Story 5

Expanding internationally

Having spent many years at the BBC as a drama producer, I decided to take a sabbatical after being awarded a BAFTA for my production of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’.

Ron Travers with Her Majesty the Queen

Whilst enjoying a rest with my wife, who was a volunteer at Le Court, the first Cheshire home, she invited Leonard to dinner.

Like so many who met Leonard, I was immediately attracted to his charisma. It was not long before my telephone was kept busy discussing the future of the homes with him. Before long I found myself as international director and deputy to the founder! This involved practically daily contact with Leonard, including following up enquiries from people asking about the establishment of Cheshire homes.

Endless talks to organisations such as Rotary Clubs followed, and later standing in for Leonard at international conferences. Although his workload was increasing, he still found time for his beloved game of tennis.

My first lone visit was to America, from where Leonard had received an enquiry from a doctor to go out and explore the possibility of setting up a home. As the years went by, more homes followed, with international gatherings from time to time from all over the world. If an attempt to open a home failed, Leonard, who had a faith stronger than anyone I have met, would simply say: ‘Never mind Ron, the Good Lord will show us when the time is right.’ I’m happy to say that the American project was successful and the Good Lord was right! Everywhere we went we received endless hospitality.

Soon, Leonard’s health was failing and I was by his side more and more. One glorious moment was at an International Week which was held in Rome. At least one delegate from every country was to be presented to the Pope. As I knew all their names and which country they came from, the presentations fell to me. At dinner that night a woman leaned across the table and said: ‘You really are Leonard’s minder aren’t you?’ Sharp as ever, Leonard said: ‘Not at all. He’s my reminder.’

He was loved by everyone. Having witnessed the poverty in India, he had longed to build a home there. At that time foreigners were forbidden to own land. He was invited to tea one day at Government House, with Nehru, who had heard about him and all that he had done. After tea, Nehru called for his car, and said goodbye to Leonard. He then turned to his private secretary with tears in his eyes and said: ‘That is the greatest man I have met since Gandhi. Give him the land I know he wants.’

Like so many who met Leonard, I was immediately attracted to his charisma.