Humble Origins

I have to admit though that I never did reach the point where I felt myself fully at home in the world of External. I was neither sophisticated, overly intellectual nor from the side of the tracks that many of my colleagues came from. My background was very modest. For the family I grew up in, having sufficient resources to go out and buy Sunday dinner was a rare treat. My mother, with whom I always felt great affinity, was always most comfortable in the back pew of the church, away from the limelight. Those genes she must have passed on to me. There were others among our class of ’61 who came from similar modest origins, but who nevertheless easily made the jump. I never did.

As such I always carried inside me something of an inferiority complex, and this was to stick with me throughout the career. Years later as ambassador, there was always a part of me that was quite out of place in the world of the affluent and the urbane – and indeed the often superficial – in which ambassadors move. (…) Indeed, when I finally left the Service twenty-seven years later, there was nothing I welcomed more than the opportunity to move back into the relative obscurity of the last pew.

Photo: Bill with his parents and siblings, David and Mary, at the family home in Niagara Falls, early 1950s.