To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie Jura,

For some time I have had a curious notion that my father may have been born in the same bungalow, or another nearby, as Eric Blair.

My father, William John Bovill was born on the 14th May 1885 in Motihari, and baptised the following day.

His father, Edward Bovill, was in Motihari engaged as a doctor in the Indian Medical Service, and probably acted as midwife.

Is it possible that anyone in Motihari, who has a handle on local history, might know if there were other bungalows locally which were occupied by personnel of the IMS in those far-off days?

Best wishes,
Charles Bovill

Greetings Charles,

It's very interesting that your father was born in Motihari too -- and maybe even in the same bungalow or at least in the same complex as George Orwell, nee Eric Blair. There was more of a community of Imperial Civil Servants living there back when your father and Orwell were born there. In the present-day photos a bungalow next door to Orwell's can be seen:

Yard Left Yard Right House Fence

HouseBirth HouseBedroom

It's even more interesting to imagine that perhaps your grandfather, being the doctor there, delivered Orwell into the world. However, it would only be possible if your grandfather was the doctor there for a very long time as there is an eighteen year difference between your father's birth there in 1885 and Orwell's birth there in 1903.

BabyOrwell/Mother BabyOrwell/Nanny

Orwell, like your father, was baptised in Motihari too and maybe even at the same church -- the Anglican Church of St John in the Wilderness.

Perhaps there are baptism records at the church, and if so, maybe they would provide some information as to who delivered the babies -- the name of the doctor or the midwife.

I'll forward your email to my contact in Motihari -- Debapriya Mookherjee -- who is the person behind the restoration of Orwell's birthplace. Perhaps he'll be able to help.

Also, I'll share your email with ORWELL TODAY readers because they have been helpful over the years putting Orwell puzzle pieces together. The son of Orwell's doctor at the tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent has written and also the grandson of Orwell's headmaster at Eton has written, sharing their stories.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

ShererPoloPlayers OrwellIndiaUniform BurmeseDays ...continued at ORWELL & POLO INDIA ORIGINS

ORWELL ETON POEM DISCOVERED (...I have in my possession a pile of family documents including those of my grandfather, J.F. Crace who was a teacher at Eton. I was going through these documents this weekend with my aunt and the first thing I found was some handwritten poem called "The Three Beggars". At the top in large letters it said "E. A. Blair". I knew that Orwell had been at Eton but I didn't know if he had any connection to my grandfather. So I went online and found your website. You showed the photo of yourself on the college steps and compared that to the cover of the Unknown Orwell book that marks out Orwell in the crowd. My grandfather is there in the front row - the gentleman in the mortar board underneath the publisher's name. So that seems to clinch it - at least to me. Amongst the papers there is an original copy of that photo and it is dated 1921. Many thanks for helping me make the connection between Orwell and my grandfather....

ORWELL'S TB DOC O'SHAUGHNESSY (...Preston Hall was the so-called Sanatorium to which Eric Blair was admitted in 1938. In fact it was a fully fledged Chest Hospital, and the most advanced centre for the treatment of TB. Eric's brother-in-law was a consultant there and my late father [Rothwell] was the Chief Radiographer. My father ended up looking after Eric's dog Marx for the duration of his stay as dogs were not allowed in the Hospital and Grounds....)

MOTIHARI MOOKHERJEE DEFENDS ORWELL (...Mookherjee has memories of playing football as a child near the opium godown, which had by then been leased as a boys’ hostel to the government school he attended. By the end of the 1980s, the godown had become rundown and uninhabitable, and the hostel was vacated. For many years, nothing was done to preserve the site -- in a 2000 Guardian piece, Luke Harding glibly noted the place’s neglect, writing that when he visited, "a group of hairy pigs rooted around in a mud pond" nearby, and a "donkey wandered by"....)

ORWELL STATUE IN MOTIHARI (...I am Debapriya Mookherjee, Chairman of the George Orwell Commemorative Committee, Rotary, Motihari Lake Town. You know I am working for the renovation and awareness of the birth place of the Writer for the last seven years....)

POONA & MOTIHARI ORWELL MEMORIES (...Actually, Orwell was baptised in Motihari at the Anglican Church of St John in the Wilderness. I wonder if that church is still there -- it would be another destination, besides the museum at Orwell's house, for tourists to visit when in Motihari. The classic photos we have of Orwell as a baby, being held in the arms of his mother and his nanny, were probably taken in front of the church on the day of his baptism. Notice he's wearing a christenting gown, and mother and nanny are dressed in Sunday best too...

VISITING ORWELL'S INDIA BIRTHPLACE ...My wife and I managed to make our way to Orwell's birthplace, in the town of Motihari in northern Bihar... Once in Motihari we made our way to the house of Debapriya Mookherjee, who was president of the Motihari Lake Town Rotary Club when they identified the Orwell bungalow for the centenary of his birth, and erected the plaque outside in 2005. I had been in contact with him by email. He invited us in for lunch with his wife and family, and then escorted us to the Orwell site....


ShererPoloPlayers OrwellIndiaUniform BurmeseDays
(Indian horse hockey transformed into polo)
HouseBirth BabyOrwell/Nanny HouseBedroom
(grandfather Bovill delivered babies there)
Email, Jan 23, 2017

Jackie Jura
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