Angharad 24 was lucky enough to hear from Xavier, a friend of Michael’s, who got to know him pretty well during the late eighties.

Xavier and the others in his group – all now professional musicians – were about 20 years younger than Michael. Michael was very happy to find a younger generation so interested in jazz and blues, and they became friends. He seemed to enjoy the company of younger people, and they enjoyed his.

Michael was a really very nice bloke, who was generous and open most of the time. He was not at all egotistical; rather Xavier thought him self-effacing, and burdened by self-doubt, which probably had a detrimental effect on his career.

When they first met, Xavier had never heard of him, and was only told that he had been in films such as “For Your Eyes Only” and “The Devils” by the others. Michael never spoke much about his films, and didn’t name-drop, though he had acted with some of the best-known actors of the century. He did express frustration at being offered ‘hit-man’ roles, and hoped he would be given a chance to get out of them, but said, ‘nobody wanted me.’

Xavier felt sure that playing a part well meant more to Michael than money or fame.

He loved music and just wanted to learn more. He played saxophone and drums well, but even in music, Mike would have moments where he would say “Oh, I’m no good at this.” Xavier thought he was self-taught, because he would ask for help with reading difficult music.

The whole group loved “Some Like it Hot”, and Michael thought that Marilyn Monroe was a great actress.

He had around three different girlfriends in the years 1989 – 92. He said he wouldn’t have minded marriage but did not want children. Unfortunately, most of the girls he’d been with had wanted them. He liked children, but had no ‘paternal feelings.’

Once, a young female punk walked into the bar where they were meeting, and drank out of a bottle. Michael asked why women thought they had to dress up and behave like men to get liberated, and said these young women didn’t know they were born! His grandmother and mother had lived very hard lives, but they came through it and bettered themselves while retaining their femininity. “My mother always made sure that she dressed nicely and kept her appearance and femininity throughout” (or words to that effect). Nevertheless, Xavier thought Michael was definitely in favour of equality.

Michael had a fierce hatred of Thatcher. He was a champion of the working classes, and Xavier thinks he would have voted Labour.

Xavier and the others knew of Michael’s depression. He told them he could go for weeks on end just not wanting to join the rest of the world, and that at one time he’d had to drop out of a project in the early stages, because he just couldn’t force himself to go to the studio. He also said that making and listening to music soothed him.

Xavier was out of the country and hadn’t seen Michael for about a year when he heard of his death. The whole group were very upset.
N.B., a former girlfriend of Michael’s, was kind enough to talk to me, and answer some questions. Here is what she told me:

I was amazed at hearing about your project. I am sure Michael would have been even more surprised to find people still honouring his work as an actor some twenty years later. He wouldn't feel he was worth the trouble.

How/where did I meet Michael

I got to know Michael on a crisp spring Sunday morning in 1984 in the “brasserie Dome”1 in Hampstead. He sat there having his cappuccino and reading the Sunday paper. I was having breakfast with a friend of mine. I was living in London as an au-pair, and so was my friend; we cherished our fee day away from the family where we lived and worked.

My friend knew Michael, because he had taken her out for dinner some weeks previously and she said hello to him across the tables. She pointed out who he was and I immediately recognised him thanks to his glasses. They were the ones he wore in the Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”
Read more... )
Per. research by Angharad24:

Michael’s mother, Doris Irene Gothard and Robert Cameron Mclellan were married in Hampstead Registry Office on October 21, 1961.

Both had had their marriages dissolved.

Per. the marriage certificate, Doris (or Irene, as she was then signing herself) was a cashier aged 39, whereas she was actually born in 1918, making her 43.

Robert was a sales representative aged 38.

Witnesses were Michael Gothard, and Edith May Dale (Michael’s maternal grandmother), suggesting the three of them were close.

Michael's maternal grandfather, William Allan Dale, had died by this date.

At the time of the wedding, Irene was living at 1 Gloucester Court, Park Village East, NW1, and Robert, the son of a dental surgeon, lived near Belsize Park, in 25 Daleham Gardens, NW3.
Members of Angharad24's family lived in the same area as Michael's family, Park Village East, at the time when Michael was growing up. Through family connections, Angharad24 tracked down a lady called Ritva, who also lived nearby between 1948 and 1952. Ritva was 96 years old when interviewed on 7 September 2012, but still very alert and keen to share her memories.

When asked if she knew a family in Park Village East called Gothard, mostly a mother and son, called Irene and Michael, she said that she did.

She even remembers their first meeting, because it was unusual.

It was in about 1948 she thinks, [probably 1949] when she was living there in Regent's Park Road just around the corner from where they lived. [Michael would have been about 10 years old.]

She was walking along one day when she saw a little lad being carried by his mum. Ritva remarked that he was a bit heavy, but the young woman said that he'd been taken ill at school so she'd had to carry him home.

Several days later, Ritva saw Irene again, and asked after Michael, to be told he'd had a few days off school, but was better.

Irene seemed happy to have someone to talk to as she missed the friends she'd made [probably in Brent.] She also hoped that the little lad would make new friends, as there were fewer boys of his age in the new area.

Ritva knew that the lady, Irene, was definitely not a Londoner. Her accent was much softer. She was a very attractive woman, dressed smartly, and looked young. She worked in a building society so that she could be at home in time for her son. She didn't want him coming home to an empty house.

There was a man around whom Ritva presumed was the father. She thought he was an estate agent. She couldn't be sure that he was there when she (Ritva) left in 1952.

An elderly couple used to visit, [presumably Michael's maternal grandparents] and during the holidays Michael would go away to the country.

The little boy was quite pale and delicate-looking, but with a lovely face. Ritva described his hair as being a reddy-brown.

Irene told Ritva that when he was little, due to a lazy eye, Michael had to wear glasses with a patch on, which was very common in those days. Eventually he graduated to better pairs, which he wore on and off. He hated them. He used to hang them on a washing line, or bury them in the garden. Irene was quite amused when she told this story, not cross.

Michael was no taller than other people of his age when Ritva first met him, but really shot up when he was about 12.

According to Michael’s mother, he was clever. Ritva thinks he went to the Church of England school, which was held in the church hall until it went to new buildings. She thinks it was called Christchurch. [Ritva’s own daughters went to Jewish School in Golders Green.]

He had a nice bike, and Ritva thought he went to music lessons but she couldn't be absolutely sure.

Irene and Michael used to go to the cinema, because Ritva remembers Irene saying that they shouldn't have B movies which were scary. They had A movies, which were the main films but the B-movies were often documentary-style re-enactments of real murders. The one that scared Michael was a Scotland Yard true story about a body thrown down a well, or something like that.

[This is interesting, given the great attention Michael was to pay, in later life, to current affairs, per Sean McCormick and The Runewriter.]

Ritva said that Irene and Michael seemed very close, and that Irene was anxious that Michael should have every opportunity.

Ritva had no idea that Michael had had a successful acting career, until Angharad24 told her. She asked what he'd appeared in, and was amazed that he'd been in so much. She said he had seemed so shy, and that Irene would have been very proud.

Early life

1 Jan 1970 02:00 am
Per The Runewriter:

"Talking about war, Michael told me he had suffered through the Blitz as many other Londoners, but during those – also to grown-ups scaringly dark years – he was parted from his parents."

NB. While some of what The Runewriter says does not seem quite to fit with what we know, other things they have said clearly show that they must have met and socialised with him, as they mention various personal details which were are not widely known.

Per a researcher at the Imperial War Museum: the evacuation programme was set up in 1938, as they knew war was looming. Infants, and children under school age had to remain with a parent. Children were evacuated by schools rather than areas.

Michael could have been a late evacuee, because Hendon was a target of the V2 bombs, which were used towards the end of the war. He could have gone to school at the age of four, in Sept. 1943, as it was quite common for children to start at this age, and been evacuated with his school.

This scenario fulfils the criteria of him suffering in the Blitz, and being separated from his parents.

It also seems possible that he went to stay with his grandparents at Bream's Eaves.

Angharad24 has checked the electoral roll, and found that Irene Gothard was living at 1 Gloucester Court, Park Village East, NW1, in 1950, so she must have moved to the area in 1949 or 1950. She is the only person registered at that address in 1950 and 1951; Michael would have been only 10 or 11 at the time, and so would not have been included.

Angharad24 tracked down someone who lived in that area, and knew Michael and his mother between 1948 and 1952. Ritva's account is here.

Ritva says that Michael used to go to the country during school holidays, so he probably went to stay with his maternal grandparents, in or near Bream, on the edge of the Forest of Dean. On visiting the area, Angharad24 found that horse-riding is a popular activity there; this is probably where Michael learned to ride.

Around 1951, he was a member of the 15th St. Pancras Boy Scout Troop, as part of a patrol listed below:
L Clark
D Fielder
M Gothard
B Hillier
B Janes
J Kesner
D Parr
J Smith
R Murphy
R Corrie

Aileen McClintock wrote to various North London schools but no one remembered Michael going there. He went to a state school per. the BFI notes on Herostratus.

I asked one of Michael's friends from the 1980s, "Did he ever talk about his early life?"

Sean McCormick replied: "No. He never really talked to much about his parents ... I'm sure they were working folk."

Michael’s former girlfriend N.B., who first met him in 1984, says:

“Unfortunately I never met his mother … I don’t know what happened to his father, either. I just know that he was very upset that his mother never told him the truth about his father when he was little.

Because it was his father who kept seeing him as a child, but his mother told him to call that man “uncle” and he thought it was just an acquaintance of his mother’s.

But sometime later his father vanished from his life completely, a fact that Michael never bore easily.

I don't quite remember whether he just imagined it, or if his mother had ever made such allusions, but he thought it possible that his father was German or had German blood. He was often asked if he had German blood, but maybe just because of his surname and not because of his looks.”

Post-war Britain would have been an uncomfortable time for anyone who could have been taken for German.

From 1952 to 1958, a man named Jack Walker was living at 1 Gloucester Court with Irene. Jack was presumably a new partner, and unofficial step-father for Michael, rather than a lodger, although depending on the dates, it is also possible that the man Ritva had seen around that time was Michael's real father.

It seems possible that conflict with Jack Walker was one of the reasons Michael left home so young, but it could also have been to do with his mother's refusal to talk about his father.
Per research by Aileen McClintock:

On 12 September 1939, Michael was registered for a wartime identity card.

On that date, he was living with his grandparents, Edith and William Dale, at 64 Parkend Road, West Dean, Bream, Gloucestershire.

When war was declared, Michael was sent to stay with his grandparents, away from danger. Neither of Michael's parents went with him.
On 22 January 1936, George Gothard, bachelor aged 23, employed as “porter at flats”, and living at Cedar House, Marloes Road, London W8, was married to Doris Irene Dale, spinster aged 18, of the same address.

They were married at the Register Office in Kensington.

The marriage was witnessed by E.M. Dale (probably Edith May Dale, Doris’ mother) and F. Earnshaw.

Per Angharad24: Michael's parents’ backgrounds seem poles apart. His mother came from a small close-knit rural community, and his father came from a much rougher background.

Speculation: The place where they lived when they were first married, Cedar House, Marloes Road, is very well-to-do.

It seems likely that Michael's mother, Doris, was in service at Cedar House, Marloes Square, (as there would be little work in rural Wales), and that it was there that she met George Gothard.

Marriage in a registry office used to be for disapproved or 'shotgun' wedding. If George was Jewish, as suggested in the previous post, that might have been a reason for the choice. It’s also possible that Doris was pregnant, but no child came of the marriage until Michael was born in 1939, so if she was, then she may have lost the baby.
Michael's father, George Gothard, was born on 20 March, 1912, in Deptford: a very deprived area of London.

George Gothard's father (Michael's paternal grandfather) was Joseph William Gothard, a journeyman plumber from Greenwich, London.

George's mother (Michael's paternal grandmother) was Ellen Critchell before her marriage to Joseph.

When George was born, they were living at 89 Railway Grove, Deptford, London.

At that time, George's father gave his name as 'Joe' rather than 'Joseph' on the birth certificate.

Angharad24 believes that "Gothard" was a common name among London Jews; she speculates that if Joseph was Jewish, he may have been calling himself 'Joe' to make this less obvious.
Per research by Angharad24 at the British Library:

Michael’s mother, Doris Irene Dale, was born on 15 December 1918 in Bream's Eaves, a small village in Gloucestershire, near the Forest of Dean and the Welsh border, and not far from the River Severn, Symond's Yat, and Ross-on-Wye.

Her birth certificate is in Welsh as well as English.

Doris' mother (Michael's maternal grandmother) was Edith May Preest before her marriage.

Doris' father, (Michael’s maternal grandfather) was William Alan Dale and was a Colliery Roadmaster.

Per research by Aileen McClintock, he was from Cheshire.


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