Shaw the Villager and Human Being: A Biographical Symposium

By Allan Chappelow | Go to book overview

E. P. DOWNING and C. DOWNING

Shaw'sChemists in old Welwyn

I talked to Mr Colin Downing in the dispensing room of his pharmacy in the High Street, old Welwyn. He said: "Bernard Shaw was just a benevolent old gentleman in these parts. You must go and see my father also; he is retired and lives in Banstead, Surrey. Bernard Shaw was his client from 1908. I myself saw Shaw often enough as a boy, but only perhaps a dozen times here in my early years as a qualified chemist.

"I remember one day Bernard Shaw was in the shop holding forth enthusiastically about photography, but he dried up when some other customers entered, saying, 'I'm sure that these people's business is more important than mine,' which I thought very modest and gracious of him. My main impression of him was of his impishness. He had that quizzical look; one of his eyebrows--the left--would cock up higher than the other. He maintained a personal contact with us always, sending his orders for medicaments, etc., by letter or postcard in his own hand, when he could so easily have let his housekeeper get his requirements for him. As a rule there was a twist of humour in his communications, usually intended, but sometimes unintended! Here are some of those I've kept.

Handwritten Postcard.

From BERNARD SHAW

Phone & WireAyot Saint Lawrence,
Codicote 218 Welwyn, Herts.

24/9/1947

My order for Bermaline* was a blunder.

The right name is Germolene.† I have had it from you before.

There is a stuff on the market called Inglis's‡ Food which I want

____________________
*
A well-known make of brown bread. †An equally well-known brand of healing ointment. ‡A partially pre-cooked oat flour preparation with mineral and vitamin additives. (Mr Downing showed me a tin ordered specially for Bernard Shaw 13 years ago which he still has in stock!)

-232-

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