Gerald Gardner (Wiccan)

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Gerald Gardner (Wiccan) : biography

13 June 1884 – 12 February 1964

In 1876 the family moved into one of the neighbouring houses, Ingle Lodge, and it was here that the couple’s third son, Gerald Brosseau Gardner, was born on Friday 13 June 1884. A fourth child, Francis Douglas Gardner, was then born in 1886. Gardner would rarely see Harold, who went on to study Law at the University of Oxford, but saw more of Bob, who drew pictures for him, and Douglas, with whom he shared his nursery.Bracelin 1960. p. 13.Heselton 2012a. p. 29. The Gardners employed an Irish nursemaid named Georgiana "Com" McCombie, who was entrusted with taking care of the young Gerald; she would subsequently become the dominant figure of his childhood, spending far more time with him than his parents.Bracelin 1960. p. 14.Heselton 2012a. pp. 29–31. Gardner suffered with asthma from a young age, having particular difficulty in the cold Lancashire winters. His nursemaid offered to take him to warmer climates abroad at his father’s expense in the hope that this condition would not be so badly affected.Heselton 2012a. p. 32. Subsequently, in summer 1888, Gerald and Com traveled via London to Nice in the south of France.Heselton 2012a. pp. 32–33. After several more years spent in the Mediterranean, in 1891 they went to the Canary Islands, and it was here that Gardner first developed his lifelong interest in weaponry.Bracelin 1960. p. 15.Heselton 2012a. pp. 33–34. From there, they then went on to Accra in the Gold Coast (modern Ghana).Bracelin 1960. p. 17.Heselton 2012a. pp. 35–36. Accra was followed by a visit to Funchal on the Portuguese colony of Madeira; they would spend most of the next nine years on the island, only returning to England for three or four months in the summer.Bracelin 1960. p. 18.Heselton 2012a. p. 36.

According to Gardner’s first biographer, Jack Bracelin, Com was very flirtatious and "clearly looked on these trips as mainly manhunts", viewing Gardner as a nuisance.Heselton 2012a. pp. 34–35. As a result, he was largely left to his own devices, which he spent going out, meeting new people and learning about foreign cultures.Heselton 2012a. p. 39. In Madeira, he also began collecting weapons, many of which were remnants from the Napoleonic Wars, displaying them on the wall of his hotel room.Heselton 2012a. pp. 39–40. As a result of his illness and these foreign trips, Gardner ultimately never attended school, or gained any formal education.Heselton 2012a. p. 31. He taught himself to read by looking at copies of The Strand Magazine but his writing betrayed his poor education all his life, with highly eccentric spelling and grammar.Bracelin 1960. p. 19.Heselton 2012a. p. 40. A voracious reader, one of the books that most influenced him at the time was Florence Marryat’s There Is No Death (1891), a discussion of spiritualism, and from which that he gained a firm belief in the existence of an afterlife.Bracelin 1960. pp. 19–20.Heselton 2012a. pp. 40–41.

Ceylon and Borneo: 1900–1911

In 1900, Com married David Elkington, one of her many suitors who owned a tea plantation in British-occupied Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka).Bracelin 1960. p. 20.Heselton 2012a. pp. 43–44. It was agreed with the Gardners that Gerald would live with her on a tea plantation named Ladbroke Estate in Maskeliya district, where he could learn the tea trade.Bracelin 1960. pp. 22–23.Heselton 2012a. pp. 44, 46. In 1901 Gardner and the Elkingtons lived briefly in a bungalow in Kandy, where a neighbouring bungalow had just been vacated by the occultists Aleister Crowley and Charles Henry Allan Bennett.Bracelin 1960. p. 26.Heselton 2012a. pp. 47–48. At his father’s expense, Gardner trained as a "creeper", or trainee planter, learning all about the growing of tea; although he disliked the "dreary endlessness" of the work, he enjoyed being outdoors and near to the forests.Heselton 2012a. pp. 48–49. He lived with the Elkingtons until 1904, when he moved into his own bungalow and began earning a living working on the Non Pareil tea estate below the Horton Plains. He spent much of his spare time hunting deer and trecking through the local forests, becoming acquainted with the Singhalese natives and taking a great interest in their Buddhist beliefs.Bracelin 1960. pp. 27,30.Heselton 2012a. pp. 50–52. In December 1904, his parents and younger brother visited, with his father asking him to invest in a pioneering rubber plantation which Gardner was to manage; located near the village of Belihil Oya, it was known as the Atlanta Estate, but allowed him a great deal of leisure time.Bracelin 1960. pp. 28–29.Heselton 2012a. pp. 52–53. Exploring his interest in weaponry, in 1907 he joined the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, a local volunteer force composed of European tea and rubber planters intent on protecting their interests from foreign aggression or domestic insurrection.Bracelin 1960. p. 34.Heselton 2012a. pp. 55–56.