Waugh and Peace; 1966 Was the Year the Comic Chronicler of the Bright Young Things Died. ALEXANDER WAUGH Remembers Grandpa EVELYN WAUGH

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEXANDER WAUGH

My grandfather, Evelyn Waugh, the greatest comic novelist of the 20th century, went to Mass on Easter Sunday, 1966. The priest, Father Caraman, came back to the house in Somerset, for lunch.

Grandpa disappeared. When he didn't answer to a vigorous banging of the gong, a search was instituted.

The door of the downstairs lavatory was locked and Evelyn's youngest son, Septimus, scrambled up to the window, saw Grandpa slumped over, squeezed in and the body was dragged out. Grandpa had had a heart attack. He was obviously dead but the children's nanny attempted mouth-to-mouth - and ever after she was known as Nurse Regan.

I was three at the time and we were living in Wiltshire. My parents had been out, and when they got back a policeman was waiting at the door to break the news. Grandma, Laura Waugh, had asked the police to tell them as she did not want them to hear about it on the radio.

My father, Auberon, the oldest of Evelyn's seven children, set off on the long drive to Somerset. It was snowing and, by the time he got there, the household had gone to bed. Not only had Grandpa died, but the Aga had failed - it had been a very trying day.

A funny thing happened at the funeral. The gardener, Mr Coggins, vanished.

At the service, Grandma, who was very fond of him, hissed at Papa: 'I know you've murdered Mr Coggins!' In fact, he'd been on a bender and showed up soon after.

The whole thing was tragicomic, just like one of Grandpa's own novels. …