King’s speech therapist sat with famous medium

Kings Speech posterI don’t need to be psychic to predict that a new book, The King’s Speech, is going to be a best-seller this Christmas, and a movie with the same title, to be released in the UK in early January, is destined to be a box office blockbuster. The film focuses on the fascinating story of how King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, overcame a serious stammer with the help of a remarkable Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, and the friendship that developed between them. The book, written by the therapist’s grandson Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, is a far more extensive biography. But it doesn’t do justice to the spirit messages Lionel received through Lilian Bailey after his wife, Myrtle, died.

King's Speech book The authors acknowledge Logue’s interest in Spiritualism with these dismissive words:

Lionel Logue“Although otherwise a rational man, he became attracted to Spiritualism in the hope of making contact with her on the ‘other side’. As a result, he got in touch with Lilian Bailey, a ‘deep trance medium’. Over the years, Bailey had been consulted by a number of prominent figures and abroad – among them the Hollywood actresses Mary Pickford, Merle Oberon and Mae West, and Mackenzie King, the Canadian prime minister.”

The implication, of course, is that only irrational people investigate the possibility of spirit communication through mediums. The authors’ dismissal leaves the reader with the impression that Logue’s grief turned him into a credulous individual, which suggests they are not only unaware of the many scientists and eminent people who have sat with mediums and received impresssive evidence of an after-life, but also are ignorant of the content of the messages he received. They also write: “Quite how Logue [right] got in touch with Bailey and how many séances he attended is unclear; his sons, however, were appalled when he used to tell them he was going off to ‘get in touch’ with his late wife.”

Well, I can explain how he got to know Bailey. It came about soon after her death in 1945 when Logue sought help from Hannen Swaffer, Britain’s most famous journalist and newspaper columnist at that time, who was also a Spiritualist.

Hannen SwafferAccording to William F. Neech in his biography of Lilian Bailey, Death Is Her Life, Logue told Swaffer (left) in 1946, “I am a broken man. I have lost my wife and I cannot go on.” He also revealed that he was so grief-stricken that he had even contemplated suicide. The journalist promised to help if he could. A few days later Swaffer, who was often referred to as “the Pope of Fleet Street”, met with Lilian Bailey at a Spiritualist circle and asked, “Can you come to my flat to help a man in grave trouble?”

The medium said she would and Swaffer added: “I won’t tell you anything about him.” Lilian preferred it that way: the less she knew about a person the more impressive was the evidence she provided.

On arrival at Swaffer’s Trafalgar Square apartment no name was mentioned in the introductions. But immediately Lilian felt embarrassed, saying: “I don’t know why it is and I scarcely like to tell you, but George V is here. He asks me to thank you for what you did for his son.”

Subsequently, Logue’s dead wife communicated, controlling the entranced Lilian Bailey’s body and wrapping her arms around her husband. She talked to him about changes he had made to the house and garden – things about which no one else knew. The medium’s spirit guide, Bill Wootton, even told Logue that his pet name for his wife was “Muggsy”. Then he invited the speech therapist to ask any question.

Lilian Bailey“Does my wife want to say anything about the place where we first met?” he asked.

Bill Wootton responded with a puzzled expression. “She is referring to a bird named Charlie. It is not a canary. It looks like a sparrow.”

Logue was overwhelmed. Charlie Sparrow was his best friend and it was at his 21st birthday party that he and his future wife met and fell in love.

From then on, according to Neech’s biography, Logue had regular séances with Lilian Bailey (right) and on many occasions he spoke to King George VI about them, without meeting any hostility. “My family are no strangers to Spiritualism,” he told Logue.

King George VI expressed his gratitude to Logue by giving him a beautifully carved chair – the one in which he sat during his speech therapy sessions – and Logue, in turn, passed it on to Lilian Bailey. She used it for all the sittings given in her own home.

It could be that the authors of The King’s Speech were unaware of the Lilian Bailey biography. I suspect they were also unaware of how Logue met his bride-to-be, which proved so evidential. The first mention of Myrtle in their book comes in a reference to their marriage in Perth in 1907 which simply says they had met the previous year.

Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel LogueIn his introduction to the book, Mark Logue tells of the discovery of boxes of correspondence and scrapbooks in July 2010, when the book was close to completion. It would be fascinating to learn if they provide any further information about his sessions with Lilian Bailey.

King George VI sent a letter of condolence to his friend on learning of Myrtle’s death. In 1952 the King also died. It was Logue’s turn to express sympathy to his widow, who replied just two days later with a letter that shows Logue’s influence on the King went far beyond speech therapy.

“I think that I know perhaps better than anyone just how much you helped the King, not only with his speech, but, through that, his whole life, and outlook on life,” wrote the monarch’s widow, who would soon become The Queen Mother. “I shall always be deeply grateful to you for all you did for him.”

A little over a year later, Lionel Logue (depicted in the film by Geoffrey Rush, above) also passed away.

I knew Lilian Bailey well and had one sitting with her, towards the end of her life, though it was not strikingly evidential. I visited her in her home ­ – she was then living in Wembley, north London – where she sat in an impressive carved wooden chair to conduct the sitting.  That chair had been given to her by Lionel Logue, as a gift, in gratitude for the evidence he had received through her. It was the chair in which King George VI sat during his speech therapy sessions, which began in October 1926 when he was still Albert, Duke of York – before the abdication of his elder brother King Edward VIII and his own accession to the throne.

Despite my criticism, I can recommend The King’s Speech as a thoroughly entertaining read and I’m also looking forward to seeing the movie as soon as it’s released.

In my next blog, I’ll reveal more about Lilian Bailey and her royal connections.

One comment

  • December 3, 2011 - 14:52 | Permalink

    A substantial lack of primary sources of information has left today’s occupational therapists with many questions concerning the founders of the field. Information is collected from early training institutions and hospitals, professional writings of practitioners, World War I records from government agencies, newspaper articles, and personal testimonials.

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