Ghost story writer and Provost of Eton College 1918-36, M R James or Uncle Monty as he was always referred to was my great great uncle. He died in 1936 and I was born in 1953 so we never met! My father Nick James didn’t arrive in this country from Southern Rhodesia until 1949 so they didn’t meet either. Monty never married and almost certainly never had any children, but my father is his oldest great James nephew and became his literary heir.
We have several suitcases of James family memorabilia and letters from Monty to his family. All my life I have come across fans of his ghost stories and my father has always granted access to anything we have to various academics and writers and although copyright has long since passed we still get many requests. In particular there is an independent small press magazine called “Ghosts and Scholars” devoted to James and writers in his tradition who recently, amongst others, gave funds to repair his grave at Eton Cemetery.
Monty won a scholarship to Eton as did his father and grandfather (being clergymen, this was rather a prerequisite). I also attended Eton as a boy from 1966-71 and I was neither KS or OS, but more UO -utterly ordinary! However I had a wonderful undistinguished time and was very happy. It was peculiar being taught in James Schools. Unfortunately not a single beak ever knew or took any notice that I was the descendant of one of the cleverest men in Britain and sadly none of his genius came my way. I would never have
passed the somewhat more taxing entrance criteria of today, but I did pass a few A levels and go to university after a somewhat lengthy five year interval after leaving school. Subsequent generations have
continued the tradition of going to Eton and as an extended family we are currently on the seventh.
The photograph shows Monty (centre back) with his father Rev Herbert James (seated right). Monty’s brother,
Sydney (back left) and his wife, Linda, (seated left) with their children, Peter,Marjorie and Zoe. My grandfather
Philip had not been born. Marjorie was the grandmother of my second cousin Caroline who is married to the
current Provost, William Waldegrave, which is rather a nice coincidence.