The fascinating lives of former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's children who lived in Bucks
My last article (Nostalgia October 1, 2021) described how the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, and his wife Margaret “pitched upon a small place at Chesham Bois”.
I thought I would follow up with some more information about their children and some surprising local connections.
Lindfield, Bois Lane was a happy family home. “When they came in and shut the door they came in to be at home with us for games, fun and happiness”, Ishbel, the oldest daughter recalled.
However, the death of the youngest son, David, age six, followed by the death of their mother in 1911, were blows the family never fully recovered from. At the time of Margaret’s death, Alister was 13, Malcolm 10, Ishbel, 8, Joan, 2 and the baby, Sheila, just a few months old.
Gradually Ramsay MacDonald picked up the pieces. He engaged a housekeeper at 3 Lincolns Inn and resumed his political life.
Alister returned to Bedales School, the then only co-educational boarding-school, where he was joined by Malcolm. As he shared his father’s deeply unpopular pacifist beliefs, Alister volunteered with the Friends Ambulance Unit during WWI.
A talented artist, he chose a career in architecture which he studied at London University, becoming a member of RIBA In 1926. He had married his first wife, Edith, 4 years earlier.
Like all the MacDonalds, Alister travelled frequently, and in America found that, as the eldest son of the Prime Minister, he was a celebrity. He made friends with many of the film stars of the era, including Charlie Chaplin, whom he invited to Chequers.
He established successful architect practices in London and Edinburgh which specialised in cinemas and theatres and were involved in the post-war school building programme.
He also designed Methodist churches at Harlesden, High Wycombe, and Amersham. St John’s Church in Woodside Road was completed in 1960, with a distinctive modernist design.
Malcolm, much to his father’s delight, followed him into politics, after reading Modern History at Queen’s College, Oxford. In 1929, he was elected to the House of Commons, representing a constituency in Nottinghamshire.
In 1931, he joined his father in the Coalition Government, where he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and then Secretary of State, for the Dominions and Colonies.
Although he lost his parliamentary seat in the General Election of 1935, he was re-elected the following year, to represent Ross and Cromarty, where his Conservative opponent was Randolph Churchill, the son of Sir Winston. During WWII he was appointed Minister of Health in Churchill’s coalition government, before being sent to Canada as the British High Commissioner. Because he was unmarried at the time (he met his wife, Audrey in Canada), his sister, Sheila, served as his hostess.
Sheila, the youngest in the family, followed her older sisters to the City of London School for Girls and then on to the North London Collegiate School, where she became Head Girl.
At Somerville College, Oxford, she read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and won a hockey blue.
A contemporary article in Time magazine described her as “a potent hockey player, addicted to tramping in bloomers”!
Like all the MacDonald children, she was immersed in the Labour Party and considered a career in politics herself before working at Wormwood Scrubs prison. She took over from Ishbel as her father’s political hostess in 1935, accompanying him on several visits overseas, and was with him when he died in 1937.
In 1948 she married Andrew Lochhead, a lecturer in social administration at Swansea University. She continued prison-visiting, advocated penal reform, and served as a magistrate. For three years she was chair of the National Association of Prison Visitors.
Joan, the middle sister, studied medicine at Edinburgh, where she met her husband Alastair MacKinnon when they were both doing surgical work at the Royal Infirmary. They were married in 1932 at Chequers, which was also an extremely important part of Ishbel’s life.
When Ramsay MacDonald was appointed Prime Minister in 1924, it was decided that Ishbel, as the eldest daughter, should abandon her studies in social sciences and become his official hostess.
She was (and still is) the youngest person ever to take on the role. Age 20, she was one of the most famous women in Britain but was still not old enough to vote!
Incoming premiers were expected to equip Downing Street out of their own pocket (sounds familiar?) and the house was totally unfurnished. To save her father money, Ishbel purchased what she could in the January sales and through the Co-op!
Efforts to run Downing Street and Chequers modestly also extended to hosting events.
Carefully preserved notebooks and menu cards in the British Library archive tell us what the MacDonalds served their guests. It is evident that they had to budget carefully and were unconcerned with the culinary fashions of the day. Ishbel’s menus contain simple dishes like roast chicken and nut roast!
Ishbel acted as MacDonald’s hostess through his three terms of office and accompanied him overseas.
In 1929 she joined him on a state visit to the USA, the first by a serving British prime minister, where she was entertained by Lou Henry Hoover.
Having marched in her first suffrage procession at the age of four, Ishbel was always politically active and was elected to the London County Council in 1928 and again in 1931.
After her father retired in 1935, much to the delight of our local press, Ishbel bought a country pub in Speen. This was The Old Plow, in Flowers Bottom Lane which she ran for 17 years. She employed so many staff who had worked for her father that it became known as the ‘Chequers local’.
The press had often speculated on possible romantic attachments, which Ishbel always denied but it seems that everyone was surprised in February 1938 when she married Norman Ridgley, a house decorator from Speen, and captain of the darts team at The Old Plow!
Bucks Free Press
Hillingdon & Uxbridge Times
Bucks Free Press News
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 10:57:34 +0000
Iver car wash owner handed £15,000 fine following immigration investigation
A car wash owner has been handed a £15,000 fine after an immigration investigation.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 20:12:09 +0000
Weather update as snow falls in High Wycombe and surrounding areas
Snow started to settle in High Wycombe and the surrounding areas this evening as the wintery weather hit the county.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 18:41:33 +0000
Snow falls in High Wycombe and surrounding areas
Snow has started to fall in High Wycombe and the surrounding areas.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 14:34:50 +0000
Waddesdon Manor Christmas market named one of the best in the UK
A Bucks Christmas market has been named one of the best in the UK.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 12:28:34 +0000
Police hunt for runner after woman sexually assaulted in Bletchley
Police are looking for a runner after a woman was sexually assaulted in Bletchley.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 11:26:22 +0000
Hundreds watch Chris Evans switch on Marlow's Christmas lights
Huge crowds turned out to see Chris Evans, TV and radio presenter, switch on Marlow's Christmas light.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 11:00:31 +0000
Police concerns over hare coursing in High Wycombe area
Police raise hare coursing concerns after a worries livestock could escape into rural areas in the High Wycombe area.original article
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 12:35:00 +0000
Beaconsfield author writes book on bullying at all-girls grammar school
A Beaconsfield author has written a book about bullying at an all-girls grammar school.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 15:45:13 +0000
'Crowd disturbance' halts Sheffield Wednesday vs Wycombe
Wycombe Wanderers' away match at Sheffield Wednesday was briefly halted due to a medical emergency.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 17:47:17 +0000
We tried Tom Kerridge's new Christmas food at The Butcher's Tap and Grill in Marlow
Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge has added a number of special Christmas options to his menu at The Butcher's Tap and Grill in Marlow.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 15:39:17 +0000
Main water pipe bursts on A413 in Chalfont St Giles
A water main pipe has burst on a busy A-road in Buckinghamshire.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 10:30:22 +0000
Police investigate burglary in Juniper Lane, Flackwell Heath
Police are hunting for thieves as they investigate a burglary that took place in the early hours of the morning in a Bucks village.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 05:00:00 +0000
Hazlemere Recreation Ground refreshments kiosk
Three holiday lets, and a refreshments kiosk are just some of the many applications submitted to Bucks Council in the last week.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 14:27:40 +0000
Snow falls over National Trust park at Hughenden Manor
Snow fell over Buckinghamshire overnight and this morning but locals were left disappointed as it failed to set.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 09:00:00 +0000
Then & Now - Has Marlow changed since the 1950s and 1970s?
For this week’s Then & Now, we are focusing on what Marlow once looked like in the 1950s and the 1970s.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 09:00:00 +0000
EVERY planning application submitted to Bucks council this week
Here is every planning application submitted to Buckinghamshire council this week.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 07:00:00 +0000
Bucks Camera Club - More stunning photos from the last week
For Camera Club this week, we have decided to mix two themes together.original article
Sat, 27 Nov 2021 05:00:00 +0000
Beel House: The incredible eight-bed mansion built for a Duke - and lived in by film stars
An eight bedroom Grade II* listed house surrounded by thirteen and a half acres in the heart of the Chilterns has been sold for what will seem like a song to those who don’t know the story leading to the latest sale.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 07:30:00 +0000
Shani Warren: Pensioner charged with murder over Taplow lake death
The woman was found drowned in a lakeoriginal article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 17:38:19 +0000
Storm Arwen sees Met Office snow warnings issued in High Wycombe and other Bucks towns
Snow is expected to fall tonight in Bucks as Storm Arwen arrives in the UKoriginal article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 11:53:25 +0000
Shani Warren: Crown Court date for 66-year-old murder accused
A crown court date has been set for a 66-year-old man who is accused of murdering Shani Warren in the 1980s.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 14:48:51 +0000
Hotel La Tour: Shiny Milton Keynes hotel is ‘blinding’
A shiny new hotel is ‘blinding’ drivers on the morning commute from “a mile away”, it has been claimed.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 10:27:12 +0000
Food bin collections to resume in High Wycombe and Amersham
Food bin collections will resume in two Bucks towns in the run up to Christmas.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 16:23:19 +0000
Aylesbury thug jailed for 'violent' Snapchat threat
A Bucks thug who was already in prison after slicing a man’s throat in a pub brawl has had his sentenced extended after he sent a violent message on Snapchat.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 15:34:32 +0000
Aylesbury: New Starbucks opens in Sainsbury’s
A new Starbucks opened this week creating 23 jobs.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 15:01:14 +0000
Woman who made fake Aylesbury rape report avoids jail
A woman who made a fake report of rape and who harassed an Aylesbury police officer has avoided going to jail.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 07:00:00 +0000
Amersham's Ashridge Home Care Company are up for two awards
An Amersham-based home care provider has been shortlisted in two categories at the fifth annual SME Business Awards.original article
Fri, 26 Nov 2021 05:00:00 +0000
In the dock: Weekly round-up of hearings at Wycombe Magistrates' Court
Weekly round-up of hearings at Wycombe Magistrates’ Court:original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 18:55:00 +0000
REVIEW: We tried the Woolpack in Stoke Mandeville
The Woolpack in Stoke Mandeville has undergone a major refurbishment with it re-opening to guests with a brand new look.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 15:02:03 +0000
Fifth arrest this week in High Wycombe murder investigation
A fifth arrest this week has been made in the murder investigation following the tragic death of a High Wycombe grandfather, Andrew Ballantyne.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 15:04:35 +0000
Princes Risborough Relief Road: Consultation and images
People can now give their views on the first phase of a major new road network.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 10:55:17 +0000
Revised plans for Plant and Harvest Garden Centre
Overhaul plans for a ‘derelict’ garden centre have been withdrawn – but a new scheme is on the way.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 05:00:00 +0000
Meet Robert Laycock, the man behind the Marlow Studio Project on the A404
Robert Laycock is the man behind the proposed Marlow Studio Project who look to build a film and tv studio campus next to the A404 at the Westhorpe junction.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 17:19:39 +0000
Bucks councillor opens Sterling Grove Accountants' new offices
A Buckinghamshire councillor officially opened the new offices of a Bourne End-based accountants.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 16:54:09 +0000
Bucks man charged with nine counts of sexual assault
A 25-year-old Bucks man has been charged with nine counts of sexual assault.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 13:36:34 +0000
High March School pupil returns to unveil purple plaque
A former Beaconsfield pupil returned to her former school to celebrate winning the Women in Innovation Award from Innovate UK.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 20:46:20 +0000
Sainsbury's with a Starbucks and an Argos opens in Aylesbury
After much speculation and anticipation, Aylesbury’s newest Sainsbury’s branch was finally opened.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 17:24:57 +0000
Beaconsfield Town FC's toy drive returns for Chesham fixture
Football fans in Beaconsfield and beyond could be able to watch a free match on Saturday.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 16:29:05 +0000
Parts of Little Chalfont are soaked due to burst waterpipe
Firefighters were called out to Little Chalfont following reports of a burst waterpipe in the area.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 14:21:48 +0000
Amersham's Kew Little Pigs confirm five piglets have been born
One of the latest additions at Amersham’s Kew Little Pigs farm has been revealed.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 12:52:44 +0000
Swarthmore Care Home receives tree for Queen's platinum jubilee
A care home in Gerrards Cross received a special gift as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations next year.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 12:17:46 +0000
High Wycombe church to give away free meals on Christmas Day
The elderly, vulnerable and families in need have been invited to a free Christmas Day lunch in High Wycombe.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 11:49:17 +0000
Wycombe High Student raises money for Wycombe Homeless Connection
A Wycombe High student has managed to raise £350 for the town’s homeless charity.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 11:25:09 +0000
Rebellion Brewery hit £300k mark as donate to Scannappeal
Rebellion Brewery have donated £9000 to Scannappeal, a vital local hospital charity.original article
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 11:00:22 +0000
Wycombe High students win a Dragon’s Den style competition
Three Wycombe High students, who set up their own company, have won a Dragon’s Den style competition organised by the Young Enterprise charity.original article
Wed, 24 Nov 2021 19:17:36 +0000
Man found with knives after attempted theft from Sainsbury's in High Wycombe
A 39-year-old man was found by police with knives after trying to steal from Sainsbury's in High Wycombe.original article
Wed, 24 Nov 2021 13:42:52 +0000
Little Chalfont: Roadwork ‘misery’ on White Lion Road
Driver ‘misery has entered a new chapter’ after a ‘burst water pipe blew a hole in the road’.original article
Wed, 24 Nov 2021 13:08:24 +0000
Wooburn Green mother slams Red Kite over mouldy home
A mother-of-four is battling a housing provider to rid her family home of mould.original article
Wed, 24 Nov 2021 11:56:42 +0000
Woman arrested in High Wycombe murder investigation following death of Andrew Ballantyne
A 27-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with the murder probe of a High Wycombe man, Andrew Ballantyne.original article
Wed, 24 Nov 2021 09:14:49 +0000
Marlow's Christmas light turn on sees High Street closed
Marlow High Street is expected to welcome large amounts of locals this week as the town turns on its Christmas lights.original article
Last updated by System Admin on 27th August, 2018