Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, the 14th Baron Berners, was a gifted composer , novelist, painter and devisor of practical jokes..
When he was a young boy, he learned that birds learn to fly when they are pushed from the nest. So he attempted to “teach” his mother’s dog to fly. He was later punished for throwing the dog out a window of his bedroom..
After making several booby traps involving his long suffering nanny, he was sent off to be educated at Eton. He later studied music in Dresden and Vienna , and then pursued a career as a diplomat before inheriting his uncle’s title, fortune, and properties. The years working as a diplomat did not impair his sense of humour, Whilst in Vienna he took a dislike to a rather pompous member of the German embassy who began every statement by making a show of cleaning his spectacles before wearing them again. With a piece of thin thread Gerald attached the spectacles to the ink bottle, blotter and a carafe of water. So the next time the spectacles were raised to be polished to start his speech, most of the contents of the table went with them.
In 1918 upon inheriting his title,he left the diplomatic service and retired to the family estate at Faringdon, Oxfordshire, in order to devote his life entirely to the pursuit of his pastimes and pleasures
As the new lord Berners he attended a parliamentary session at the House of Lords and left early after finding it all too boring. Many years later when asked about his experiences he replied, “I did go once, but a bishop stole my umbrella and I never went there again.
Burners also collected other peoples calling cards which he had a particular mischievous use for. Having lent his house in Rome to a honeymooning couple, he sent the cards of London`s most celebrated bores on ahead to the butler with strict instructions to deliver two or three to the couple every day. The poor honeymooners spent most of their stay diving for cover every time they heard someone at the door
Berners hated company when he travelled by train and used to wear a black skull cap and thick black spectacles. As the train stopped for passengers to board he would lean out the window and beckon people inside, this charade normally ensured that he would have the carriage to himself. But if someone was foolish enough to join him, he would take out a giant thermometer and with a worried expression start taking his temperature. This normally did the trick.
Farringdon House, his country seat was equally strange. All along the fences surrounding his estate were signs reading “Dogs will be shot: cats will be whipped”. Within the grounds were doves dyed all colours of the rainbow, a collection of antique Rolls Royce’s including one with a clavichord built into the backseat in order for him to compose wherever he went.. Looking across from his house is the 140 foot high Farringdon Folly, built in 1935 purely to annoy his neighbours. On being asked why he had built it Berners replied “ The point of the tower is that it is entirely useless” The completed folly had a sign stating “Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk”
Depending on his mood he would sometimes have monochromatic meal, for example a lunch might consist of beetroot soup, lobster, tomatoes and strawberries. He would then have the doves carefully redyed to match what he was eating.
Berners was openly gay and his mother seemed blissfully unaware of this but she was horrified to hear that he had been seen with one of the most notorious society lesbians in London. In order to placate his mother he placed the following in The Times.
“Lord Berners wishes to announce that he has left Lesbos for the Isle of Man.”
He lived for over 20 years with a man 30 years his junior, the equally eccentric Robert “Mad Boy” Heber-Percy. The doctor who attended Lord Berners during his last years refused to send a bill, saying that the pleasure of his company had been payment enough.
His epitaph reads
“Here lies Lord Berners
One of life’s learners
His great love of learning
May earn him a burning
Thanks be to the Lord
He never was bored