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The day John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died

  • 22 November 2023
  John Fitzgerald Kennedy May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963 Aldous Huxley 26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963 Clive Staples Lewis 29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963  


For fourteen-year-old me that Saturday morning in Geelong it was the 23rd of November 1963. (Embarrassingly enough it was years before I realised that it had really been the 22nd in Dallas, Texas. What a way to flunk a trivia question …) Waking in my little bedroom, listening to the radio (probably 3AK) and hoping to hear The Beatles, I was in an Antipodean time-warp when the news came through: President Kennedy had been shot. I ran into my parents’ bedroom to tell them, savouring all the satisfaction of the bringer of sensational news. My mother and father were grieved and shocked, but strangely unsurprised.

‘The first Catholic president’, said my dad. ‘They were always out to get him. Either the communists or the Ku Klux Klan. Just as bad as each other.’

My mother disagreed on principle, as was her wont, and then changed her mind, as was also her wont. It had to have been the communists, she thought. No-one thought it might have been anyone else. Who else would be nasty enough to want to do that? After all, the year before in 1962 back in England, we girls had all been called into class at my Lancashire convent school to pray for the peace of the whole bloody world in the Cuban missile crisis. President Kennedy had (said the nun whose name I can’t remember) challenged the Russians and averted a nuclear threat but it was a near thing, because we all knew what had happened to Hiroshima and – sort of – kind of – why.

The equation went like this: (a) Hiroshima was a terrible thing to do but had happened (b) to make the Japanese surrender before (c) the communist Soviet Russians could use them as a pretext to invade the Far East in order to (d) grab even more territory now that the European war was over and (e) that if this caused the Russians to drop an atom bomb anywhere it would be (f – in more ways than one) the end of all of us and everything. TEOTWAWKI in fact. We prayed hard that day.

When we read in the papers that this weird guy Lee Harvey Oswald had been to Russia and was accused of the murder,