Eustace Families Association

Donald William Eustace


First Master President of Eustace Families Association

. An autobiography written in April 1985 and originally published in the Spring 1985 edition of the Eustace Families Post

Combining the jobs of Master President and Editor presented a problem to a natural-retiring person. Biographical details of our more prominent members appeared likely to be of greater interest to readers than those of the editor. However members in the USA., particularly Ronald Eustice of Minnesota, have insisted that more should be known of the background of the leader among the founders of our Association. So here are autobiographical notes of my life and close family.

I was born in 1908, the middle of the three sons of Frances Weston and George Philip Eustace of Chiswick. My father was the grandson of George, the eldest of the 22 children recorded on the tombstone of William and Elizabeth at Chinnor in Oxfordshire. Chiswick was a village where my grandfather started a grocery store around 1870, but now has been absorbed into the suburbia of west London. The advent of Heathrow Airport further to the west has made our home a convenient port-of-call for overseas visitors at the cost of much aeroplane noise from arrivals on the flight path above us.

My primary school was at Brentford, then the county, town of Middlesex. Although a state school, it retained many of the traditions of its non-conformist foundation, thanks to atypically Welsh headmaster named Evans. The mile and a half walk to and from school was full of places of interest to a small boy-the vegetable market, the gas works with its hell-fire retorts, an iron foundry, two blacksmiths and the fire station. But the most magnetic ,was a footpath some two hundred yards long beside the river Thames. Expressly forbidden as a route home, it got me more bread-and-water teas that anything else.

Secondary or high school was at Acton County School where, I must confess, I was too interested in sport, football and athletics to the detriment of academic study. Mathematics and physics were subjects that I enjoyed with some success, but to my later regret, I avoided Latin, French and history. I had joined the scouts as a ten year old and greatly preferred the interests that this offered to evening homework. Scouting was to absorb much of my spare time for for over forty years.

Education beyond age 16 was rare in the early twenties. Maybe one in fifty of my contemporaries went to university or training college. For the rest of us, it was finding a job, not easy in the years following World 'War I, and evening classes to widen our knowledge.

My first job was with an insurance company in the city of London, but was short-lived as after eighteen months a vacancy arose in the group of companies founded by my uncle, Albert Escott, and for whom both my father and brother already worked as company secretaries. I have just retired as chairman after 59years. Starting in the hire- purchase department, I moved on to sales of trucks, buses and coaches. The part I enjoyed most was designing vehicles for special purposes.

The spare time of the summer of 1931 was spent almost entirely in building, with the help of my younger brother John and his friends, a headquarters for the Cub Scout troop from materials salvaged from a wooden hut of World War I vintage. The opening of the Scout Hut in '32 had left John and myself in a mood of anti-climax, we decided to build ourselves a Canadian type canoe. Bending the ribs by steaming in a rig improvised from a petrol can, a pressure oil stove, and a drain pipe was fraught with many disasters but we finally acquired the necessary skill and the vessel was launched. After several expeditions on the river Thames and its tributary, the Wey, we decided that sailing was less tiring than paddling. Our first attempt made us very unpopular with a rowing eight but the sailing bug had bitten me and the infection was to last for over 40 years.

1939 brought changes in my life as in many others. The threat of 'war stopped the supply of vehicles for our civilian market, so the equipping of factories with fire-fighting pumps etc. became the business activity, involving new problems and techniques but also visits to many interesting places. The evacuation of school children left scout troops in London reduced by 80 to 90%.My own troop combined with that of the local Catholic church and that happy fore-runner of current ecumenical ideas lasted for over twelve years.

As part of the air raid defences, I was not allowed to go into the forces and so saw the whole of the 'Blitz' on London. In-the run-up to the invasion of Europe, a call was made for crews ofsmall boats to assist the main fleet and I volunteered. As the skipper of our fishing boat, a tugboat man from Merseyside, described it. "Yachting on the So lent and paid to do it". It wasn't all honey, but I found it enjoyable and crowned when as despatch boat to Admiral Ramsey's head-quartersship we went out into the Channel for a front seat, not entirely  comfortable, for the passage of the invasion armada.

Life back in London was somewhat drab and business life was ticking over, so I joined one of the first Scout Relief teams to go with the Army to help with

the problem of displaced persons which were returning in the thousands as the troops moved forward. These were an interesting eighteen months in which I was amazed by the amount of school French I had remembered and later, when in Italy, the Latin I had absorbed in spite of myself.

My brother John had died from Tuberculosis just as I was due to go overseas. My parents sold their home and moved into mine. When I returned to civilian life, I found business, home and Scouts all functioning largely without my help. To fill the gap in my time I was happy to see a need for hostel accommodation for Scout visitors passing through London during the summer camping season on overseas exchange visits. With magnificent help from the parents of my own Scout boys and the Congregational church, we turned our hut and the church hall into an overnight hostel for almost a thousand youngsters in the first season and more in the two later seasons. From this little seed the present B.P.House in London has grown as a memorial to Lord Baden Powell.

Being without a leader for my Cub Scouts, I was introduced to a young school teacher as a possible helper, somewhat reluctantly she agreed and that was how I met Gladys Chapman who we all know as 'Pip'. We were married the following year, 1949. Unfortunately my father never knew his grandson, for he had died in March 1950,as Peter was born on Christmas Day of that year. Our daughter Frances Mary, was born in February 1954. The first day outing that Pip and I had together was to visit a boat-builder's yard where an 18 foot sailing dinghy was being built for me. Named Foggy Dew after the first song that I had heard Pip sing. The Foggy Dew was a part of our family life for almost twenty years.

In 1962 and '63 we had taken an interest in a children's, home and one girl in particular, Janet, who came to our home at weekends and shared our holidays in the folding caravan I had built. Janet's mother died when she was fifteen and we invited her to join the family. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a couple of years as, possibly resulting from the wrong choice of school friends, she rejected the restrictions that any sort of family life imposes and as soon as she was fifteen she left. Her brother who visited us during his leaves from the Navy visited us for another year or two and then he too vanished. As a family we regard this as our great failure.

It was about this time that I gave up the Scouts and for a time ran the junior Cadet section of the Yacht Club where our children were members. Following the death of a colleague, I was made joint managing director of our principal company and moved my business base to Brixton. I also served two years as chairman of the Lambeth Chamber of Commerce.

In the late 1960s our Congregational church with its sister churches at Brentford and Isleworth were without a minister and I found myself not only taking part in the services, but also helping and encouraging students and young church members to form teams of two or three each to ensure that the witness continued. This lasted for five years until a minister was appointed.

I think it was in 1970, that we had the first of Anna Eustace's flying visits from Kansas and the following year that we visited Chinnor together. These visits led me to start looking into the history of the Eustace families. No one was more surprised than I, when it led back as far as Norman times. It led also to my meeting Eric Eustace, our Chronicler, and his brother Stanley and the contact with Warner Eustis in Boston, Massachusetts. All three of these had done considerable research and our combined knowledge was too valuable to be allowed to die with us. Warner's book on the Boston Eustis family and my own book had gone to the most important libraries, but publications of this type are expensive and death is likely to intervene and work lost. Family research is on-going and I decided that disseminating our discoveries by means of a newsletter or journal, was continuous and economical - so the Eustace Families Post was born.

The problem of the three Eustace connections made the idea of a family get- together a doubtful starter, but I went ahead and organised our first Muster at Pyrton, Oxon. It was supported by members of all three connections and the proposal to form a more permanent association was, to my pleasure backed by both Irish and Cornish branches. My election as Master President was certainly not as I had visualise, but this unexpected honour brought me many friends and much happiness.