David Wolfe Keene 1941


1941. David Wolfe Keene was born in April to Edward Henry Wolfe Keene & Lilian Marjorie Conway in Sunbury on Thames . His father was a Sergeant major in the army, in Africa at the time of his birth

1943. His only sibling, Andrew Philip Keene, was born. he never married and died in 2010


~1944. David with his mother and younger brother, Andrew

1944-1945 .

VI rockets started to come over in mid 1944 .  I can remember being put to bed several times in a small cupboard under the stairs which were presumably thought to give some added protection.  Later, the protection became more purpose-built – I have a distinct recollection of crouching under a metal protective table, a Morrison shelter, in our dining room and hearing the whine of a VI rocket in the sky.  One would listen to the whine, waiting for it to stop, at which point we knew that the engine had cut out and that it would glide down to explode somewhere.  I can remember being quite philosophical, waiting for the bang and wondering if I would know anything about it if it hit our house.  We weren’t an area that suffered badly from bombing, being located on the south-western fringe of London, but occasionally we went out on the morning after a raid to see if we could see what had been hit.  Every now and again we would find the odd gap in a row of houses, occupied just by rubble.  One could see sometimes that strange vertical cross-section of a house, a wall with a door at first floor level exposed to view.

We were living in a small semi-detached house in south-west Middlesex, as it then was.  The house was located in Sunbury-on-Thames, but in the northern part furthest from the river.  Nowadays the more upmarket southern area is divided from the northern part by the flyover which marks the start of the M3 motorway, but even in my childhood it was evident that the posh part was around Thames Street and its historic buildings.  There was still a farm, Manor Farm, in the southern area, together with a park and tennis courts.  My father would go off to work in the morning on his bicycle, a machine with drop handlebars, something which seemed to me to be far too racy for my staid father.  My mother at that stage stayed at home to run the home and to look after me and my younger brother Andrew, born in 1943.  We had no central heating or double-glazing in the house, and ice would form on the inside of my bedroom window during cold winter nights.  I can also vividly recollect suffering from chilblains on my ears from the walk to school in one particular winter.  We had, of course, no internet or television, no tablets or iPhones, and our main entertainment was derived from the radio.  Thrilling programmes like “Dick Barton – Special Agent” and comedies such as “Take It From Here” were a must. My brother and I would play table-tennis on the dining room table, and sometimes hockey on the back lawn. The local recreation ground, a treeless mix of grass and mud, provided us with space for very “coarse” cricket and football.

    Every now and then, ice cream would come round, being sold from horse-drawn carts, and the “rag-and-bone” man, again with a cart pulled by a weary-looking nag and with hoarse indecipherable cries, would appear.  In those days milk was delivered daily to the front doorstep in glass bottles which, when emptied, went back onto the doorstep for collection.  There were no cars in our street till about 1950, when the first one turned up.  My mother knew many of the local traders and shopkeepers, having gone to school locally, and she was quite cynical about their trading methods.  I remember her arguing with the local butcher because she reckoned he was adding strips of fat between the rashers of bacon she had asked for.  She would count the sacks of coal being delivered by the coalman to make sure that we were not being short-changed.  Many things remained rationed during the ‘40s – including eggs and sweets.  That must have been why my parents raised and kept chickens in a wire enclosure at the bottom of our garden.  As for sweets, I can still remember the sense of wonderment when they ceased to be rationed and I realised that I could buy as many as my pocket money would stretch to.

~1944. David remembers going down to relations in Gulworthy, with the Bliss family. . . DAVID, pleas send me recollections of this, I cannot find them!

  ~1946          I think that I must have been an inquisitive child, perhaps a mischievous one.  At any rate, at the age of 5 or 6 I managed to burn down three haystacks.  We were staying for the summer with relatives of my mother in Scotland: these would be the Thomson half siblings of Lilian Conway's mother, Annie Robb Thomson They had a farm near Blairgowrie.  It was a very exciting place to be.  I rode on tractors, watched fields being mown and the rabbits dashing wildly out as the unmown area got smaller and smaller, and I drank milk squirted straight from the cows.  One day I found a box of matches.  Experimentally I wondered whether the sort of hay at the corner of a hayrick would burn or not.  I thought that if it did, I could just knock it out.  I couldn’t.  The flame spread amazingly fast, licking up the side of the stack and catching the whole rick.  I ran inside the farmhouse screaming.  I heard the fire engines come, but they couldn’t save the rick or the two next to it.

            I gathered later that our farming cousin suffered not at all from this episode.  The insurers paid up, and the sudden injection of a capital sum into the farm gave it a boost from which it never looked back.

            ~1947.The following year saw my inquisitiveness take a different form.  We were staying for our summer holiday in a boarding house in Dovercourt, Essex.  This time it was a fire extinguisher which interested me.  I wondered how it worked.  I found out.  Foam gushed everywhere and it couldn’t be stopped.  The mess was widespread and I was in the doghouse again.


David in 1947 on holiday in Dovercourt

            My schooling began at a small private infants’ school down near the river in Sunbury.  There I was taught vital things like how to tie my shoelaces and how to sing various traditional songs – The Minstrel Boy, Hearts of Oak, Bonnie Dundee and Men of Harlech amongst them.  They remain with me still.  They also discovered that I was short-sighted.  I was carted off to an opticians in Kingston-on-Thames, where that discovery was confirmed and I was prescribed NHS glasses with almost round metal frames, so that I looked rather like Harry Potter.  I hated having to wear glasses.  They were a constraint on enjoying playing cricket, because one felt vulnerable, and a barrier to playing rugby.  One also, of course, got called names like “Four Eyes” by other schoolboys.  Only after cataract operations in my late 60’s was I able to go about without glasses

The glasses did aid my reading, which I did voraciously.  My diet included many comics of the time:  Beano, Dandy, Wizard, Hotspur and eventually the one which adults saw as more worthy, the Eagle.  All this improved my reading skills and I have never since taken the view that it matters twopence what kids read, so long as they read something.

            Eventually I moved on to another day school when I was about 7 or 8 in age.  This one, sited near Hampton station, was     I realise in retrospect really a crammer to make sure that its boys – it was all male – passed the 11 plus examination.  Denmead School seemed to be staffed largely by young masters fresh out of the armed forces.  One drove an Alpha Romeo sports car in which it was a great thrill to be given a lift.  Still, the school did its job.  I passed the 11 plus exam with some success and got into my first choice school, Hampton Grammar School.  Sitting the 11 plus exam was made particularly memorable because on one of the two days over which it took place, there was a slight disturbance when an anxious-looking teacher came into the room and spoke in hushed tones to the colleague who was invigilating.  We discovered later that King George VI had just died.  It was 6 February 1952.

            Hampton was an old foundation dating from the final years of the reign of Mary Tudor, but by the 20th century it had become part of the state sector as a voluntary aided school.  Some time after I left it, it went independent, but in the early 1950’s it was a state grammar school, all boys, with no fees and no boarders, and into which one could only get by passing the 11 plus.  Its headmaster when I arrived was a humourless martinet called George Whitfield, who eventually took holy orders.  He was rumoured to have caned his sons when he caught them smoking.  But the masters generally were very committed and included several who were real characters.  One unfortunate teacher was the music teacher, who simply could not keep any sort of order in the class and who was treated (I can see in retrospect) cruelly by the boys.  His nickname was Goathead, and I have no idea now what his real name was.  He wore a stained tweed suit and had fingers yellow with nicotine from smoking.  Sadly, the result was that few of us learned any music or to appreciate any form of classical music.  I was into my late 20’s before I began to realise what musical delights were available in opera and classical music.  It was hearing the Queen of the Night’s aria from the Music Flute on the car radio one day which brought home to me the wonders of which the human voice was capable.  My musical tastes have since become quite catholic – I find that I enjoy jazz and pop, and more recently classical music.  Let me return, however, to those schooldays.

            I didn’t seem to be much good at the sciences, and so as my school years went by, I concentrated on history and English.  Meanwhile, Whitfield’s heavy hand provoked a number of minor acts of rebellion amongst the pupils – things like explosive caps under the masters’ chairs in morning assembly.  When the 1955 General Election came along, the school had its own mock election.  Whitfield banned a proposed Communist Party slate from running for election, so they renamed themselves the Radical Socialists.  Theirs was easily the most entertaining campaign, with processions through the school accompanied by a drummer and other musicians, and chanting as they went.  They succeeded in coming a good second in the mock election, the Conservatives winning as had always been likely in a largely middle-class school.

            The leader of the Radical Socialists was Rigas Doganis, who at one time was my patrol leader in the school scout troop, and who at one of our summer camps in Devon responded to a dare by running naked from our tent to the nearby woods about 200 metres away and then back again.  I didn’t see him for many years after the end of our school days, until much to my surprise I found myself having to cross-examine him as an expert witness at a planning inquiry into a proposed runway extension at Luton Airport.  By then I was a barrister and he was a highly respected aviation economist – indeed, eventually he became in turn the Chairman/CEO of Olympic Airways and a director of EasyJet.  He also became and remains a firm friend.

            One of the things to be said in favour of George Whitfield as headmaster is that he took the initiative in starting a school boat club.  That made good sense.  We were within easy reach of the Thames, and we came to an arrangement for the use of the boathouse of the Molesey Boat Club.  I was persuaded to be a cox, since I was in those days still small enough and light enough for the job.  It was a satisfying if stressful role – stressful because the cox steering the boat has the responsibility for avoiding other craft, turning it in quite narrow stretches of river and not getting either the boat or the oars (“blades”) into contact with the bank.  It also meant that I had to learn to project my voice, since the cox’s instructions have to be heard along the full length of a rowing eight over the noise of the wind and water and of the rowing itself.  I practised voice-throwing by cycling along quiet country roads nearby, where I could shout without being seen or heard by others.  In later life I wondered sometimes if this had helped me in making sure that I could be heard as an advocate.

One of the active members of the boat club was Richard Tilbury (“Tibbles” to his friends).  He owned a small rowing dinghy, which he kept in a little wooden boathouse on the Thames near Hampton.  He very generously agreed to let me use it, and I would often paddle it to some quiet spot where I could moor and revise for exams or, later during the period between school and university, to try to read some of the material supposed to be studied before starting the degree course.  I’m not sure how much work I got done lolling back in the dinghy, but I certainly came away with a love of boats and water which has stayed with me.

            In the latter part of my school years I discovered that I enjoyed debating and other forms of public speaking.  It was, I found, nerve-racking before you stood up and started speaking, but once you heard the sound of your own voice, it seemed to get easier.  So I proposed motions such as favouring the abolition of National Service in a school debate.  Unsurprisingly the school audience was only too pleased to vote for the motion!

            Eventually the time came to think about university applications.  As neither of my parents had been to university or knew much about the comparative merits of the different institutions, I relied on discussions with the masters at school.  They made me hope that it was worth trying for Oxford, and Whitfield suggested Balliol College.  I couldn’t find out much about it, but I thought I would have a go.  My history master in the sixth form, Ernie Badman, a short tubby but ferocious individual, was hugely supportive and gave up a lot of time to widen the area of my historical knowledge by one-to-one tuition.  I owe him a lot.

            I wasn’t sure what degree subject I should apply for.  Whitfield saw me in his study to discuss this.  There was no mention of PPE.  I hadn’t heard of it, and I’m not sure that he had.  He clearly wasn’t convinced of my intellectual abilities.  He said “you’ll find it easier to get into Oxford to read law than to read history.  You can always change courses once you are there”.  It may have been true then that there was less demand for law courses than for history, but it wouldn’t be true today, when vocational subjects are over-subscribed.  But I took his advice and applied to read law, with Balliol as my first choice of college.  I sometimes wonder what would have happened in my later life, had I applied to read history or PPE.  It was a life-shaping decision.

So I found myself in Oxford one December day in 1958, awaiting the scholarship exam and the interview.  It was bitterly cold.  The room in Balliol’s front quad in which I was accommodated was heated only by a tiny gas fire, and the wind swept in under the ill-fitting door.  I started to wonder why I wanted to come to that place.  (I discovered years later that Oxford was well-known as a “frost pocket”, being located in a valley into which the cold air rolled down from the hills, the Chilterns and the Cotswolds, on either side of it.)

I and other applicants filed into the hall of Keble College to do the exams.  The architecture of that college seemed to me to be an extravagant piece of folly, like something out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  It has since grown on me – a bit.  After the exams I had an interview with the then Master of Balliol, Sir David Lindsay Keir and the junior law fellow, Don Harris.  At some stage during the interview they asked me if I would like to discuss anything which had recently been in the news.  For an agonising moment I went a complete blank and couldn’t think of anything.  Then I remembered that Charles de Gaulle had come to power in France some six months previously after the failure of successive French governments to get a grip on the Algerian crisis.  So I talked about the problems of democratic government in France, with the frequent changes of government, expressing views largely derived from discussions with the history masters at Hampton, and that seemed to suffice.  A short time later I heard that I hadn’t won a scholarship but I was being offered a commoner’s place.  So up to Balliol I went in October 1959.

1959-19623 The Oxford Years . Oxford was at first a rather bewildering place.  I knew no-one else in my year at Balliol.  Four or five others had gone from Hampton to Oxford that year, but nearly all were scientists, and we scarcely met.

The only other exception was Neil Stacy, who later became a successful actor.  He was reading history at Magdalen, which seemed a long way away from Broad Street where Balliol was located.  The Balliol intake that year was, of course, all male – women weren’t admitted to Balliol as undergraduates until 20 years later.  The intake seemed to be composed about half from public schools and half from grammar schools, especially ones in the North. The former often seemed to know several others from their former school, which added to their apparent self-confidence.

Probably a bigger distinction was between those who, like me, had come more or less straight from school, and those who had done National Service, the common name for a form of compulsory military service for 18 months or 2 years.  1959 was a change-over period:  National Service had been abolished for those born after 1 October 1939, but it was a gradual wind-down, and some of those required to do it had been able to delay their period of service.  So some of those arriving at Oxford in the autumn of 1959 were not only a couple of years older than 18 year olds like me but had also seen military service in places like Cyprus.  They had fired weapons and they knew far more about life and especially women than the rest of us did.  Most of us who had come straight from school were, by present-day standards, remarkably inexperienced about sex, although of course we pretended otherwise.

Gradually I found my feet.  The two law tutors at Balliol differed radically.  The more senior, Theo Tylor, was an eminent academic lawyer, something all the more remarkable because he was blind.  He was not, however, a good teacher of others.  His chosen method at tutorials was to try to drum into his students his own particular theories on such abstruse topics as Mistake in Contract, rather than trying to stimulate some original thought on the part of the undergraduate.  In contrast, thank Heavens, Don Harris, a young New Zealander and former Rhodes Scholar, was mainly concerned with making us think or at least trying to do so.  My eventual success in my degree was largely due to him.

Oxford was then, as it still is, full of student societies and clubs, most with an impressive list of outside speakers appearing each term.  I was by now getting interested in politics.  All the main parties had their student bodies in Oxford and there was no problem in joining more than one, which is what I did in order to hear the speakers.  My political ideas were still very uninformed and as the October 1959 election approached, I was quite unsure as to which party to support.  I wouldn’t be able to vote, being only 18, since at that time the minimum voting age was 21, but it still seemed to me that I should try to make up my mind.  My parents were staunch Conservatives, with the Daily Telegraph the main newspaper in the house.  I was now able to have access to a much wider range of newspapers, and I watched the televised election broadcasts.

There didn’t seem a lot of difference between the policies of the two main parties.  These were the days of Butskellism, the term applied to the policies aimed at the middle ground of politics, with no hint of the marked divisions which were to come with Margaret Thatcher and Michael Foot.  A lot seemed to turn on the character of the individual party leaders, therefore, and I found Harold Macmillan more persuasive and reassuring than Hugh Gaitskell, who came across as a bit petulant.  On such fragile foundations I made my choice – as probably did many in the electorate, since Macmillan was returned to office with an overall majority of 100.  I had begun to wonder about combining a political with a legal career, as some M.P.s did at that time.  As those first few terms at Oxford passed, I went to meetings of all three main political parties and eventually decided to get involved more deeply with the Conservative one – the Oxford University Conservative Association known as OUCA.  (There was, I discovered later, a national body of such university societies, going by the unfortunate abbreviation FUCUA, the Federation of University Conservative and Unionist Associations).  In my eyes, OUCA was attractive because its leading figures advocated what would later become known as “wet” Tory policies – emphasis on social welfare, support for colonial independence and high employment through Keynesian economic policies – and its activists called themselves Tory Radicals.  They included people like Tony Newton, later a government minister, Phillip Whitehead, who later changed parties and became a Labour MP and MEP, Alan Haselhurst and David Madel, both later Conservative MPs.  David was and remains a good friend.

The range of speakers both at the societies and at the Oxford Union, the main debating body of the University, was astonishing.  Harold Wilson came when Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.  At that stage in his career he was extremely dull, not having developed the style of repartee and quips which he used effectively when Labour party leader.  Macmillan came to the Oxford Union in the autumn of 1959, to be faced with a surprise motion for an adjournment because of the Devlin Report on the deaths at the Hola camp in colonial Nyasaland (now Malawi).  The motion was moved by Phillip Whitehead, an officer of the Union and a splendidly bearded figure.  “Supermac” was heard to mutter that in his day officers of the Union didn’t have beards.  One also had the experience of hearing consummate debaters like Jeremy Thorpe, Michael Foot, Lord Longford and even more extreme figures like Enoch Powell, Sir Oswald Moseley and Konni Zilliacus.

What all this contact with leading politicians, as well as with judges, QCs, leading journalists and writers brought home to us was the discovery that such worldly success did not necessarily mean that these people were brighter than we were.  Some seemed to be, but others seemed not.  What they had over us was experience of the world.  But it meant that we learned that there need not be any real limits to what we might achieve.  To a teenager from a grammar school and a modest suburban background, it was like being taken to a mountain top and shown the promised land lying beyond.  Our horizons opened up enormously.

Oxford very much confirmed my enthusiasm for public speaking.  I was still very inexperienced and wasn’t a great success in debates at the Oxford Union.  But I also took part in law moots – mock legal arguments as if before a court – and found that my initial nerves vanished once I started arguing.  So I decided to take the risk of trying for the Bar as a career and I became a student member of the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court to which every barrister must belong.  In those days one still had to eat twelve dinners a year at the Inn in Central London.  I had no car, but a friend who was also an Inner Temple student and an Oxford undergraduate did have, and he would drive us both there and back.  Thinking about it now, I realise that he must have been well over any sensible alcohol limit by the time of the return journey.  But there was far less traffic on the roads in those days, it was late at night and the breathalyser was still in the future.

I took an active part in student politics at Oxford and in early 1962 in my third year I was elected Chairman of OUCA.  I was very fortunate in the list of cabinet ministers prepared to come to speak that term:  Iain Macleod, Henry Brooke, Lord Home and others, but above all, the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.  He came in February and we took him before the meeting to dinner in the Mitre Hotel, at that time more upmarket than it is now.  A lavish meal had been prepared, including smoked salmon and pheasant, but Supermac (as he was being described in the tabloids) could not eat any of it because of nerves.  I was amazed that such an accomplished politician, totally in control at that time of the House of Commons, should be nervous before speaking to an audience of students.  The lesson I took from it was useful:  it confirmed that one should not worry too much if one felt tense and anxious before standing up to speak.

After the meeting, Macmillan chatted over a drink to a few of us back in a private room at the Mitre.  He told us how Jack Kennedy rang him every day on the transatlantic scrambler phone, and called him “Uncle Harold”.  He described the disastrous May 1960 Paris summit meeting with Krushchev who performed “like Micawber” and spoke for three-quarters of an hour, complaining about the American spy plane.  Eisenhower just sat there saying “Waal, I dunno”.  De Gaulle retorted to Krushchev, saying that his country was overflown all the time by spy satellites.  De Gaulle, Macmillan said, was always accompanied by a supply of blood in case of an attack, the blood having to be kept in a fridge.  Despite the failure of that summit, Macmillan’s view was that there would eventually be a negotiated agreement with the Russians so long as the west remained patient.  He foresaw the Soviet Union becoming more like a capitalist society, and stressed Krushchev’s Ukrainian background which made him more Eurocentric.  When Macmillan had been in Vienna as Foreign Secretary in 1955 for the negotiations on the Austrian treaty, the Americans had tapped the phone line of Molotov, the Russian foreign minister.  It was, said Macmillan, to no avail.  All they learned was that Molotov’s daughter was learning the violin.

Macmillan came across as warm and of course stylish, and he was very much at ease talking to a small group of undergraduates.  He certainly charmed me, and I always enjoyed hearing him speak.  He was a real performer.

There was, as is well-known, an element of play-acting in his performances.  Many years later, when he was long-retired as a politician, he came to a dinner in hall at Balliol, where he had been an undergraduate, the dinner being in his honour.  He was by then walking with a stick and seemed very frail.  When it came to his turn to speak at the end of the meal, he rose slowly and apparently painfully.  He then stood there silently, and gradually the tension built.  We all began to think that the old boy had finally lost it.  But eventually he began, slowly at first but soon with more vigour, and before long it became clear that the whole hesitant episode had been contrived.  It was a masterly performance.

The summer vacations at Oxford were rightly called “Long”.  They provided a great opportunity to travel, even with very little money.  In July 1961 I went overland as a pillion passenger on a friend’s motor scooter all the way from this country to the then Yugoslavia – via Ostend, Aachen, Kohn, Koblenz, Nuremburg, Regensburg, Passau, Vienna and into what is now Slovenia at Maribor.  Three things stick in my memory about that trip:  first, standing on the podium at Nuremberg where the Nazi rallies took place, trying to imagine the scene then in comparison to the weed and grass-infested steps now; secondly, the stunningly beautiful lakes, streams and waterfalls at Plitvice in what is now Croatia; and thirdly, the discovery that there is a limit of about one hour on the time that the human posterior can withstand the jolting of a motor scooter’s pillion without needing a rest!

The following year I went with a group to Berlin.  The infamous wall had been in position for less than a year, but there was already a heart-rending collection of wreaths and tributes along the base of it on the West Berlin side, marking where East Germans trying to escape to the west had been shot by their own security forces.  What a regime that had to use a wall, barbed wire and bullets to keep its own people in their country!

The most significant event in my time at Oxford was meeting a PPE undergraduate at St. Hugh’s College called Gillian Lawrance.  She was obviously intelligent and very attractive, and I soon discovered how interesting she was.  My feelings seem to be reciprocated and eventually we became engaged.  In 1965, after we had both left university we got married, an event to which I shall return.

I managed to my surprise to obtain an unviva’d First in my Final BA exams.  This in turn brought various very welcome scholarships and awards.  Balliol, Oxford University and the Inner Temple all helped me financially in this way.  I stayed in Oxford for a fourth year to do a post-graduate law degree, the Bachelor of Civil Law.  Doing that achieved two things:  it exempted me from some of the Bar exams I would eventually have to take and it meant an extension to my university grant for another year.  Apart from those sources of income, I was dependent financially on what I could earn in the vacations.  Those were sometimes fun.  One involved helping in a boatyard on the Thames, rigging sailing dinghies and preparing motor boats, all for hiring out.  When it rained, there were no customers and I could read happily


1963 An American trip

I finished my time in Oxford at the end of the summer term 1963 and I was then lucky enough to be awarded one of Balliol’s Coolidge “Pathfinder” Awards, of which there were eight each year.  These had been initiated in the post-war period by Bill Coolidge, a New Englander, who recognised that the shortage of dollars in the UK was such that travel to the USA was virtually impossible.  He financed the awards for travel and study.  Many years later the scheme was taken over and financed by William Westerman.  It was necessary for a candidate for one of these awards to put forward some form of project to be pursued over a period of two or three months, though these could be couched in quite general terms, as mine certainly was.  I stated that I wanted to study the legal and political system in the USA.  That enabled me to plan a trip more or less around the whole country.  We eight were enormously fortunate.  We were given a long list of people, mostly Balliol graduates, in the USA who would accommodate us for a few days, plus a limited amount of cash per week and a car between two or three of us.  We began by assembling in Bill Coolidge’s house at Topsfield, some distance north of Boston, to which I drove from the airport in the evening rush hour.  For a young man with limited experience of driving on UK roads just sufficiently to have passed my driving test, it was a terrifying experience to find oneself on a freeway with 4 lanes of traffic each way.  Somehow I survived.

            Before leaving Topsfield, I saw the impressive facilities of the Harvard Law School and we were kitted out with suits from the Harvard Co-op (or “Coop”, as we found it called).  Then we were away.  Three of us headed south to New York City, and then into the rural parts of New York State, followed by Pennsylvania.  I still remember seeing the Amish there, people who reject much of modern technology and who we saw driving their horses and carriages and wearing simple clothes.  But the highlight of this part of the trip was Washington D.C.  We had a contact in a Senator’s office, which turned out to be staffed by (in our eyes) remarkably young people.  This was the era of Jack Kennedy as President, and all of Washington seemed vibrant and youthful, especially in contrast to the UK where the Macmillan administration was in its final faltering months.  Our accommodation there was provided by Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, a graduate of Balliol and now the Deputy Attorney-General of the United States.  Later, after Bobby Kennedy decided to run for the US Senate, he became the Attorney-General.  I remember discussing with him one evening, as we sat on the veranda of his Georgetown house, the merits of the British and American systems of appointing/electing judges.  One of the other Coolidge men staying there, Terry Cooper, a chemistry graduate, took me to task afterwards for arguing with the Deputy Attorney-General of the USA.  I said I thought that Katzenbach as a lawyer himself took argument like that in his stride.

            Virginia came next, where Terry, a mild non-political man, quite shocked a group of Daughters of the American Revolution by his moderately liberal views.  But what a beautiful state!  Driving down through the Carolinas we started to see more and more evidence of racial segregation – signs saying ‘Whites only’ on public lavatories, cafes and so on.  Our trip took us down through Atlanta and then west to New Orleans, where we visited the French Quarter and heard some traditional jazz.  The drive from there across Louisiana, the vast stretches of Texas (via Dallas, not yet of notoriety) and into New Mexico seemed endless, but we eventually got to a beautiful ranch in the foothills of the Rockies, where we rode horses and generally relaxed.

            Our appreciation of the Grand Canyon was slightly dulled by the fact that we couldn’t find anywhere to stay and so spent a sleepless night in the car.  We felt that we had to go on to see Las Vegas, which had more neon-lighting and tacky signs than I thought possible – the wee Kirk O’The Heather chapel still springs to mind.  Los Angeles seemed mainly freeways and lacking in a centre, more a collection of suburbs linked by roads, but at Santa Barbara to the north we did stay on a dude ranch owned by the Sedgwicks, who were very hospitable.  Their daughter, Edie, was later to find a degree of fame as the muse for Andy Warhol.  She died age 28, only 8 years after I met her.  San Francisco was a knock-out.  There we parted company and I went on alone by train, taking the Shasta Daylight Special up the west coast to Portland, Oregon.  That was a truly memorable ride, passing through mountains and forest, with tumbling rivers and waterfalls, a beautiful wilderness which gave me an enduring passion for that part of the USA.  That was enhanced by my time in Seattle, where I stayed on one of the small islands.

            From Seattle I took a train east, right across the northern part of the USA to Chicago, awe-inspiring as we passed through the Rockies but then increasingly tedious as we traversed mile after mile of the Great Plains – waving wheat field after wheat field.  The train was full of young American students heading back to college, with that sort of assertiveness which J.D. Salinger describes in The Catcher in the Rye.  After a change of trains in Chicago (all I saw of that apparently splendid city) I got back to Boston, from where I flew home.

            It was an amazing experience, one which I was extraordinarily lucky to have.  It left me with an abiding love for the American open spaces, a lack of affection for the small towns dominated by billboards and outlets, and a strong respect for the country’s democratic institutions.  That still remains, despite the election of Donald Trump. 

            While in the States I had seen on television the civil rights demonstrations, including the great March on Washington at the end of August 1963, at which Martin Luther King gave his memorable “I have a Dream” speech.  It seemed that, under Jack and Robert Kennedy, things were going to change, albeit somewhat cautiously.  At least that year JFK had given his passionate support to a Civil Rights Bill.  It came, therefore, as a shattering blow only a few months later in November to hear that he had been shot and then that he had died.


1964             Back in the UK, I finished my bar exams, and I was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in April 1964.  That October I began a pupillage, a form of trainee-ship, with Denis Henry (later Lord Justice Henry) at 2 Crown Office Row, chambers

1965. David W Keene married Gillian Lawrence in Norwich

They had 2 children: Edward and Harriett

1974. David Keene ran as a Labour Candidate

labour. 1974-2 .

David with his sife and 2 children in 1974

1990s. He bought an old chateau in St Martin d'Oydes, south east France . The Blairs holidayed there for several years

fr1 .fr2 . blair



On appointment to the Court of Appeal, wirh his wife and daughter


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