Pilgrimage to Orwell
Friday, August 13, 2004
7. VISITING ORWELL'S WEDDING CHURCH
After relaxing a few minutes by the duck pond, at probably the same place where Orwell and Eileen used to do, we continued up the road to the Church.
At the top of the above left photo you can see where the road meets the path to the churchyard. And there on the right, in all its glory, is St. Mary's Church where on Tuesday, June 9th, 1936, Eric Arthur Blair married Eileen Maud O'Shaughnessy. He was 33 and she was 30. Godcidently, it was almost exactly thirteen years later, on June 8, 1949, that "1984" was published.
Notice that the church where Orwell was married is almost identical to the church where Orwell was buried. In my Homage to Orwell in 2003 I visited his grave.
Upon entering the church I signed the guest book and we put a donation in the box for a copy of the marriage certificate, some post cards, and the church preservation fund brochure.
Then I walked up to the altar and stood under the magnificant stained glass window close to where Eric and Eileen would have taken their vows becoming "Mr" and "Mrs" until death did them part.
Eileen died nine years later on March 29th, 1945, and was buried on April 3, 1945. No doubt, in cryptic remembrance of her, Orwell had Winston Smith, the hero of "1984", begin his diary on April 4th.
Back outside I looked for the spot where I thought Orwell would have been standing in the photo of him in the Wallington churchyard which I'd seen in one of the biographies.
When I got home I saw that I'd been facing the wrong direction but actually it works out better because when the two photos are put side-by-side it gives the illusion of us being there together, albeit separated by 68 years of earth-time.
go next to 8. VISITNG ORWELL'S ORWELL or back to index at PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL
ORWELL'S WIFE NAMED "1984"
EILEEN BLAIR'S GRAVE
77 PARLIAMENT HILL (where Orwell met Eileen in spring 1935)
excerpt from INSIDE GEORGE ORWELL, by Gordon Bowher, page 210:
...The Road to Wigan Pier was finally published on 7 March, 1937....With the book's future settled, Eileen set out for Barcelona. McNair had advertised for a secretary in the New Leader and she was taken on. She left Aunt Nellie in charge of the store. She took along the things she knew George missed most - Typhoo tea, chocolates and some cigars as well as the tobacco he liked. Charles Orr, at the ILP [Independent Labour Party) office editing the English edition of the POUM paper, The Spanish Revolution, for whom she also worked, found the Blairs an impressive if incongruous couple. 'Eileen was a round-faced Irish girl, prim and pretty, with black hair and dark eyes. Eric was tall, lean and gangling, to the point of being awkward . . . He was tongue-tied, stammered and seemed to be afraid of people. Eileen was friendly, gregarious and unpretentious.' Among those working for the POUM her superiority was evident. 'She just could not resist talking about Eric - her hero husband, whom she obviously loved and admired . . . He was still just an unknown writer . . . but . . . as I came to know Eric better - through Eileen - my respect grew . . . A man who could win a woman of such quality must have some value.' Jack Branthwaite also saw George and Eileen as soul-mates: 'She worshippped the ground he walked on. She'd do anything for him. Anything Eric did, he was the greatest.' And Paddy Donovan remembered how she had caught certain of his mannerisms and habits - including smoking the same unsavoury black tobacco...
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