Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Around the World In Another 80 Gays: Part 1) Our Journey Begins

Today I begin the main theme running through 2018. Old readers of my blog may recall the original series I did called “Around the World in 80 Gays” for 2015. I’ve researched a brand new series with another 80 members of the lgbt community who can be connected, one by one, to each other in a complete circle.

Whilst it would be easy to resort to Wikipedia and click on the links to other pages in order to form a continuous line of connected individuals my aim from the very start was NOT to rely on Wikipedia and look for connections that were not easily identifiable. In other cases the connection may be obvious but unusual.

The starting point for this new “Around the World in Another 80 Gays” is a significant figure in the lgbt community and entertainment, 1) Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973).

Sir Noel was born around Christmas time, hence his first name. At the end of the 80 Gays we’ll look at Sir Noel’s later years, but we’ll begin with his teenage years. Even as a teenager Noel was quite precocious. His stage career began at the age of 11 and he had been having sex with other boy actors before meeting an artist by the name of 2) Philip Streatfeild (1879-1915).

Philip Streatfeild was part of the outer social circle of Oscar Wilde through his friendship with Wilde’s ex-partner Robert Ross. Philip worked as an artist in London. Probably among his many acquaintances was another artist called Henry Scott Tuke who was well-known for his paintings of naked young boys bathing.

One of Philip’s few known works is of just that, clearly showing Tuke’s influence. When Philip Hoare was researching for his biography of Noël Coward published in 1998 he came across this painting. It was probably painted in Cornwall where Streatfeild often went to paint. Looking at the painting Hoare was struck by a familiar face among the boys in the painting. Was it the 14-year-old Noël Coward?
Philip Streatfield (right) wih the teenage
Noel Coward.
Philip Streatfeild met young Noël sometime before Spring 1914 and it wasn’t long before he invited the boy to accompany him and a friend down to Cornwall for the summer. We can only guess what Noël’s mother thought about that, but she probably thought it might help re-establish her family’s place back up the social ladder that had slipped when her family lost their fortune.

Noëls’ mother was right to let her son be in the company of Philip because it was he, a member of a landed gentry family, who sent a letter to an aristocratic socialite suggesting she invite the young actor and aspiring writer to her stately home.

Meanwhile, World War I had begun and Philip decided to join the army. He enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters regiment in November 1914 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion. When he was at training camp young Noël Coward was apparently nearby, as he was often to be found in the officer’s mess. Noël wrote to his mother that all the officers were very kind to him and that they had “adopted” him as the unofficial regimental human mascot. Young Noël obviously had an appealing personality.

For Philip Streatfeild the war lasted less than a year. His battalion was soon sent to the trenches in France. There he caught tuberculosis and was brought back to England. He was taken to a nursing home in Norbury, south London, and died there of peritonitis on 3rd June 1915.
Regimental badge of the
Sherwood Foresters
The Sherwood Foresters regiment remained in France. In April 1916 one battalion was sent to Ireland to deal with a more local conflict. They became a major combatant in the conflict with Irish nationalists in what is called the Easter Rising.

The Easter Rising was part of a long campaign to establish Irish independence. One of the leaders was captured at the start of the Rising, someone I’ve written about before, 3) Sir Roger Casement (1864-1916).

How Sir Roger can be linked to Oxford University via New York will be told next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment