Secrets of bishop's father revealed

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Derwentside & Tyneside)

THE secret life of the Bishop of Durham's father was revealed by a Sunday newspaper yesterday (Sunday). 

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that businessman Gavin Welby, father of Justin Welby, had disguised his real name and German-Jewish roots, and invented an aristocratic English persona in America, where made a fortune in the drinks industry and organised debutante balls.

Speaking to the newspaper, in his first interview since accepting the job as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Welby said he lived with his father from the age of three, but barely knew him.

“It wasn’t an easy upbringing. Living with someone who’s got an alcohol dependency is complicated, to put it at its mildest.

“He was very affectionate, brilliant intellectually but quite demanding.”

The bishop was 21 years old, studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, when his father died of a heart attack in 1977 but the Sunday Telegraph said the name and date of birth given at his time of death were both wrong.

The bishop, a former oil executive, said: “I lived with him but I didn’t know him very well.

“He told lots of stories but one was never really sure what was true and what wasn’t. He drank quite heavily and, you know, he would say things sometimes when he had been drinking and you did not know what was true or not.”

His father was born Bernard Gavin Weiler, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Germany, though he never told his son he had any Jewish ancestry.

He had been married in America, but kept it a secret all his life, had an affair with the sister of John F Kennedy and later dated the actress Vanessa Redgrave.

He stood for Parliament as a Conservative candidate, but was sued for libel by his Labour opponent, Richard Crossman. His sister, whose identity he never disclosed, married a Labour MP who had been a Communist.

The bishop said: “He was a great keeper of secrets. I think he told people the stories that he wanted them to believe and kept the rest quietly to himself.”

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