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roger williams 3We were deeply dismayed recently to hear that London Historians Member Roger Williams had passed away, on 23 August following a heart attack.

Roger had been a Member of long-standing, having joined us early on, in 2012. He was an enthusiastic supporter of London Historians as a group but also of our members individually. A regular fixture at LH monthly pub meet-ups, he was marvellous company and kindness personified. Many of our members have experienced ready advice, suggestions, the loan (or often gift) of a book or magazine, or myriad other acts of kindness.

Roger was, first and foremost, a writer. A professional journalist for most of his career, he also wrote many books, the ones in recent years focusing on London and in particular, the Thames. Roger was also an active member of the Docklands History Group which, like us, benefited from his support and wisdom.

As for Roger’s background before we met him, his wife Pam kindly sent us both the picture you see above, taken in Genoa only last June, and these words:

Roger was born in Wimbledon in 1947 and grew up and went to school there. He had (has) two sisters. He left school at 17 and went straight into journalism, working initially on a trade magazine. I met him when he was 23 and we spent a few years roaming around Europe, teaching English in Italy for a while and working in a bar in Spain. He then worked on Mayfair magazine (I know!!) and Titbits (I’m a bit vague on the chronology). We bought our first home, a flat in Fulham, where our daughter Joby was born in 1978. We then moved to Putney. He worked on the Sunday Times Magazine but left when Murdoch took the paper to Wapping, although he later returned as a freelance and spent several years there, making many friends. He wrote two anti-nuclear books for WH Allen. We moved out to rural Kent in 1990 and he then wrote Lunch with Elizabeth David – published by Little Brown – which was quite well received. After that he concentrated mainly on travel writing and editing, mostly for Insight Guides and Dorling Kindersley. With the advance of technology, and our move back to London in 2009, he got into self-publishing, and furthered his interest in London and the Thames. He then wrote the three London books you know about and that brings us up to date when you first knew him.”

Our deepest condolences go to both Pam and Joby.

Thank-you, Roger. We’ll miss you.

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A guest post by LH Member Roger Williams. 

I awake early, a joke fading in my dreams concerning a current bun being so-named as it is an on-going thing, and trying to recall the threads of disparate pieces of work. They tumble out in no particular order, but today I must go over my text for a Sardinia wildlife book to be published shortly in Italy, write a report for Cornucopia on the Venetian island of Giudecca as the new arts centre in Venice, put up a post on London Historians about the press launch of the Painted Hall, chase Capadoccia university to find out what has happened to my paper on Cevat Sakir, the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, which I delivered before Christmas and have heard nothing since, tidy up the talk I gave Greenwich Industrial Society last week, so it is ready for its next outing, check train time to Grimsby for fish research, see who has been reading my papers on academia.org, update my book audit, deal with images for my interview with Canadian historical fiction writer Christian Cameron now being laid out at Minerva magazine, and while I am at it see what has happened about payments for images used in my John Ruskin piece, get on with my article about the Trimmer family of Brentford for the Turner Society magazine, check on tomorrow’s visit to Turks of Richmond about my Turner boat trip in September as part of the Thames festival… and I had better reply to this email from Mike Paterson asking me if I have any news for the April newsletter. Well, no, I can’t think of anything at the moment.


Very amusing. If this chimes with you and you’d like to hang out with like-minded folks, join London Historians today! ~ Ed


Roger is a long-standing member of London Historians. He has published books on the East India Company, the Thames whitebait industry, JMW Turner, non-religious buildings in the City of London and the Thames itself. Oh, and a book of poetry.

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Victims of our own success (600+ Members), we have run out of stock of Member cards featuring a design from 2013.

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And here is the previous generation design from 2011. Gorgeous: my favourite.

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What this means is we now have an opportunity to do a brand new Member card featuring a historic London vista. Like the above examples it would probably include the Thames but this is not a set-in-stone stipulation. What is important is that it has sufficient space of sky, or possibly water, for the London Historians logo and “MEMBER” to stand out without unduly interfering with the image.

We need to act quickly and we’d love to hear your suggestions.

If you’re not familiar with the LH Member card, it’s printed on credit-card type plastic and personalised on the reverse. A quality item. If you’d like to join us as a Member and be the first to receive the new card, you can do so here.

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hs240We were extremely saddened earlier this week to lose a Founder Member and great supporter of London Historians, Helen Szamuely.  Following a year or so of a serious medical condition which she kept mostly to herself, Helen died peacefully early on Wednesday morning, aged 66, which is no age at all.

We had less that two days previously just published an excellent article by Helen in our Members’ newsletter for April. It was about Count Alexander Benckendorff, a Russian diplomat, who a hundred years ago became the first and only layman to be buried in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral.

Helen was born in Moscow to Hungarian and Russian parents during the Soviet period. She spent some of her early years in Hungary where her parents’ flat in Budapest was something of a magnet for intellectual dissidents. They witnessed directly the brutal suppression of the 1956 uprising. Arriving in England aged 14, she spent the rest of her life in Britain standing up for liberty, self-determination and related causes.

Helen achieved a First in History and Russian at University of Leeds, going on to obtain her DPhil at Oxford.

Dr Samuely was a writer for many magazines, blogs, newsletters, mainly on topics of history, politics and literature. Among the lucky publications of her output are included the New Statesman, History Today and, of course, ourselves – London Historians.

Helen was brave, funny, clever, argumentative, incisive, wonderful company and a true friend. Fiercely independent, she possessed a razor-sharp intellect which some found daunting while others – like me – found exhilarating. When you engaged with her – particularly in matters of politics and history – it was best to bring your A game.

Helen enjoyed cooking, loved cats and for some reason represented herself on social media as a machine-gun toting squirrel which somehow seemed wholly appropriate. She was a keen consumer of detective fiction. Unsurprisingly, Helen was an avid scholar of Russian literature, particularly poetry, much of which she translated into English. She was an active supporter of Pushkin House in London.

I recommend you look up Helen on Facebook and read the entries from the past five days more fully to appreciate the great esteem in which she was held.

Helen supported London Historians frequently with her presence at our events, unannounced if not unexpected. She wrote some wonderful articles for our Members’ newsletter, mainly about Russians in London – exiles, diplomats, artists and Tsars. We shall republish these in the coming weeks for a wider audience to enjoy.

Helen is a great loss to not only to us at London Historians, but all her friends in many, many walks of life. Most of all, though, to daughter Katharine to whom we extend our deepest condolences.

Dr Helen Szamuely. Born 25.06.1950, Moscow. Died 05.04.2017, London.

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