The George Borrow Society visit to Salamanca, 15 - 19 September 2009

A young teacher from Trinity College, Dublin wrote admiringly to Professor Miguel de Unamuno in late 1921 saying:

“You have no idea how Spain affects us, people of the North: we look on it as a land outside Europe—an island of Laputa (i.e. a castle in the air, see Jonathan Swift) to all of us. Salamanca especially attracted me—‘mother of all invention in the world and princess of all the sciences’. We Irish people have always looked towards Salamanca as the Mecca of culture...” Walter Starkie, letter to Unamuno, 29th Dec.1921, Archive of the Museum/House of Unamuno, Salamanca.

This year’s series of meetings is planned in the midst of a university city which by royal title was termed “a city most noble, loyal, hospitable and charitable”, with its University close on its 8th Centenary. George Borrow visited between mid May and mid-June in 1837, finding the city in a depressed state following the liberal confiscation measures against ecclesiastical property.

But now the cultural life of Salamanca blooms again, even having a George Borrow society. Through the good offices of Prof. Alfredo Pérez Alencart of the University of Salamanca, the following arrangements have been made:

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Arrival in Salamanca. From Madrid (Barajas) a road or train journey of around 4 hours. Reservations have been made for all members requiring accommodation at the Hotel Emperatriz I (C/ Compañía, 44. Tel. 923 219200.) Single rooms are 33 Euros per day, double rooms 49 Euros per day, bed and breakfast (prices include VAT). This modest hotel is only 80 metres from the famous “House of Shells” and “the Papal University” and close by many of our other Salamanca activities.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The presentation of papers will take place in the lecture theatre of the Faculty of Geography and History of the University of Salamanca.

10.00 h.: A formal welcome will be given by: J. Bustos, Vice Rector of the University of Salamanca Valentín Cabero, Dean of Faculty of Geography and History Ann Ridler, Chairman of the George Borrow Society.

10.30 h.: the papers to be presented are:

  1. 1. "Setting out for Salamanca—The first leg of George Borrow’s Northern Journey” Peter Missler (George Borrow Society)
  2. 2. “Miguel de Unamuno, an admirer of George Borrow’s books” Alfredo Pérez Alencart (Universidad de Salamanca). This talk will be abbreviated because Alfredo does not include English speaking among his talents—and therefore it will be translated into English. The full text and translation will be available for publication.
  3. 3. “A Scholar and Gypsy about Gypsy Borrow”—Walter Starkie’s relationship to the Borrow Gypsy ideal. Ken Barrett (George Borrow Society).
  4. 13.30 Lunch
  5. Afternoon: Time to wander the city and its many sights/sites.
  6. 18.00 h. Official civic reception of the members of the George Borrow Society given on behalf of the Salamanca City Council, presided over by Dª. Pilar Fernández Labrador, the Councillor responsible for Public Relations and Deputy Mayor.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

  1. 10.30 h. (Another!) reception of the members of the George Borrow Society in Unamuno Museum/House belonging to the University of Salamanca, under the watchful eye of Dª Ana Chaguaceda Toledano, director of this institution. Here there will take place the donation to the University of the painting “Unamuno, reader of Borrow”, commissioned from the local artist Miguel Elías. Ann Ridler will represent the George Borrow Society, the University will be represented by its Rector, José Ramón Alonso and the artist Miguel Elías will also be present.
  2. Then we will be given a guided tour of the historic University buildings, including its world famous library.
  3. 18.00 h. A pleasant guided evening stroll around the important sights of Salamanca which Borrow would have seen..
  4. 20.00 h. A book presentation of Crónicas Ibéricas. Tras los pasos de George Borrow, vendedor de Biblias en el siglo XIX, by David Fernández de Castro (Altëa, Barcelona, 2008).- The newest book on Borrow to be published in Spain, written by one of our members, called “Iberian Chronicles. In the footsteps of George Borrow, Bible seller of the 19th century”. One or two Borrovians portrayed in this book will be trying to set the record straight!! This is due to take place in the Sala de la Palabra (lit. “The Room of the Word”) at the Salamanca, City of Culture Foundation building. Members will remember the translation of chapters from David’s book in Bulletins 35 and 36, and his article on ‘The Blind Beggar Woman of Manzanares’ in Bulletin 33.
  5. Friday, 18 September 2009

    1. An all day coach excursion to Valladolid for the members of the George Borrow Society. En route we are to see Arapiles — the battlefield of Salamanca at which Wellington triumphed — and the villages mentioned by Borrow. In Valladolid we are to be met by Stuart Park, a long time English teacher in the city, who will be our guide to the Borrovian sites of this capital of the Castilla León region.
    2. 21.00 h. The annual George Borrow Society dinner at: a Restaurant near the Irish College (Colegio Mayor Fonseca o de los Nobles Irlandeses). George Borrow enjoyed hospitality here though didn´t care to mention it in his correspondence with the Bible Society! The special menu will cost around 25 Euros per person and each member is responsible for his or her own drinks—both buying them and holding them!

    Saturday, 19th September 2009

    Depart after breakfast.

    Those involved in the organization are from: The University of Salamanca. The Evangelical Cultural Association “George Borrow” of Salamanca. George Borrow Society (through certain Spanish members).

    Note: We hope that members will not be overwhelmed by the “official events”, in which perhaps the Spanish nation takes inordinate delight. But it is a way both to be ambassadors for Borrovian interests in a city very conscious of its culture and also to enjoy some superb facilities at very little financial cost to ourselves! Where Spanish is spoken at the different “happenings” where GB Society members are not in the majority there will either be simultaneous interpretation (sometimes known as interruption!!— perhaps somewhere to the back of the hall) or parallel texts in English will be supplied. Ken Barrett.