The Diaries of W.L. Mackenzie King (Part II)…
The most interesting of W.L. Mackenzie King’s diaries concerning Peregrine Acland was written during the Second World War, on Tuesday September 8, 1942 from Kingsmere, King’s estate in Gatineau Park, Ottawa.
The entry runs to three pages. I begin with the third paragraph, ignoring some introductory remarks about the weather.
As I began to dictate this diary (this is on Friday afternoon -catching up from Tuesday afternoon), I looked at the clock and drew H’s attention to the fact that the hands were exactly in a straight line -10 to 4. H. looked at his watch and found that the hands were exactly together at 22 minutes past 4. I took out my watch and found the hands were exactly together at 15 minutes past 3 -my watch, for some reason or other, having stopped at that time. Oddly enough the second hand is at the 11th second. I have just looked up at the clock on the mantle-piece (some 7 minutes later) and find that it is still 10 minutes to 4, and that the hands are stopped. Clearly there is some real significance to be attached to this -what others would call “co-incidence”. My own feeling is that it is to emphasize the face that “Our times are in His hand”, and that what has happened in the interval of time from where I stopped dictation up to the present time is of far-reaching significance. Something that will make clear the truth that “Our times are in His hand”.
I was thinking of Hume Wrong and making a closer friend of him and of his possible service. Also I was thinking of young Acland who, I believe, will be a real acquisition and help to meet a very great need in my life and work.
We had stopped work on Tuesday night when we did for me to meet Mr. Acland and Peregrine who came out to have dinner with me at Moorside. After opening the bundles and mail that came with them in the defence car, I showed them over the house and we drove across to Moorside in my station car. There we had dinner in front of an open fire, and a very pleasant talk later in the evening. I was greatly impressed with Peregrine from the moment I saw him. A very manly type of man, quiet, unpretentious, but giving one a feeling of real character and solidity and ability.
In the course of the evening, I told him of the kind of thing that ought to be done at the office, the need particularly for some one to help in preparing messages for occasions, appreciation of situations, material for speeches, etc. To my surprise, I found that for 4 years past, he has been associated with the Walter Thompson advertising firm in New York, and was manager of their business in Toronto. He had to do with publicising [sic] different subjects, this involving research, etc. Had a large staff of writers under him. Was used to directing others, and seeing that work is quickly and exactly performed. He told my that his salary there had been $14,000 a year but of course he could think of nothing of this kind at the present time. I had previously mentioned the work Brown had been doing as a Professor. I thought he had received somewhere around $3,500 to $5,ooo. I explained that he was simply filling in for a time, and that there would be more responsible work. Peregrine, at the present time, is editing a magazine and supplying material for firms in different parts of Canada who issue publications to their employees and the public. His own magazine circulates over his own name. Some of its material and some which he prepares goes into other publications which have circulation running into many thousands. It looks to me as if he had been cut out for the very thing I lack most, someone who can handle the publicity end of my office, and can be a link between it and the new Information Board. He spoke of risks in is work, saying it varied very much as the fortunes of war, but that he, himself, would like the association with the P.M.’s Office and with myself, and would be prepared to make sacrifices to that end.
I said to him that I could not say how long I would be there myself. Also that I could say nothing about the security of the position as I might change, the government might change, and the war might end, etc. I added, however, that I felt perfectly sure that he was the kind of man once associated with a Department or with my office, or the dept. of E.A., whom the govt. would not be ready to lose. In fact, I can see in him the making of an Ambassador. I would trust him tomorrow with one of the posts in South America.
The cleavage in his forehead above the eye when he was nearly cut to pieces at the Somme in the last war is no disfigurement. He has such a look of real strength, straightforwardness and manliness in is countenance. His father, of course, is a dear man, a true friend. The association of his friends and relatives and himself with my father and myself through life would make a close association with Peregrine very pleasing. I told him to await Robertson’s return to come down and discuss the question of salary, but to keep in mind that I would wish to take him on.
I really believe he combines the executive with the literary qualities and the art of intelligently publicising [sic] men and events with is just the thing needed. He would be ideal for the work that Brockington was expected to perform. Would have worked night and day on material relating to the inside story of the war. Having gone through the experiences he did in the last war, and having travelled [sic] a good deal, knowing men and affairs, he will be a real acquisition to the office.
Acland [F.A. Acland] spoke to me about my own papers and letters, saying he would have liked nothing better himself than to have spent the next couple of years if he were a little younger, going through that material for the purpose of writing a biography. I felt as he talked that that duty might be bequeathed in part to Peregrine.
I told Acland that I had frequently thought of him as a literary executor. Acland was strongly of the view that the ideal thing in my life would be to have the last of it for literary work, but he said he doubted if I would be able to leave my present post. That he thought the country had such confidence, they would expect me to stay on as long as I could. I told him I could not see the possibility of remaining in office beyond the term of the present Parliament. I was excessively tired in talking, having been a little over-fatigued during the day, but I felt, as Acland and Peregrine left, that I had done the best day’s work in a long time past, in having them together spending the evening with me.
Acland is now 81. We recalled many of our early associations together. He knows values, and I am sure Peregrine is the same in that regard. The value of association, the value of a slip of paper with the right thought or the right name on it; the difference between the false and the true.