An Interview with Sir Walter Gilbreth | The Good Adventurers

Walter Ella watermarkedSir Walter Gilbreth was destined for greatness from the earliest hour of his inception. He is the best example of why it important that writers keep lists of names.

More than two years ago, I shot off a quick email to a friend. It contained two lists of four names each, Christian names and surnames. She said she liked the combination of Walter and Gilbreth. I agreed.

He became the immortal Englishman in my mind, though I didn’t know enough about England and all that entails to make him that in The Good Adventurers.  Today, I grant you the pleasure of meeting him.

And here’s a picture of what I first modeled him after and always tried to imagine away.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Dream cast selection. (This is for you, Abby.)

   A picture flashed into Lord Hathaway’s mind of the outside of Newgate Prison more than a score of years before, and the memory of a ragged and shivering, red-haired waif whose nose was not red by reason of the cold, trying to build enough confidence to tell  him that his father was the man being hanged in the courtyard of the prison.

   “For killin’ a policeman, your lor’ship.”



Where were you born and where do you call home?

Glasgow, Scotland. Though I have not lived in Scotland since my babyhood, Scotland runs deep in my veins. When I retire, if I retire, I would like to seek peace in the deep country. I may feel at home in London, but my heart is at home wherever my darling wife may be, and my true home is Heaven.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


What is your most treasured possession?

The thing I value most is my worth and trust to other people.

What is your motto?

From the Proverbs: ‘Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.’

What is your favorite color? 

Grey. It is the color of rain, ever present in the city I live in and love. Some think it drab, but I feel like it’s peaceful.

What is your most treasured memory?

The memory of my mother and father, happy together.

Who are some people you love and would suffer for?

My wife and children. Lord and Lady Bertram, for the debt of gratitude I owe to them. Peter, for his pluck and determination and his foolhardiness. My country and my king. Basically, anybody deserving.

How do you picture yourself?

Frightfully tall and very awkward. Lady Bertram took me in hand when Lord Bertram promoted me and taught me how to conduct myself. She never told me outright how clumsy I was and am, but I knew by comparing myself to her graceful person. She did that because she was setting me up wither her cousin. (It was wildly a successful match, by the way.) I have hair like a fire, and my features are a bit horse-y. Not that you cared to know.

What is your favorite pastime?

Motoring. My first car was a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, my first extravagance, and I have kept it despite every new and better model that has become available. I also enjoy leading my Sunday School in Bethnal Green.

What is a strange coincidence you have experienced?

The son of the man my father killed coming to me for work. I will never be able to describe the turmoil that I felt when I understood who Max was, or the overwhelming desire to make up to him everything he never had because of my father’s violence.

What are some traits you admire and champion?

Temperance. Abstinent men are a rare breed here in England. Alcohol had a terrible impact on my childhood and an enormous influence on the man I am. If I could I would run for office and try to pass a prohibition bill.

   “The sooner the better, I say.” Sir Walter dictated to a haggard Lord Hathaway. “The sooner the public knows the truth, the sooner the rumors will cease, and the business will be stable once more.”

   “But the scandal! Scandal! It is all that will come of it!”

   “Of course! ” shouted Sir Walter.  “What did you expect? A picnic? You must be out with it!”

–From The Good Adventurers


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