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Panic!

johnnyatninety7Long-time Shipton resident, Johnny Graham, had a nasty moment back in 1955, a memory that remains fixed in his mind over 60 years later, and one that has a topical ring to it.

Dr Billy Graham, the great evangelist of the 1950s and ‘60s, died in February 2018. I never met him and never attended any of his mass meetings at which thousands used to come forward to be saved, but I once had a vicarious brush with him.

It was in Geneva in the summer of 1955. I was there as the junior member of Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan’s team, in support of Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, at the first four-power summit meeting – President Eisenhower, Mollet, the French President and Khruschev and Bulganin leading the Soviet Union. It was my first experience of such a meeting and I was learning ‘on the job’ what my role was.

I was in my room in the rather grand hotel where, in those days, British delegations stayed. (I don’t think they do now – too expensive). The telephone rang:
“Is that Mr Graham?”
I confirmed this.
“When are you addressing the meeting?”
Panic. Whatever my duties were, they did not run to addressing the heads of government. My horror must have conveyed down the line as the caller asked,
“That is Mr Billy Graham, is it?”
Saved, but not in the sense of Billy Graham’s teaching.

June – July 2018