Salisbury, Easter, 2012

Some of the members of the Society at The Chough, Salisbury, on
Friday This is a brief note on The George Borrow Society Salisbury 2012 weekend: a proper write-up will appear in the Autumn Bulletin.  The original plan is still available.

Members of the George Borrow Society gathered in The Chough public house, Market Square, Salisbury, on Friday 13th April 2012, for an informal evening of eating, drinking and, of course, lots of Borrovian gossip.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with folk we hadn’t seen for a while and a good time was had by all (many commenting on their excellent meals).

A wet and windy Saturday morning saw members gather at the West entrance of Salisbury Cathedral (where we were joined by some not able to make Friday night), for a guided tour of the Cathedral (fortunately inside) with our very well-informed and pleasant guide, Margaret Saunders.  A major memorial service was in progress in the Cathedral so we took an unusual route but saw everything we wanted, including the Magna Carta, the Whistler Memorial, and had the pleasure of hearing The Last Post played very movingly at the end of the service.

Some Borrovians with Margaret outside Salisbury Cathedral

After the Cathedral tour Margaret took us through the Cathedral Close and the High Street, pointing out many interesting things, and then into the Parish church of Saint Thomas and Saint Edmunds, where we admired the Doom painting (i.e. the last Judgement).

Saint Thomas and Saint Edmunds’ Church, Salisbury, with
the Doom painting on the arch

Mike Skillman as George Borrow - very convincing! A quick dash from Saint Thomas’ to The Chough (it still being wet), and an excellent lunch in an upstairs room and lots of friendly talk.  After lunch Mike Skillman, our membership Secretary and a true Wiltshireman, gave a very interesting talk on Borrow in Wiltshire (focusing on the Lavengro tramp of May 1825).  Mike also impersonated George Borrow, and the result can be seen to the right.

We also had a splendid talk from Bill Dunn of the Amesbury Historical Society (standing in for Norman Parker who was ill).  This set the scene for the Amesbury visit on the following day, and Bill very kindly provided a copy of the Salisbury and Winchester Journal for 23rd May 1825 — ideal background.

The afternoon ended with Nick Ray giving a short talk and then performing two “Borrovian” pieces of music on his clavinova: Lavengro Gipsy Intermezzo by J Fred Helf and Romany Rye Gypsy Intermezzo by E T Paull: both of which were pleasant enough (and excellently played), but as Nick said, not really Gypsy music.  Nick had also searched out a more genuine Gypsy piece and finished by playing Conte de la Veillée by the French composer Déodat de Séverac (and an encore).

After an hour or so of free time we all met up again in The Lazy Cow where there was friendly talk, drink, and a meal — many marvelling that at the prices we didn’t get an entire cow!  The food was nice though.

Borrovians having dinner at The Lazy Cow, Salisbury

On Sunday members made their way to Old Sarum, an abandoned ancient hill fort, which was the original site of Salisbury (the current city is technically New Sarum).  Both Bill and Margaret had said that Old Sarum was abandoned because of lack of water (it’s high up and on chalk down), and also because it’s very wind-swept.  They were spot on about wind-swept and as we explored most were looking for shelter from the wind, rather than at the ruins!

Borrovians exploring Old Sarum

After Old Sarum it was a short trip to Amesbury where we met up again with Bill Dunn, who walked us through Borrow’s Lavengro journey (George Hotel, Church, Queensberry Bridge) and then we all went to the George Hotel and had an excellent carvery lunch.  We were delighted that Norman Parker had recovered somewhat and managed to join us.  After lunch Norman made sure we all had a look at his aviation museum in the George Hotel (well worth a visit), and then we again strolled with George Borrow to the Queensberry bridge, then across the water meadows and back along back streets to the Church.  Amesbury certainly has a lot of old buildings and history, and everyone present very much enjoyed themselves.

Queensberry Bridge, which George Borrow crossed in Lavengro