23 – The Book of Evidence

For those still disbelieving of the connection I’ve made between Kay Swift and Aideen O’Connor, here is the evidence, and how the case was proven.

As I’ve said, Aideen’s journals from 1939 spoke of two friends who supported her throughout that difficult year, including being sacked by a Broadway director, Arthur’s hospitalization with TB and Frolie’s death. One of them was ‘Iris’, wife of producer Eddie Choate. The other was ‘Kay’.

I couldn’t let it go. These ladies were too important to Aideen.

There were no actresses called ‘Kay’ in any of the shows Aideen appeared in, and she had never appeared before.

In the Shields Family archive in Galway, there is a pile of Visa documentation detailing the immigration status of Arthur and Aideen. Numerous producers, actors and other businessmen signed papers to vouch for the Abbey actors over the years; it proved little. But there was this one:

Scope and Content:Letter from Elbert B. Knowles, Assistant Vice President United States Trust Company of New York addressed to the American Consul General, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The letter certifies that ‘Mrs. Kay Swift Hubbard (Mrs. Faye Hubbard)’ enjoys an annual income from a trust fund in excess of $10,000.’ This letter may be connected to Aideen O’Connor gaining an extension on her residency in the United States. Kay Swift Hubbard was a Broadway producer.
Extent:1 page

In May Craig’s scrapbook in UCD, I found notes for her ‘memoirs’. She remembered meeting Kay and George Gershwin in San Francisco, at one of the early productions of Porgy and Bess. Still tenuous. Increasingly so.

There was also a ‘Kay Swift’ who stayed with Aideen and Arthur in Hollywood in 1943, when her book was being made into a film. I became intrigued and started to research her life.

NUIG Library kindly agreed to order the only biography of Kay Swift, aptly named Fine and Dandy. But I was impatient, so I ordered a book on Amazon called The Memory of All That, by Swift’s granddaughter Katharine Weber.

I started reading it on Friday night. By lunchtime on Saturday, I’d cancelled my plans for the weekend. I stayed in my pyjamas, mostly in bed, reading The Memory of All That and drinking coffee. I left the book down once, to buy Fine and Dandy  on Itunes. And then Porgy and Bess. 

There were things in the book that rhymed with so much of Aideen’s life. Not just dates and places, but sentiments. These women were so alike: strong, independent, flouting conventions, loving life and men with reckless abandon. These aspects of their personalities also brought them loss and pain and struggles. Their independence was hard-won and they paid the price, for many years.

It’s a wonderful book: full of facts and yet rich with atmosphere. It’s touching and intimate without ever veering into sentimentality. It’s the kind of book I can only aspire to write. After one too many cups of coffee, I wrote an email to Katharine Weber telling her that. Then I chickened out of sending it. Instead, I finally got dressed at some point on Sunday afternoon. I tramped along the strand, listening to Fine and Dandy over and over and imagining these women together in New York in 1939.

Aideen-power was retrieved; what the hell did I have to lose? So, I sent a (re-drafted) email to Katharine Weber.

And when she saw the extant item from the Shields Collection, she saw something that I never could have.

To secure Aideen’s residency, Kay Swift offered the US Trust Account that had been set up for her by Nina and Paul Warburg, the parents of her first husband. It was not money that she flaunted or would easily have parted with; it was tied up with too much family history and emotion. For Kay to offer such support, Aideen must have been a close and treasured friend …


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *