by Trinette Wellesley-Wesley
James came from a family whose ancestors had connections to Ireland since the 11th century.
He himself farmed there for many years. His house was situated on a lake that was considered magical and an entrance to the other world since Neolithic times. There is an island in the middle of the lake that was considered a holy site in those early times, and today archaeologists and students still flock there. It is a place where the veil between this world and the other world is very thin.
In order to understand James one has to understand this background. Ireland was the country of his soul. His sensitivity to the deeply subtle spiritual energies of that place and others like it underlies other aspects of his personality. His mind had that Irish quirkiness that made unexpected connections that could be very funny or profound. He liked taking people off guard, and questioned accepted assumptions.
He was shy, and could be very withdrawn but if he felt at ease and understood, he would blossom and be very open and entertaining. All the letters received mention his sense of humour. He also had the gift of relating to other shy people and putting them at ease. He shunned social gatherings, but enjoyed being with just one or two other couples.
He was deeply committed to do his part in saving the world from the path of war, greed and injustice on which it is embarked, and was often deeply disappointed to see how little has been achieved.
He combined in an unusual way a very strong intellect, and practical abilities. For James the art of cooking was the greatest art, because it pleases all the senses and cannot be collected.
He put a lot of effort into making every meal a feast, even when in later years he became increasingly exhausted and in pain. It was one of his ways to express his love.
If he met someone in need he would immediately start thinking “Is there anything we could do to help?”
James considered himself to be a farmer. He had a deep connection with the land, and an experiential understanding of the realities of the farming life. When he moved in intellectual circles and took part in international conferences where renowned professors took part, he always registered his profession as farmer, much to the amusement of those who knew him. Yet he was considered by many of those to be brilliant. I made sure he himself didn’t think that.
He was deeply committed to the practice of meditation.
I am amazed to see how many people, some of whom did not even have the occasion to speak to him, were impressed with his way of being, and how he exuded something very beautiful.
He was happy in Saint Barths. He felt surrounded by loving caring people, so we are deeply grateful to each of you for that.
Michael Wellesley-Wesley (eldest son of James's brother)
These words of welcome were invariably accompanied by that puckish smile that was so engaging and unforgettable.
And it was with these words that James always welcomed me back into his life.
The following few days tended to follow a predictable pattern – on the most mundane level several minor skirmishes played out between us over who would pay any particular restaurant bill – battles which I always lost to his and Trinette’s generosity and their willingness to resort to every conceivable subterfuge.
More precious by far though are the memories of the many stimulating conversations we had together over the years. Conversations that revealed tantalizing and fleeting impressions of this most enigmatic and interesting man.
James was a sensitive, generous, caring and above all gentle man. His intellectual and spiritual curiosity and his urge to explore place him firmly into the nineteenth century British tradition of duty and responsibility as did his abhorrence of cruelty and injustice. However at an early age James soon found himself at odds with the conventions and restrictions of the English upper class into which he was born.
He had a rebellious and very Irish originality about him. He hated the pomposity and pretension of so many of his contemporaries as well as their willingness to accept, unquestioningly the mores and bigotry of post war English society. It was no accident that James lived so happily with Trinette in France, Rome, North Carolina, St. Barths and his beloved Ireland. England – the land of his birth was a country that he could take only in very small doses!
He was a shy and modest man – at no point in our conversations did he attempt to impose his views but slowly and inevitably the well thought out logic of his argument would emerge as I questioned him about his position and as he in the kindest of ways made me question my own assumptions. Even when I disagreed with him it was rare to come away from a conversation with James without seeing the world in a new and different way.
He was a deep thinker who had little time for small talk yet not once did he make me feel silly or inferior or predictable and I loved him for that.
I wanted to share this most interesting of men with my wife Mariza and with our children. It was a huge pleasure for me to see him relate to them and for them to get to know him over the past two years. With James there was no sense of age or generation gap, no imposition of views, just a friendly passing of wisdom and experience from one generation to the next.
He made a profound impression on all of them and I am so pleased that they had the opportunity to meet and appreciate this unique and very special man. After all how many children have a great uncle who at the age of 81 put out on the internet a call for worldwide protest by women and children against war and oppression ?
“How cool is that Dad?” was the eloquent reaction of my middle daughter, Clemmie.
When I said goodbye to him in hospital three weeks ago he told me about his attempts to join the British navy in 1943 at the age of 16. How he failed his first medical exam because he was truthful about the bout of pneumonia he had suffered as a boy.
The following week he returned – but to a different navy recruiting office where he made no mention of his history of childhood illness and was signed up immediately.
In a small way this sums up James – Throughout his life his was an indomitable spirit in a frail body. I have no doubt that as a philosopher he would have had little difficulty in justifying so small a lie in pursuit of what he would have seen as the greater good.
Part mystic, part psychologist, part humanitarian James believed that the world could be changed through a rediscovery of the spiritual self that exists within all of us. He risked the ridicule and condescension of the more materialistic and conventional world.
His chosen path might so easily have been a lonely and solitary one but God truly smiled upon him when he led him to Trinette who he loved so deeply and who is his soul mate. Where he might have drifted she gave him direction and purpose, she believed in him and in what he was trying to achieve, she was the centre of his world and she made him complete. Thank you Trinette.
“The very best of Irish luck to you Mike” he said as we parted for the last time and he gave me the same knowing enigmatic smile – a smile that suggested that he knew we were unlikely to see each other again in this life and that he was at peace and curious about whatever was coming next.
“The best of Irish luck to you as well James” was my reply and it was only after I had closed the door to his hospital room that I wished I had added the words ……“Hail James”
Brother-in-law of James
James n’est plus parmi nous, mais il restera pourtant infiniment présent dans nos esprits et nos cœurs parce que nous nous rendons compte que nous avons perdu un homme tout à fait extraordinaire, que nous aimions.
Je suis le frère de Trinette, et depuis quinze ans j’ai passé un mois d’hiver avec James et Trinette.
James avait un esprit fort original, et avec son expérience si variée et ses lectures éclectiques, il pouvait proposer des idées neuves sur un nombre incalculable de sujets.
James et Trinette avaient, tout au long des 38 ans de leur mariage, un façon unique de passer les soirées ensemble. Ils choisissaient un livre qui les intéressait tous les deux et James lisait à haut voix tandis que Trinette écoutait en faisant un ouvrage manuel.
Je voudrais parler de James comme hôte.
On ne peut imaginer un homme plus prévenant et discret. Avec son sens de l’observation et sa psychologie il essayait toujours de faire en sorte que vos désirs, même non exprimés soient satisfaits.
A table on n’avait pas besoin de demander qu’on passe le beurre ou le pain, car James l’avait déjà fait.
Il se donnait un mal fou pour préparer des repas délicieux, et pour nous servir des vins si bien choisis pour s’harmoniser avec les plats servis.
Avec son esprit original et sa vaste culture il arrivait en une fraction de seconde a faire des connections inattendues qui nous donnaient des fou rires sans fin par leur drôlerie .
Il a été toute sa vie à la recherche du mystère de la vie. Maintenant il sait.
Remercions Dieu de l’avoir mis sur nos chemins, car par
sa façon d’être, ses sollicitudes discrètes,
sa spiritualité et son extraordinaire originalité il a égayé et éclairé nos
Prepared for the Bulletin of the
World Futures Studies Federation
1. How did I meet James Wellesley Wesley?
I first met Robert Jungk, the writer and a great person who, in my view up to today, is still one of the most forward looking future thinkers who could almost feel the future and the future needs of people.
I met Bob Jungk in Kyoto, in 1970, where the second international futures conference was held. The first had been held on initiative of Robert Jungk, James Wellesley Wesley and Johan Galtung in Oslo in 1967 and was the first international conference, always considered the birth of what later became the World Futures Studies Federation .
The Oslo conference was thought and prepared by Mankind 2000, founded in London in 1965 with the intention of developing future thinking. Many of the futurists of today do not probably know this initiative which was initiated by Wellesley Wesley before either WFSF or WFS were born. For all these reasons I came into contact with James mostly through Robert Jungk.
I still remember my meeting with Robert Jungk in Kyoto in 1970, I had met him as a writer a few years before while working on social change as a sociologist and I came into contact with the writings of Bertrand de Jouvenel, Robert Jungk and Johan Galtung. I had been invited, as the only Italian, at the meeting. I felt thrilled and shy, made my presentation and Bob knelt beside my seat and said: ”But who are you?. As a consequence I later met James and Johan as well as Tony Judge. James had prepared the charter for the WFSF which was presented in Bucharest in 1972 which became the basis for WFSF statutes used for many years after.
2. Common endeavours
The World Futures Studies Federation was founded formally in 1973 at UNESCO, in the presence of many futurists, such as Bertrand de Jouvenel, George Guéron, Mahdi Elmandjra , who was at the time Deputy Director of UNESC0. I was also present.
The real common endeavour with James as well as Trinette, started next year. I also considered both of them as friends. They were living in Rome and not very far from my house. I was at the time working at IRADES (Istituto Ricerche Applicate Documentazione e Studi) where I had the opportunity, after my studies in law and sociology at the University of Rome, to develop with some good assistance and some funds, the so called, at the time, Human and Social Forecasting. IRADES offered to sponsor and prepare the next conference in futures studies and, having the funds, was able to invite many people, sponsoring the presence of participants from Central and Eastern European Countries as well as developing countries.
James helped in the content part of the conference and helped me to build a creative programme with the title ”Human Needs, New Societies, Supportive Technologies”. I do not think the conference would have been such a success without his almost hidden intellectual support and advice. I learned at the time much about futures studies, about people as well as about James himself.
The conference was a success that stimulated many things around the world as participants came from many cultures and regions.
IRADES soon collapsed for not very clear reasons, I have thought much about the reasons and enquired much about it with no success. I only understood, in 1975, that I would not stay on for what seemed to me very unclear. I decided to leave IRADES in one day.
Immediately after I was called at the Gregorian University to open the course in Human and Social Futures Studies which become a chair of the Faculty of Social Sciences. I carried the course which is continuing under the responsibility of one of my PhD’s in Futures Studies, Riccardo Cinquegrani. In almost 30 years I was responsible for the course and I also tutored 25 PhD in Futures Studies students in the last ten years.
At the same time, I carried out my work as Secretary General of WFSF and later as President, in my office at my home with the help of Anna Arista, who help me through the Rome conference as well as many others through the years and was to be my assistant for almost 30 years.
James and Trinette left Italy soon after the conference. I wish to stress once more that without James’ support always discrete and almost in silence, the conference in Rome could never have been such a success, although I studied and read all I possibly could in my short time in Futures Studies (5 years) as well as joining all conferences and meetings held during that period.
3. What I mostly remember of James
I remember his evident desire to understand each person and all the people he met whoever they were and try to give them the possibility to express themselves.
James never wished or tried to show how much he knew about the various subjects that were being discussed. He had a wide culture and a deep understanding of many areas and subjects. He was also capable of almost feeling the other’s deep needs whatever their aims or even beliefs.
James was always ready to help, and he certainly did help IRADES and the people working in it, as well as many of the participants in the conference, many of whom were his friends. The Rome conference was a memorable event for many people involved in Futures Studies, beginning to be interested or engaged in other disciplines or areas.
He had an office in IRADES but never requested anything special. James had certainly also a deep sense of humour that surprised me both because it was unexpected and because it was always to the point.
I was very sorry that he did not have a chance to meet my mother with whom, in my view, he had many similarities in character . This I never told either Jim or Trinette. My mother came from Scotland and had a similar way to that of James of not ever appearing much and at the same time having a wide culture and a deep unexpected sense of humour. I felt I could understand James because I knew so well my mother and I could see main common traits. This I think, is what first attracted me to work with him.
James and I shared a great desire, maybe in different ways, to help and even save others and the world at large. We both were against any form of violence and certainly war. The reasons, for me were that the first years of my life developed in an authoritarian regime like fascism which had deeply hurt both my father and my mother. My mother, Scottish and hence English, was for the fascists, an enemy in the social environment we lived in, certainly in Rome and even, if in a lesser manner, on the Italian Riviera where we spent part of World War II.
Finally I was happy to work with him because I knew that Trinette, his wife, shared his feelings and the hopes I have just tried to described.
This is certainly not the whole history of James Wellesley Wesley’s life, its my short personal experience in meeting him and at the same time his importance in both the birth of WFSF and in its crucial moments as was the Rome conference in 1973.
Anthony Judge knew him much better than I did and has written a very good description of his entire life. Tony has been a member of WFSF for a long time with always a constructive critical attitude to it.
I know that this remembrance is personal, as well as related to my own life. I hope this might be useful to younger people involved or interested in Futures Studies, to enable their understand of what kind of person James Wellesley Wesley was as well as how important his contribution to future thinking has been and still is in the present and will be in the future.
James Wellesley-Wesley by Diana Bourel
In Remembrance of James Wellesley-Wesley by Anthony Judge
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.