KEEP OFF THE GRASS with Orwell Society member Brian Thompson

Museum worker and book collector Brian from Kingston Park, Newcastle, first came across George OrwellWhen I read Animal Farm at Benfield Road Comprehensive school in the 1970s then in 1980 read Nineteen Eighty Four which were both great, then in 1997 I watched the film Keep the Aspidistra Flying which I loved, then I was hooked”.

“I then read all of Orwell’s novels back to back. I also had the privilege to meet briefly, the actor John Hurt at the North East premiere of the film Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 at the Tyneside Cinema, and get his autograph which is now framed and on the wall”.

When did you first find out about The Orwell Society “Around six years ago I was reading Down & Out in Paris and London and a quick internet search took me to the Orwell Society. I liked the aims of the group so applied for membership and joined in 2017”.

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) was married to South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy who is buried in St Andrew’s Cemetery, Jesmond. When did you first come across Eileen’s grave ?

“I was reading a local history book about Tyneside when I saw it in a Did You Know section.

(Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times by Alistair Moffat and George Rosie, first published 2005).

So I visited in 2017 and it was remarkable how easy I found it. It was looking a bit shabby with overgrown weeds so I went to the shops and bought some flowers. Next day I brought along some long nosed decorating scissors and give the grass a good cut”.

“Through The Orwell Society I contacted Richard Blair (George Orwell’s son) and told him what I was doing, he asked me to plant a white rose along with bedding plants”.

Eileen Blair headstone & plaque St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond (pic Alikivi collection)

Next to the modest headstone there is a plaque, how did this come about ?

“When I visited the grave people were asking me who was buried there so I contacted Richard again and ran the idea past him about putting up a plaque. He agreed it would be a great idea”.

“I got some flat grey Lakeland stone and attached a small plaque, it came out great, really proud of it”.

The Orwell Society at St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond, Sunday 27/3/2022 (pic Alikivi collection)

Were you at the events for the 77th anniversary of Eileen’s death ?

“Yes along with the Orwell Society we watched the film Wildflower, the author Sylvia Topp was there and walks to locations where Eileen lived plus the blue plaque at South Shields – it was fantastic”.

Have you any events planned in the future ?

“I’d love to go to Barnhill where Orwelll wrote 1984 but for now I’ll continue to tend to Eileen’s grave, it’s a pleasure – like you I think we are under her spell” (laughs).

For more information & how to join the Orwell Society contact:

http://www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi   April 2022