Thursday, 30 June 2016

Week 26: Rothschild Relish

A few years ago I came to realize that there were a number of people in our tree that had published books to their credit.  Some were born in the family and some married into the family.  I created a Palin bibliography and listed all the books that I could find online written by family members. I also hoped that perhaps one day I might be able to find and purchase one or two of these books.

Here is a brief book review of one of those books that I was able to find. 

In the summer of 1925 Ronald Palin as a young man of 17 had an interview for a new job that would change his life.  He wrote in the first paragraph of the book that he was not even sure he was at the right place. "The words "New Court" were nowhere visible and there was no name-plate or other indication that this was the office of N.M. Rothschild & Sons."

He had to pass the security, a man wearing a blue serge suit topped with a bowler hat and then handed over to an escort that took him to the office of the Staff Manager. The staff manager was sitting at a massive old fashioned desk with his back to a fireplace and windows that over looked the courtyard. Ronald verified that he was introduced to the firm by a director of the Bank of England who was a friend of his father.  The staff manager then asked if Ronald could spell the words "parallel" and "acknowledgement".  Ronald spelled the words correctly and then was taken to meet with Mr. Lionel de Rothschild.

Ronald stated "The Room" which was to play a large part of his life was a large and lofty chamber with a fireplace at each end of the room, glossy wood paneling up eight feet high and then white plaster above that.  There were two massive mahogany desks with brass edges.  He had to cross the vast expanse of thick Turkish carpet and was invited to sit in an armchair that was covered in a dark reddish brown leather.  Ronald stated that when he first laid eyes on Lionel de Rothschild he was smoking a cigar and his last site of him many years later, Lionel was smoking a cigar.

In the "get to know you" part of the interview Ronald stated that he had wanted to go into the Royal Navy but because of short sight he was turned down.  He also stated that he really wanted next to go to Oxford for which he was possibly going to get a scholarship. 

Lionel de Rothschild then responded with "If you are going to come, you’d better come now" then quickly followed by "It will be ten years before we know whether you are going to be any use to us or not".

On September 29 1925, Ronald Palin entered the service of N.M. Rothschild and Sons at a salary of 100£ per year.  Over the next 11 chapters, Ronald described the different positions that he held within the company and the people that he met and the travels he took.

He stated that the book is not a history of the firm and no secret details of financial operations would be revealed.  It is not a biography of the Rothschild family, nor is the book an autobiography of Ronald’s life.  Ronald stated that he “attempted to convey in a light hearted manner something of the unique flavour of life at New Court and something of the nature and atmosphere of that awkward, inconvenient but strangely lovable building”.   He also wrote “New Court is where he worked and played; where he ate and drank and occasionally slept; where he was by turn happy and miserable, exhilarated and frightened; where he met good men and bad, charming nonentities and dull celebrities, beggars and multi-millionaires, statesmen and tycoons and the boys with brains in the back rooms of the world.”

In 1962 the first sledge hammers started the renovation of New Court and in 1965 the offices were moved into the new building.  Ronald referred to this as a “Dawn of a new Era”.  On his fortieth anniversary with the company he had moved up the corporate ladder and had the position of Secretary of the firm.  Ronald wrote that the Secretary was concerned with specific charities, activities and appeals and nothing to do with banking.  The work was political, diplomatic, literary, artistic, even philosophical and he loved it!

Ronald ends the book by saying that he was called into the senior partner’s office.  The senior partner liked to run ideas or rough drafts by Ronald – so that Ronald could tweak them or loving referred to as “Palinese” them into perfection.

If there are any books missing from the library please, please let me know!

Also - just received in the mail this week, another book written by a Palin, and this one has a lot of pictures in it!   Stay tuned for that review!

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