A Publication of

THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY

Founded 8th May 1999



Newsletter No.7 22 July 2001


New Members
Since the last Newsletter in early May, the Society has welcomed four new members.

George Woodman is our first member from Northern Ireland. Some years ago he wrote a paper for the Belfast Literary Society, for which Roger Norris, already a member of our Society, provided some useful information.

George Ramsden runs Stone Trough Books in Fossgate, York and has long been interested in JMF. He sold me my treasured copy of The Nebuly Coat, as far back as February, 1987. Pasted on the front end paper is a letter, dated November 17, 1904, from JMF to C.H. Pirie-Gordon. Falkner writes "About Lord Blandamer. I know less than anyone. He just went his own way -I tried to make him go mine: but he took the bit between his teeth - and I could not guide him. I am quite in the dark as to whether he killed the Organist or not...." hmm!

Roger Dobson subscribes to the Ghost Story Society and read in their Journal about our Plaque Appeal. He very kindly sent a donation and has subsequently been persuaded to join us. He also enclosed a cutting about John Gawsworth, who claimed to be a second cousin of JMF. It is a very small world, as in the same post Javier Marias sent photocopies about his own work, which included mention of Gawsworth. The latter held the opinion that The Lost Stradivarius was probably the best ghost story ever written, outclassing even M.R. James and Sheridan Le Fanu..." Gawsworth was King of Redonda - a tiny islet off the coast of Montserrat in the West Indies - and made Joan Greenwood a Redondan duchess in 1961. Joan was the female lead in Fritz Lang's film of Moonfleet six years earlier. A small world indeed.

John Cochrane is the great grandson of Sir Andrew Noble. His father, Wilfred Cochrane (1881-1955) married Yseult Noble (1901-1991), younger daughter of Philip and Mable Noble. Wilfred's elder brother, Alfred (1865-1948) also married a Noble - Ethel - first being recommended into the Noble family's employ by JMF. Wilfred followed in his elder brother's, and JMF's, footsteps and became Sir Andrew Noble's private secretary. Wilfred had a great regard for "Mr Falkner", as he referred to him. Alfred and Wilfred's father was the Revd. David Cochrane, who was vicar of Etwall, Derbyshire [1889-98]. For one year he lived at Shelbrook, a few hundred yards from my previous home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It is a small world.

* * * * *


The Huntrodds Eye is a smuggling tale set in Robin Hoods Bay. Published in 1992, it was written by one of our founder members -Victor Brown. Like Moonfleet, it is primarily aimed at children - in fact Moonfleet gets a mention on page 63. Victor has kindly said that not only will he let members have a copy for 6 (instead of the original 10.50), including postage [in the UK], but that 3 of this would go towards our Society's Fund for future plaques etc. A generous offer. If anyone would like to purchase a copy, you can get in touch with Victor at 64, Legbourne Road, Louth, Lincolnshire LNll 8ER

Barry Cross kindly let me have a cassette recording of The Lost Stradivarius to listen to. I thoroughly enjoyed an otherwise tediously long car journey recently, as a result. Moonfleet is on cassette, both as a direct reading of the book and as a dramatic version. If only someone would produce The Nebuly Coat, or track down a recording of the BBC version of thirty or so years ago.

The Fleet Church Plaque Ceremony seemed to go down very well with members and friends who attended the service and lunch at the Moonfleet Hotel. I have had several heart-warming letters as a result. So far, though, I have had little fortune with the powers-that-be at Manningford Bruce - the parish in which JMF was born. I will keep trying - even if the result is only some recognition of the link in the porch..

If, eventually, I have to admit failure, then I will turn my attention to Buckland Ripers, another church with JMF connections. His brother Charles, in his account of Buckland Days, remembers JMF was responsible for most of the music at Buckland - Harrow songs, Manolo waltzes, Mendelssohn's songs, hymn tunes and chants galore.

Peter Mead has kindly agreed to send in an article on his ancestors John Mead of Weymouth and his father Robert, which will stretch back to the mid 18th. Century. He will also include the Gaskell family link in his piece.

Michael Morello is currently piecing together all of JMF's contributions to The Spectator. This is part of a larger bibliography which he is working on. He has also acquired a copy of The Nebuly Coat, inscribed by JMF to "M.M. Smith-Carrington". One of my copies of Bath has an inscription by Falkner to "M.M.S-C". So now I know what his name is, we can perhaps find out who he is.

"Willy Russell, aged ten, lost himself in the joy of reading J. Meade Falkner's Moonfleet."

Under the series heading "Telling Stories - the books that change our lives", Russell was interviewed in The Times for the paper's Saturday, 7 July issue. It is a long article which proves to be a wonderful 'shop window' for the book and JMF's art.
The Liverpool-born author of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, maintained "I don't think I ever read a book that engaged me more than Moonfleet...I identified absolutely with John Trenchard." Sadly, one has to agree with another of Russell's observations: "I'm not sure I could engage a class of inner-city ten- year-olds with Moonfleet today, and that seems an awful shame." The article ended with Russell, on re-reading Moonfleet 40 years on, remembering "that ability to engage completely, sensually with a book and cut out everything around you is something that goes with childhood. The older I get, the more I long for it." I am sure we all agree with him.

Not only, but also...
Andrew Stibbs, who kindly let me reproduce his own article on Moonfleet in the accompanying Journal, recalls hearing on the Radio [either on 27 or the 30 April this year] Louis de Bernieres saying that the book which most influenced him was Moonfleet, which he'd read many times as a boy. De Bernieres also said it would go down well in schools now. Does anyone know of any other famous living writers who have made a case for JMF's works?

Retrenchment?
As I collate this Newsletter, worrying news comes from the shipbuilding industry again - this time on the Clyde and at Barrow.
One hundred years ago, on 29 July 1901, Falkner was writing to Lord Rendel that "a financial crisis of a very aggravated nature has arisen here: and it will need the wisdom of our wisest to extricate us from it with any show of credit. To most of us it is a bolt from the blue, though not so much to me as to some others for I have had grievous misgivings for a year past: and have been continually preaching retrenchment and reform, though no one wd. listen. Now we have reached an acute stage, and shall need the most careful consideration. In any case I do hope that the lesson may, even late, be laid to heart; & that not only will a large number of our men be discharged (and I am sure that at least 30% cd. be weeded out with advantage) but that the opportunity will also be taken to get rid of some of the more glaringly inefficient members of our staff. If this is done this urgent grave anxiety may be a blessing in disguise.."
This would not have gone down well with any workforce - in 1901 or 2001! What they would have said if they had also been privy to another letter sent to Rendel, this time by W.A. Watson Armstrong [JMF's brother-in-law] in mid August, would not bear repeating. In it, Armstrong argues that Falkner's salary of 1550 a year was "inadequate" as "he is a most valuable man to us as he is practically the only man besides Sir Andrew who holds the reins of government in his hands or who can do so".
Armstrong pressed for an increase to 2000 a year as, although "it may be argued that this is not a time to increase salaries but I think his is an exceptional case". Indeed, Society members may argue that JMF was an exceptional man, but I don't think even we would have published either letter in the local Tyneside newspaper.

JMF's Novels in other Languages
Once again a generous Society member -this time Javier Marias -has sent me a copy of one of JMF's novels translated into another language. Moonfleet in Spanish [translated by Ramon Garcia Fernandez] takes on another dimension for someone as insular in language as me. To read [with my English version next to me] the beginning of the final chapter "En la playa" ["On the beach"] is a compelling experience.

Campanadas por los bravos,
los bravos que se perdieron;
las olas se los llevaron,
cerca de donde nacieron.

Cowper.

[Toll for the brave,
The brave that are no more;
All sunk beneath the wave
Fast by their native shore.]

Elzevir for one, surely, would have been heartened.

Javier also sent me a copy of his own recent work, Dark Back of Time, published exactly a century after Moonfleet. I strongly recommend it to you all and can simply echo the words of a reviewer in Le Monde: "One emerges from it bewitched". ISBN 0-8112-1466-4, it is published by New Directions.

Bibliomania sent me a circular in June about their firm. It maintains that it is the world's leading digital library, with 2000+ texts free online. In the 'read' section of their site, they have created a library of the best in world literature, both in English and English translation Each author has their own Author page with a detailed biography and links to the best web sources (yes -it does link to Robert Wilson's site). The Bibliomania site also has a homework/revision/query help section that can be reached by email. There is also a series of study-guides available. If you are connected to the Internet, you might wish to try the page - so far only Moonfleet, which is "Falkner's crowning achievement" (some of you will argue that one!) is on. Bibliomania.

Do let me know what you think of the Newsletters so far, and the articles in the two Journals. Feedback is vital for a healthy Society.

Best Wishes to you all,
Kenneth Hillier
Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne, Derbyshire DE73 IBX

You can email Kenneth Hillier here.

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