Orwell’s son to visit Jura to read father’s work

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GEORGE ORWELL’S only son is to travel to the remote Hebridean island where his father wrote his most famous novel nearly 70 years ago.

Orwell wrote 1984 after secluding himself on the island of Jura between 1946 and 1948.

The novel – a searing commentary on government surveillance – went on to be one of the most influential books of all time – bringing phrases like “big brother” and “room 101” into everyday use.

Now Orwell’s only son – Richard Blair – will make a trip to the isolated cottage on the island where his father penned the novel.

Mr Blair, who was adopted, will read his father’s diary to members of the Orwell Society in the home they briefly shared.

And Mr Blair and around 20 members of the society will also make a boat trip to the Corryvreckan whirlpool – where the father and son nearly died in 1947.

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

It will be only the second time that Mr Blair – 72 – has returned to the farmhouse since he lived there with his father as a child.

It was whilst at the farmhouse that Mr Blair – at just five years old – learned of his father’s death of tuberculosis in London.

Mr Blair – who now lives in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, said: “I was with my aunt when we heard it on the Home Service on the kitchen radio.

“I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, something terrible has happened.’ I’d visited him in London but I don’t think I’d really understood how seriously ill he was.

“I’ve been back to Jura many times, and to Barnhill half a dozen times, but I only went inside the house for the first time again in 2014.

“It is emotional. I remember the bedroom where he wrote, and splitting my head open when I fell off a chair once.

“I have many good memories though. The west coast is my spiritual home.”

Mr Blair – a patron of the Orwell Society – went on: “I’ve been to Corryvreckan many times too and I look at it and think, ‘You haven’t got me yet.’

“It doesn’t make me nervous. I really enjoy these visits and hope to do many more.”

The event is the second trip to the island arranged by the society, which hopes to ramp them up to meet the demand for those interested in Orwell.

Quentin Kopp – organiser of the trip – is the son of Georges Kopp, who was Orwell’s commander during the Spanish Civil War.

Mr Kopp senior features in Orwell’s book on the war – Homage to Catalonia.

Mr Kopp – 69 – said: “We’re trying to do regular visits to Spain and Jura, which we hope will also encourage tourism.”

Professor Jean Seaton – director of the Orwell Prize for political writing – will also make the trip this weekend.

She said: “It will be be poignant and intriguing.

“It’s always interesting to see where writers work, and people are coming from all over, including Canada.”

Mr Blair was adopted by Orwell and his wife Eileen as a baby, joining his father on the island of Jura after Eileen died in 1945.

Orwell was in the midst of writing 1984 when he and his son – then just three years old – were caught in the notorious Corryvreckan, the world’s third largest whirlpool.

Speaking previously about the near-death experience, Mr Blair said: “That would have been the end of my father because he was still really in the middle of writing 1984 – so that wouldn’t have happened.”

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