Rohan McCullough


Endless kindness, comforting cheer, guidance and encouragement to live life as well as I could 

19 January 2021

My memories of Paul are so scattered little thoughts and images here and there and all I can say is that I met him when he was sitting in the stalls at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London where I was playing in Hair in 1968. I was 21. His friend Daniel Revenaugh introduced me he was a bumptious American conductor, a great character. I met Paul again limping along near London University, in Gordon Square. He had asked me for lunch. It was my first sight of him walking with a crutch. I had never been to university, so I felt very shy, but he didn’t seem to mind.


He would come and go from London, and I would see him sometimes for lunch or breakfast and one day– it was New Year's Day and London was so quiet– he liked a smart hotel called the Carlton Towers.  It overlooked Cadogan Square which was so pretty and he loved seeing it empty, and still. Paul preferred breakfast as he felt better then. One day he was meant to go to Berlin but it was a lovely day in London so he sent his lecture to Berlin by telegram instead!

Paul took me to the theatre to see Stevie, a play about the poet Stevie Smith, with Glenda Jackson which in fact was written by my future husband Hugh Whitemore! We went to see the first of Tom Stoppard's plays and I hardly understood a word but I was so relieved afterwards when he sighed and said “too many references, too many references.”  He took me to a lot of theatre. I remember seeing Henry Vth and some operas – I think I was working for a music manager. Paul was very keen on singing – he sang in Germany and he wanted to be a singer; it kept him going.

I had been ill and had been seeing a very unorthodox Hungarian doctor, with a hunched back and blue eyes. He made you follow a very strict diet, but he made me feel better like nobody else. It was extraordinary – I remember walking out of his little place almost on a high, at last to feel well! Paul was curious and so I introduced him to Beno. Paul was astonished by him and gave up his teaching to be able to concentrate on the treatments, cancelled his other appointments to be looked after by him. He stuck to the rigid diet and was a great support to me because it was very difficult as my parents were in a panic about the doctor. He helped because they couldn’t understand why I went to this odd little man and not a Harley Street specialist, but my father adored Paul.

He came to my parents' flat and met Michael Elliott, a distinguished theatre director, and he urged me to continue to know Michael and to work with him again – I'd already worked with him once (and I ended up living with him!)

In the same visit he saw all my carrier bags of clutter, bits of string and ribbon, old notebooks and letters, and simply said 'Rohan, you don’t need...' and simply walked out with half of them! I have always thought of Paul when I DON'T throw clutter away! He was the only person who helped me with the steering wheel in the car if I was in a tight spot (no automatic steering in those days). I always thought I was so stupid, I had no academic qualifications at all and he said he would write a book for me that I would understand! As we were having breakfast (he liked to meet for breakfast because it was when he felt at his best), he said maybe the book would be about scrambled eggs!


He always wanted to eat in the same little restaurant and have what the doctor wanted him to eat. Chicken soup and vegetables and apple pie afterwards.

I saw him in his wheelchair for the first time at his home in Berkeley. I remember sitting, overlooking the bay, with him in his wheelchair telling me about the stars, and the view, and complaining how the pollution was getting worse, spoiling things. This might just be my bad memory, but he looked up which country had the least pollution and rang up New Zealand as the skies were clearer there and asked the university if he could come and work!


I remember the sixtieth birthday dinner of a friend of mine, Victoria Rothschild, at Trinity College, Cambridge. Her sister, Emma, was married to the Master of the College. At the start of dinner, we were told to sit down and there was no placement; for some reason, I found myself sitting next to the Master. Rather desperate, with my lowly five O Levels, I suddenly thought, 'I wonder whether he knows Paul Feyerabend' and he did and he was delighted. It was an absolute success: I've thanked Paul in my dreams ever since. Saving my academic bacon.

I introduced him to a very good friend called Boris Biancheri. Boris was the Italian Ambassador in London. Paul and he loved each other's company, and Paul tried to persuade him to join academic life, but no success. Boris wouldn't give up foreign office life, as much as Paul tried. Boris’s uncle, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, wrote The Gattopardo (Leopard).

Paul came to the opera house where I was working in San Francisco, doing Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict - I was the speaking Beatrice to Frederica von Stade's who sung Beatrice, performing the narration. Paul said he liked it, but I am not sure he did!

This is where I am not sure of the facts or if this is my own fiction, but what I seem to remember is him talking about the war, being on the front. I got the impression he had to crawl from one group of soldiers to the other, through the snow, to keep them going, keep them awake, by telling them all about the stars above them. It is so clear to me, that blue-black sky and the terrifying cold. I wish I'd asked him more about it, I so wish I'd asked. It's a real regret.

Again, I don't know if it's my imaginings or fact: he talked about retreating before the Russians and realising the battalion before him had thought they were last and so burnt all they could and so Paul’s men had to build bridges again and get back somehow. He said they were in a small cluster of burnt-out houses when was shot in the back and his first thought was 'Thank goodness, I will be out of the war and allowed to read' (or something like that, I’ve forgotten exactly).I still regret to this day that I didn’t ask him more about it.

He was staying in a frightfully fashionable hotel called Blake's, a really SWINGING LONDON sort of hotel. His own hotel had a problem and he had to move out and Blake's was close by. It was so funny to see him surrounded by Swinging London at its height, in his old beret, shoulder bag, raincoat and crutches.

Once I was tour with the Old Vic Theatre in Zurich and he drove me around Zurich at breakneck speed he had a new car that didn't have pedals, he didn't have to use his feet at all and all the pedals were in his hands. He was thrilled and loved driving it; I was terrified. I remember praying that I would get to the theatre that night all in one piece!

But my main memory of him was of his kindness, endless kindness. His comforting cheer and his guidance and encouragement to live life as well as I could.