leaving Lesbos for the Isle of Man

Regular readers may remember a previous post about the fourteenth Baron Berners from last year. He was such a marvellous eccentric that he’s well worth another look…..


“He fell in love at the late age of 49 with Robert Heber Percy, 29 years his junior. In some ways they made an incongruous couple. Heber Percy was handsome; Berners was not. Similarly, Berners was ultra-conservative in his dress, with Heber Percy on the other hand being partial to ensembles consisting of, say, scarlet shirt, blue jumper, green trousers and yellow belt.

Scarlet(t’s) shirt

On Berners’ plainness, Beverley Nichols was to reminisce: He was remarkably ugly — short, swarthy, bald, dumpy and simian. There is a legend that nobody who has ever seen Gerald in his bath is ever quite the same again.

world’s most expensive bathtub

Once the flamboyant set got to know of his liaison with Heber Percy, lo and behold, the engagement of the homosexual Lord Berners and the lesbian Violet Trefusis was announced in a London social column. It may have been Berners’ own doing, or Heber Percy’s, or another capricious friend’s, but in any case Berners’ mother insisted that a public denial better be made. Berners later claimed that he had to send a message to The Times to reassure the world that “Lord Berners has left Lesbos for The Isle of Man”.

Violet Trefusis

As with some of Berners’ funny lines, that message is almost certainly apocryphal. But this one Edith Sitwell maintained Berners did declare:

One of his acquaintances was in the impertinent habit of saying to him, “I have been sticking up for you”. He repeated this once too often, and Lord Berners replied, “Yes, and I have been sticking up for you. Someone said you aren’t fit to live with pigs, and I said that you are”.

Berners had taken his seat in the House of Lords in December 1923, and actually attended once or twice, but rejected Parliamentary Sessions as all too boring. When asked years later by Diana Mosley about his experiences he replied, “I did go once, but a bishop stole my umbrella and I never went there again.”


Naturally, Lord Berners was not averse to sending up his own visitors. So when guests went into raptures over his mouth-watering peaches he would say, “Yes, they are ham-fed”. On one occasion an anxious dog-loving houseguest lamented, “Fido has lost his necklace”, to which Berners replied, “Oh dear, I’ll have to get another out of the safe”.


Just as he proudly allowed birds-of-paradise to flaunt themselves on the Faringdon lawns, so in his London residence he kept another series of tropical birds. The original bird he had given the name “John Knox”, and when in bed once with lumbago, he managed to teach it to turn somersaults. On its death such a talented bird deserved a public obituary, so, true to form Berners placed this notice in The Times‘ personal column: “Died of jealousy, aged fifteen, John Knox, emerald bird of paradise belonging to Lord Berners. His guests are asked to wear half-mourning”.


Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 8:39 am  Comments (40)  
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40 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Will Scarlett be on the isle of Lesbos with us? Just askin’…

    • Her agent will get back to us….

  2. “left Lesbos for The Isle of Man” So that is where that phrase came from.

    • I’d never heard it before. Perhaps because I’ve spent so much time on the Isle of Man. Lesbos would be new territory for me

      • Nice one Bearman, and as for jumping islands- I imagine more than one reader has drooled over the thought of Nurse Myra and Daisyfae on the Isle Of Lesbos!

      • there’s going to be THREE gals cavorting on Lesbos now – the lovely Dolce is flying over from South Africa to join us!!!!!

  3. I wonder was the bird John Knox jealous of Scarlett having a sexier photo that his?

    • Scarlett’s photos are sexier than almost anyone else’s *sigh*

      (except Penelope Cruz)

  4. Half mourning. I wonder how you dress that?

    • You can wear grey, white or lavender in half mourning. So I think a sheer white blouse with lavender hot pants would be acceptable. As long as the boots were black of course.

  5. My God that photo of Scarlett does something for me.

    I wonder what it was about seeing Gerald in his tub that was so horrible?

    • His flabby buttocks?

      • He must have had some very unusual tub posture if you could see his flabby buttocks while he bathed.

  6. “…and as a promontory came into view he rejoiced, shouting, isthmus be the isle of man!”

    Above is an excerpt from the unpublished man-u-script, “Dudes Get Me Hot” by Herman Melville.

    Penn Insular

    • you crack me up Mark

  7. That bathtub looks like a bad acid dream

  8. That’s one crazy-beautiful bird. It would look fantastic perched on that blue corset you were modeling.

  9. Eccentrics, forever interesting!

  10. I’m assuming “lumbago” was Heber Percy’s nickname.

  11. This guy was funny. I wonder how long it takes to teach a bird to do somersaults.

  12. You seem to have an unusual obsession with flamboyant toffs nursemyra.

    • I like all eccentrics Nick, they don’t have to be toffs though it does seem to go with the territory quite often

  13. I love that expression “laving Lesbos for the Isle of Man”

    As for teaching a bird to somersault, now that’s an achievement to be proud of!

  14. Scarlet’s onto something there… bra tops under jackets, paired with short shorts. That’s a fashion trend I can get behind.

  15. Love the bathtub! And the eccentric is quality stuff. 🙂

  16. Isn’t that how life should be?

  17. Good heavens Nursemyra, I don’t know where you get it. I have actually visited the Isle of Man but missed this tale. Thanks for another entertaining post – I most like Fido’s pic.

    • Fido as Frida Kahlo – wonderful isn’t it?

  18. The Lesbo population of the Isle of Man rises significantly during the first two weeks of June….and good fun it is too!

  19. Hi there
    thanks for popping in my way with birthday wishes… I have to say I am glad I cannot afford the worlds most expensive bath… proof that money isn’t everything.. I had to say that as lacking in billions!! Glad to meet another Sydney sider.. ciao

  20. that image of scarlett reminded me that i need a red lace bra! also the last image of the bird of paradise is so beautiful, i love to watch their mating rituals.♥

  21. I have a one-hitter pipe that looks just like that bathtub. I am naming the pipe John Knox.

  22. I want that bath.

    Some great quotes as usual

  23. Darling, you are a national treasure… I shall write fortwith to Rudd to nominate you for the AC.

  24. “There is a legend that nobody who has ever seen Gerald in his bath is ever quite the same again.”

    In fairness to the good lord, this has been said of many men.

  25. My granny knew Violet Trefusis, see here: http://zmkc.blogspot.com/2010/04/bright-lights.html

    I have just discovered your wonderful blog and read your ‘about & disclaimer’. I know it is extremely late in the piece, but, for what extremely little it is worth, I am so sorry about your lover’s death.

    • Thank you; it still feels very recent to me.

  26. if a bishop stole my umbrella, i wouldn’t have gone back either.

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