Brompton, London, 5 July 2019

Commemoration of Borrow’s Birthday at Brompton, 2019

George Henry Borrow was born at East Dereham on 5th July 1803, lived a fascinating life, wrote books which have given pleasure to tens of thousands, and inspired many with the love of the outdoor life and the Romany people.  Those interested in him are known as Borrovians and for a number of decades a few have gathered on his birthday at his grave in Brompton Cemetery, to lay a wreath in honour and appreciation of his life and works.

Traditionally, the grass grows somewhat over the grave in May:

George Borrow’s grave (the white one), May 2019, with

A few of us gathered in 2019, on a beautiful sunny day, and the wreath was duly laid on Borrow’s grave.  As one remarked, the wreath’s colours are those of the suffragette movement which perhaps wasn’t quite right, but it looked nice:

Wreath of George Borrow’s Grave, Brompton Cemetery, 5 July

Mike gave a very appropriate reading from George’s work Romany Rye:

I thought of the events of the day, the scene at church, and what I had heard at church, the danger of losing one’s soul, the doubts of Jasper Petulengro as to whether one had a soul.  I thought over the various arguments which I had either heard, or which had come spontaneously to my mind, for or against the probability of a state of future existence.  They appeared to me to be tolerably evenly balanced.  I then thought that it was at all events taking the safest part to conclude that there was a soul.  It would be a terrible thing, after having passed one’s life in the disbelief of the existence of a soul, to wake up after death a soul, and to find one’s self a lost soul.  Yes, methought I would come to the conclusion that one has a soul.  Choosing the safe side, however, appeared to me to be playing a rather dastardly part.  I had never been an admirer of people who chose the safe side in everything; indeed I had always entertained a thorough contempt for them.  Surely it would be showing more manhood to adopt the dangerous side, that of disbelief; I almost resolved to do so, but yet in a question of so much importance, I ought not to be guided by vanity.  The question was not which was the safe, but the true side? yet how was I to know which was the true side?  Then I thought of the Bible—which I had been reading in the morning—that spoke of the soul and a future state; but was the Bible true?  I had heard learned and moral men say that it was true, but I had also heard learned and moral men say that it was not: how was I to decide?  Still that balance of probabilities!  If I could but see the way of truth, I would follow it, if necessary, upon hands and knees; on that I was determined; but I could not see it.  Feeling my brain begin to turn round, I resolved to think of something else; and forthwith began to think of what had passed between Ursula and myself in our discourse beneath the hedge.

Romany Rye, Chapter 12.

After the reading, we retraced our steps and enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon in the newly-opened Brompton Cemetery cafe.  Not only was it catching up with friends, but lots of George Borrow material came up.  John Hentges had brought a few copies of his latest CD which features some of Borrow’s ballad translations put to music.  Heather Uden, who came to our Brompton 2014 Christmas meal is also on the CD, and they perform the Molly Charane song they performed then.

As we were fortunate to have Prof. Peters with us, we also heard about John Snow and Charles Thomas Stent who are buried further north of Borrow, as are the Gilmans who were near neighbours of Borrow.

Some of those attending

An especial thanks to the garden team of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery who very kindly cut the grass for us, so the grave can be clearly seen.