Rodney Lytle

Rodney Winston Sambrooke Lytle  (1913 1989)

Rodney and Ruth 1915

Fair angelic looking as a baby and small boy. Curious about animals, birds, fish he should have been helped to become a naturalist. He was a fair water colourist. A wandering propensity upset my parents, they frequently phoned the local police station after he had been given a bicycle and rode off on Saturdays and attempted such long journeys of the Midlands without considering when to return home. These rides took him to Burton-on-Trent, Abbots Bromley, Matlock. Sometimes my Father would go down to Trent Bridge hoping he might see him crossing into the Shire from the city. If he did meet him, poor Daddy had a two mile walk home in the early hours. If Rodney wasn’t coming home late, exhausted in the night, he would rise at dawn and go out to some cliffs pigeon shooting and Mama cooked pigeon pie. Rodney also preserved rare birds. He also took one egg from a nest and blew it, and added to his collection, so spring time was his best season.

He had a jackdaw for years, which flew down the road every afternoon to meet him and ride back on his shoulder. Jackie was a thief. If neighbours had a garden party, Jackie would fly down to see what all the jolly noises were about and come back with a teaspoon, then off again and back and forth until the party had no spoons. Then one of us had to go along to return them with apologies. We thought it fun and adored his tricks. One holiday we went to the Isle of Man and when we returned after about 3 weeks there was no Jackie. Rodney roamed the district calling Jack, for weeks, when one day Jack met him coming home from school and he perched on his shoulder as of old. One dreadful day our righthand-side neighbour used a clothes prop to hit him and felled him just behind the garage they had hated Jackie and his tricks. Rodney hated them.

Snakes became his next passion and we had snakes in boxes for years. This meant rides to the Trent Cliffs and long silent times of waiting to catch a lizard, a blind worm, a grass snake. One hols we went to Devon and we children had bedrooms in a hotel annexe. Devon was a paradise for snakes, so Rodney caught several reptiles and kept them in one of my dressing table drawers until Mama came over to pack for our return. She sniffed a horrid smell and discovered a couple of reptiles had died in the drawer.

I think Rodney was a talented chap, but not at anything that pointed to a career. At last my Papa paid a premium to the Coventry firm of Alvis for him to be apprenticed for years from the factory to the drawing office. Cycling long distances continued for he had digs in Coventry and weekends started for home early Saturday afternoon (five and a half day week then) and I met him on Leicester by pass, heaved the bike into the Carrier and he took the wheel of the Chrysler. This was all right if I hadn’t an engagement or a tennis party. Finally he bought an Austin 7, very old indeed, and sometimes he made the journey there on Monday at 5 a.m. and home on Saturday p.m.

Rodney 1934

The War came and he never got to the drawing office stage, and Alvis went into aero engines in a big way. Rodney went into a Royal Ordinance Factory because as an engineer he was in a reserved occupation. He became very browned off and put in for the Royal Ordinance Factory at Creekmoor in Dorset, and then put in for Vickers Armstrong’s submarine building works at Gosport and for a wee while at Woolwich, living in Chiswick, with his new wife, Rosamund, and small son moving to all these places together.

Rodney, Mary and Alfred in deckchairs 1936
Rodney and Rosamund’s wedding 1940

Rodney had married Rosamund Plummer in 1940, daughter of hotel owners in Bournemouth, and known to him from his teenage years when the Lytles had stayed at Ellerslie Mansions, the Plummer family hotel.

After the War, Rodney went back to Alvis and was appointed tester at their Brentford works so the bungalow was sold for a pretty house in Mill Hill, London. He was appointed chief tester after a year or so, (this work involved testing and ‘breaking in’ new Alvis cars, before they were delivered to customers, for their first 2,000 miles. He had to drive them faster and faster, up and down the Great West Road), but unfortunately his father-in-law, Mr Plummer, died suddenly, and he was asked to take over Ellerslie Mansions, the family hotel in Bournemouth, and live there. This worked until his mother-in-law, an arthritic invalid of 40 years, died at 74 years, and so they sold Ellerslie and bought a house in Wimborne, and a cabin cruiser. He became a chap of leisure, until opening a curio shop in Old Christchurch Road. He travelled on the Continent acquiring stock.

Charles, his son, at 13 years went on a school party to Holland and died there after a few hours illness, of a suspected heart attack. His school in North Somerset, was a prep school for Sherbourne. His sister Diana, went to Sherbourne later.

Rodney moved his shop to Wimborne and became a successful antique dealer. He broke Ruth’s heart when he put his Mother’s antiques in his window soon after her death. Ruth saw them there, when she was on the bus going to give elocution lessons nearby. Ruth and Rodney had fallen out at the funeral itself, and after the antique selling row, they did not speak again, except when Ruth emigrated to Rhodesia in 1968 and she wanted to give him all his family photo albums back. He was abusive on the phone and made her cry.

While their Mother, Mary, was elderly, and living near us in a bedsit, all was well between the siblings, but she became senile and moved in with us. Ruth could barely afford to feed we two children, and taking in her Mother was a real sacrifice. Added to which she depended on letting the spare bedroom to help pay the rent. Granny actually slept in my bed most of the time. Mary told Rodney that Ruth was poisoning her, and Rodney believed her. Rodney’s money was largely Rosamund’s and I expect she did not want to spend it on putting her mother-in-law into a home. So Ruth struggled on, but Rodney would not help her out financially, with care. It all boiled up at the funeral. Dalmain left the country soon after, so did not get involved in the arguments.

Rodney and Rosamund’s children

Charles  (1944 – 1957)

Charles was born in 1944, and while on a school exchange to Holland, at the age of 13, he suffered a heart attach and died before his parents could fly out and reach him.

Diana  (1945 – 2009)

Diana was born in 1945. In her twenties she married a man who was a keen sailor, and they had two daughters, Michelle and Melissa. They lived near her parents in Wimborne. When the girls were small, he was drowned in a freak accident while racing his yacht in Poole Harbour, as his family looked on. Diana was helped out financially by her parents, but decided she had to work and support the girls in the longer term. She became the P.A. to Sir Alan Cobham, at the company he founded, Flight Refuelling, near Ferndown.

Rodney had given her a lot of antiques and furniture when she was married, and these she prized. When the girls were in their teens, she met a charming man, who was prepared to take her and the girls on, and she married him. He moved into her house, but three months later, one day when Diana was out at work, he cleared the house out of all the antiques and furniture, and disappeared. No trace of him was ever found. It took years for Diana to recover from this tragedy. Meanwhile, she continued to work at Flight Refuelling.

When Rodney had died in 1989, Diana had put the announcement in ‘The Telegraph’. Ruth read the obituaries every day, and when she saw her brother’s name she wrote to the funeral directors saying that she was Rodney’s long lost sister, and enclosed a cheque for flowers. Diana was thrilled to catch up with her aunt, and had no knowledge of the falling out of the three Lytle siblings, so she and Ruth agreed to meet at the Piccadilly Hotel in London, and I was invited as well. Ruth and I made a pact never to mention Rodney and Rosamund’s behaviour to Ruth, and we three began a lovely friendship.

Ruth, Juliet and Diana meeting at the Piccadily Hotel 1989

For years, the head of security at the firm, David Fuller, courted Diana, but she refused his advances. However, in 1990, she finally agreed to marry him, and they had a happy time together, for the last 19 years of her life.

Diana and David’s wedding 1990

Roger and I were invited to Diana and David’s wedding, and went to visit them whenever we were holidaying in Bournemouth or Swanage. They came to visit us in Witney as well, and we met up at least once every year thereafter. They were very generous to Claire and James, and gave them presents at Christmas.

In her 60’s Diana suffered heart problems and had major surgery. A burst blood vessel killed her in 2009, at the age of 64. David died the same year.