Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson (14th Baron Berners) was a composer of classical music who lived from 1883 to 1950. However, while his music was beautiful, his eccentricities are almost more fascinating to read about. As an example: to aid in his music writing while out on the town, Tyrwhitt-Wilson installed a small clavichord keyboard which could be stored beneath the front seat of his Rolls-Royce automobile.
Even at a very young age, Gerald had an inquisitive mind. After learning that birds learn to fly when they are pushed from the nest, he attempted to “teach” his mother’s dog to fly. He was later punished for throwing the dog out a window of his home.
Later in his life, Tyrwhitt-Wilson would have a bird-related hobby: dyeing pigeons. This hobby would start a tradition at his home in Faringdon. Even today you can visit Faringdon House and find purple and pink pigeons wandering the grounds. But purple pigeons were not the strangest animals found on his property, he also had a pet giraffe. And the reason for the giraffe? He wanted a companion for tea!
While his tea companion was not human, he had other friends that were just as eccentric as himself. One such friend, Salvador Dali, requested his help in a lecture. In the lecture, Salvador Dali was to present from inside a diving suit. Dali commented on the event:
Lord Berners was in charge of renting the diving suit in question, and over the telephone they asked him to specify exactly to what depth Mr. Dali wished to descend. Lord Berners replied that I was going to descend to the subconscious, after which I would immediately come up again. With equal seriousness the voice answered that in this case they would replace the helmet with a special one.
Today if you visit Lord Berners’ grave, you will see that his epitaph reads:
“Here lies Lord Berners
One of life’s learners
Thanks be to the Lord
He never was bored”.