margaret Speirs; they had no children. Also in 1915 he reached the rank of captain and was mentioned in dispatches; he was awarded the MC in 1916. Meanwhile his best-known book, The First Hundred Thousand, was published in 1915. Written in billets at home and in France, it ‘impressed upon a notoriously unmilitarist public the lighter side of Kitchener's army’ (The Times). First serialized in Blackwood's Magazine, it became one of the most popular books of the period, running to multiple editions in Britain and America, and being translated into French. Beith followed this success with Carrying on (1917) and The Last Million (1918). Earlier employed in recruiting, Beith spent 1916–18 in America with the information bureau of the British War Mission, where his energy and success were rewarded by a CBE (1918) and promotion to the rank of major.

In 1919 Beith turned to the theatre, living from then on in London, absorbed in its social and theatrical life. He was particularly successful in translating his own novels into plays, among them A Safety Match (1921), Housemaster (1936), and, perhaps his most successful play, Tilly of Bloomsbury (1919, based on his novel Happy-Go-Lucky, 1913). Tilly of Bloomsbury was adapted for film, as was The Middle Watch (1929). Beith's wit, romanticism, decorous mind, and exceptional theatrical sense kept his plays popular. He proved an excellent collaborator with other writers, among them Seymour Hicks (Good Luck, 1923); Stephen King-Hall (The Middle Watch, 1929, and others); A. E. W. Mason (A Present from Margate, 1933); and P. G. Wodehouse (A Damsel in Distress, 1928, Leave it to Psmith, 1930, and others).

Although Beith's theatrical flair was unfaltering, through some curious change in emphasis his later novels never achieved his pre-war success. He failed to adjust, and his last works were poorly received. The King's Service (1938), an informal history of the army, may have helped him to the directorship of War Office public relations (1938–41) and the rank of major-general, but this and the war cut him off from his public. The Times described him as ‘turning resolutely, perhaps too resolutely, away from the brutal face of the war’, and his tribute to Malta, The Unconquered Isle (1943), an attempt at a second Hundred Thousand, misjudged the mood of a people who with their own experience of bombing resented his cheerful glossing.

On the lapse of his directorship Beith returned to work in America. After 1945 he wrote semi-official histories, which met with little success; his one serious play, Hattie Stowe (1947), about Harriet Beecher Stowe, failed, possibly only through an over-large cast.

Beith apparently enjoyed his London years. He travelled, was chairman of the Society of Authors (1921–4, 1935–9), a member of the council of the League of British Dramatists from 1933, and president of the Dramatists Club from 1937. He was an officer of the order of St John of Jerusalem, for long a governor of Guy's Hospital, and gave his services also to St Dunstan's. Skilled at archery, he was a member of the queen's bodyguard for Scotland (Royal Company of Archers), a history of which he wrote in 1951. He was noted for charm, striking personality, equable temperament, after-dinner speeches, and personal austerity. Some observers, however, thought they detected an inner unhappiness; perhaps his essential Calvinism evoked a sense of regret discernible in his own reported remark, bitter though humorously offered, that all his life he had lived on his wits.

Beith died in the Hillbrow Nursing Home, in Liss, Hampshire, on 22 September 1952. There is a portrait at the Garrick Club by T. C. Dugdale.

Patrick Murray, rev. Katherine Mullin

Sources

D. C. Browning, ed., Everyman's dictionary of literary biography, 3rd edn (1962) · The Times (23 Sept 1952) · S. J. Kunitz and H. Haycraft, eds., Twentieth century authors: a biographical dictionary of modern literature (1942) · The picturegoer's who's who and encyclopaedia of the screen today (1933) · The Scotsman (23 Sept 1952) · The Fettesian (Dec 1952) · H. R. Pyatt, Fifty years of Fettes: memories of old Fettesians, 1870–1920 (1931) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1952)

Archives

NL Scot. · NRA, corresp. and literary papers | BL, corresp. with League of Dramatists, Add. MS 63359 · BL, corresp. with Society of Authors, Add. MSS 56664–56667, 63211 · NL Scot., corresp. with Blackwoods and literary papers

Likenesses

H. Coster, photographs, 1930–39, NPG [see illus.] · W. Stoneman, photograph, 1939, NPG · T. C. Dugdale, oils, c.1940, Garr. Club · H. L. Oakley, silhouette, NPG · photograph, repro. in Kunitz and Haycraft, Twentieth century authors, 104 · photograph, repro. in The Times

Wealth at death

£13,527 4s. 2d.: probate, 6 March 1953, CGPLA Eng

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Many thanks to Dickie, Steve, Dom, Sue, Sue (again!) and Tom. I'm very grateful for the time and trouble you took on this. (In Dom's case, the trouble you WILL take).

Regards,

Philip

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  • 2 years later...
pauldesmondwhite

Just finished his book "One Hundred Years of Army Nursing" (Cassell, 1953). Absolutely gripping, with lots of first-hand accounts from nursing sisters and others.

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, Beith spent 1916–18 in America with the information bureau of the British War Mission, where his energy and success were rewarded by a CBE (1918) and promotion to the rank of major.

In 1919 Beith turned to the theatre,

In fact he turned to the theatre well before then and wrote and produced the musical Getting Together in late 1917. This played successfuly on Broadway and in Boston, Albany and Syracuse and received a 'rave' review in the NYT. The touring tank Britannia turned up for the opening nights and was represented on stage with a full size mockup and a moving background. The play was in part a recuiting exercise but its takings seem to have been very good as it played to full houses. At the same time he was contributing material for some of P G Woodhouses stage productions

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auchonvillerssomme

Luckily I didn't throw away this greeting card I found in a first edition copy of The First Hundred Thousand I bought from a bookshop shop in Richmond North yorkshire for 50p.

here

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  • 6 years later...

My grandfather was Ian Hay Beith's aide de camp in the Great War. I am trying to find more information about my grandfather's war record, as he never talked about it to us. His name was Ardel McKenna and he served in the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. After the war, he worked as a butler or as the head of Ian Hay Beith's household.

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Hi Rory50

Welcome to the forum. Read the Long,Long, Trail, top left for info. on searching etc.

Your grandfather :- Pte. S/1751, Ardel McKenna, A & S Highlanders. Mic shows Brit/Vic and 15 Star, entered France 11.5.15.....looking

Regards Barry

Born 8.5.1894  Stoneywood, Stirlingshire died 1972 Hammersmith, London, (5b,1592) ? Buried North Sheen, Middlesex

Medal award roll...prev. unit 10th A & S Horse.

1921.... 21 Bruton St, W1, with Major John Hay Beith.

Edited by The Inspector
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  • 5 months later...
On 2/13/2017 at 10:45, The Inspector said:

Thank you Barry, that is very helpful.

 

I will investigate the Long, Long, Trail to find out which battles my grandfather participated in as he never spoke about it to his family.

 

Quote

 

 

On 2/13/2017 at 10:45, The Inspector said:

Hi Rory50

Welcome to the forum. Read the Long,Long, Trail, top left for info. on searching etc.

Your grandfather :- Pte. S/1751, Ardel McKenna, A & S Highlanders. Mic shows Brit/Vic and 15 Star, entered France 11.5.15.....looking

Regards Barry

Born 8.5.1894  Stoneywood, Stirlingshire died 1972 Hammersmith, London, (5b,1592) ? Buried North Sheen, Middlesex

Medal award roll...prev. unit 10th A & S Horse.

1921.... 21 Bruton St, W1, with Major John Hay Beith.

 

Edited by Rory50
repeat of quote
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On 9/20/2007 at 19:12, oak said:

Pals,

I've just read "The Ship of Remembrance" by Ian Hay. I've read elsewhere that his real name was John Hay Beith and that he was a Major General at the time he wrote the book. I would be very grateful if any Pal could give me a brief biographical sketch, please (A search on the Forum turned up some mentions of him earlier in the war, when he held a lower rank).

Regards,

Philip

My Grandfather was his batman in the First World War and later his butler for many years in his home in London. My mother (now 91) remembers him well.

 

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