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Posts Tagged ‘RIP’

Today is the 70th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, on 21 January 1950. One of the greatest writers of the 20th Century passed away just after midnight in Room 65 of University College Hospital, London. He was just 46 years old.

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At the time, Orwell, diagnosed with tuberculosis since 1947, was hoping to travel to a clinic in Switzerland to help improve his chronically weak lungs. His medical team were also considering treating him with penicillin, then a new wonder-drug, but still in short supply.

Orwell knew he was dying. Working with his doctor, Dr Morland, it was hoped that he could extend his life for a few more years at least. Morland had previously treated D.H. Lawrence for TB, but ultimately without success.

The writer had been checked into hospital in September 1949. He had a private room costing £17 per week (good socialist!). In this room, on 13 October, he was married for the second time, to Sonia Brownell (1918 – 1980) whom he’d met at Horizon, the literary magazine run by Cyril Connolly, his school friend from Eton. For the ceremony, he was too ill even to leave his bed, but nonetheless exceptionally happy. Brownell took care of all his affairs from then on and indeed years after his death, sometimes controversially.

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The old University College Hospital building, now Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research. Pic: M Paterson.

In his final days, one of Orwell’s main concerns was his son Richard, whom he’d adopted with his first wife Eileen. Fear of infection prevented the boy from coming close to his father which caused terrible frustration. After the writer’s death Richard Blair was brought up by Orwell’s sister Avril. In retirement, he is very supportive of Orwell-related events and activities. Interview.

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When Orwell checked in at UCH, Nineteen Eighty-Four had been published just three months. While Animal Farm (1945) had turned him into a widely known writer, it was his masterpiece that secured his finances, reputation and legacy. Indeed, fame.

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George Orwell’s grave, Sutton Courtenay, near Oxford. Pic: M Paterson.


George Orwell in Wikipedia.

Biographies.
Orwell The Authorised Biography by Michael Shelden.
George Orwell: A Life by Bernard Crick.
Orwell: The Life by D.J. Taylor.

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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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gavin stamp.jpgSorry to hear that we’ve lost Prof. Gavin Stamp, heroic defender of our historic built environment, enemy of lackadaisical councils and clueless planners. He wrote as ‘Piloti’ for Private Eye for many years up until very recently, only last week a devastating critique of the new George Orwell statue at Broadcasting House (and modern portrait sculpture generally).

Earlier this year we exchanged several emails resulting in an excellent piece in the Eye on the wanton destruction of the historic Sarah Trimmer School in Brentford under the noses of Hounslow Council. He kindly contacted us later to ask if the item had had any effect (it hadn’t).

Around that time I invited him, as a fellow disciple of the great Ian Nairn, to join us on our annual Ian Nairn Pub Crawl, but he explained he was too poorly to venture out much. Well, now his race is run, he’s done a great service to cities and towns up and down the land. Thanks, Gavin. RIP.

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