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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Alice Mary Kaulback née Townend
(18 Dec 1883 - 12 Mar 1982)

Granny Kaulback, with her grand-daughter Susie Hatt-Cook
and great grand-daughter Catherine, Nov 1974

It seems rather impertinent for a mere grandson-in-law to refer so impersonally to Alice Kaulback, and I'll stick with Granny K which is how we all used to refer to her.


She jotted down a number of 'Random recollections' of her long life, links to which are given below, but, significantly, there is only one that dates from after her husband's death.

First Memories
Sea Voyages
A Gentle Reproof From My Mother
The Golden Wedding
The Crown Prince of Siam
Max Aitken, later Lord Beaverbrook
The Rev Alfred John Townend
Ives the Butler
Billy, Hipswell Lodge
Crossing the English Channel
Royal Dinner Party
The Faithful Servant

The later items are probably best read in conjunction with the page links to "Some recollections of the years 1909 – 1932" already referenced under Ronald Kaulback and Bill Kaulback.


Alice Mary Kaulback

Granny K had a considerable reputation for her powers of clairvoyance and spiritualist contact. Please click on the following links in turn to view an article about her entitled Evidence for an Afterlife in the August 1971 issue of the magazine Psychic.

Cover p26 p27 p28 p29 p30

There were links with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that ardent supporter of the Spiritualist movement, and also with P G Wodehouse who had contacted her after the death of his lifelong friend Bill Townend with whom he shared an interest in Spiritualism1, and sent her an autographed copy of his book The Girl in Blue, inscribed 'To Alice Kaulback, A small return for all you have done for me, P.G. Wodehouse Nov 7 1970'

Please click here to see a copy of

What Lies Beyond, A M Kaulback, Psychic Book Club, 1943

which gives a brief account of her psychic experiences arising from the deaths of her brother Frank in the First World War, and later her husband Harry, and the dangers encountered by her sons Ronald and Bill whilst travelling in desolate corners of the world.

This account was considerably enlarged in a later version.

By Request of Uvani, A M Kaulback, privately published, date unknown

Please click here to see a copy.

The typescript was produced with meticulous care by her son Ronald, on his trusty portable manual, and (apart from a few slightly greyer early chapters) is clear and crisp. There are a good many passages in later chapters which are in red, to denote Granny K's commentary on events or psychic experiences, as you will see.

The original manuscript evidently underwent some last-minute corrections and addenda, and there are a number of handwritten indications and page renumberings here and there in the typescript as a result, together of course with the inevitable typo alerts. Ron did number the pages provisionally, in pencil, rather faintly in places, and I've done the best I could to make this more legible, a bit clumsily sometimes. But in any case they become increasingly out of step with the displayed pdf pagination.

[As further corroboration of the interconnectedness of things, I did myself, in a very minor capacity, have a number of very pleasant encounters with Hugh Boustead (see p 135, Chapter VIII) three decades later when he was Resident Political Officer in Abu Dhabi.]

1: See pp 405-406 of the biography of PGW already cited.

Hither and Thither

After the sadly early death of her husband Harry in 1929, [Grannie] Alice Kaulback moved house from Aldershot (where Harry had been CO of 1st Battn, Kings Own Royal Regiment) to a flat in London. She moved again, and then again to Coleherne Court, a very handsome triple block of flats at the corner of Old Brompton Road and Redcliffe Gardens, built in 1901-1904 at the SW5 / SW10 boundary.

She would doubtless have stayed there for good, but Reichsmarschall Goering had other ideas, and her flat was wrecked by a German air-raid in 1940. Fortunately, she herself survived (possibly she'd been elsewhere at the time), but the contents – including all the artefacts from her son Ron's expeditions – were destroyed.

The archives are silent as to where she took temporary refuge, or then relocated to, but we do know that after the war she moved to Dromderrig, an imposing house on Compass Hill, overlooking the harbour in Kinsale, southern Ireland.

I suspect that in those days it was somewhat draughty and furnished in the slightly Spartan style characteristic of her caste and military background. Her grand-daughters Sonia and Susan certainly loved visiting her there, but the real attraction would have been the warm intensity of her personality, and the tales she could recount of all the triumphs and tragedies of family life gone by.

As one can see from the estate agents' websites1,  2,  3 ... the house itself has gone from strength to strength over the years, and is now a hot property, renovated and restyled almost beyond recognition.

For her, the move made sense, as her younger son Bill was away project-managing out in the Middle East, but her elder son Ron was renovating Ardnagashel House, near Bantry, not too far along the coast, though much less by road.

It all worked well for a good while, but eventually Bill returned to London from the Persian Gulf with a new wife and two new sons, and opened a private hotel The Fenja at 69 Cadogan Gardens just off Sloane Square. Ron was fully-extended with the running of Ardnagashel as a private hotel, and so, in the early 1960's, Grannie (as she was by now) moved back to London herself – 410 Nell Gwynne House, just off the Kings Road (named for the priapic Charles II), a stone's throw from Cadogan Gardens.

And there she stayed for the rest of her life, with a constant stream of visitors, family and friends, to beguile and be beguiled by her. Her fellow residents were not without interest themselves – the woman who lived opposite her, for example, had two flats: one for herself, and one for her cats.

More than three decades after her move from Dromderrig, when it was again on the market, considerable interest was shown from a most unexpected quarter. Grannie herself had died a year or so earlier, but would not have been unaware of the individual in question, nor have approved of their lifestyle, but would undoubtedly have been gently and kindly tolerant of them themself.