The Orwell Society’s presentation, on long-term loan, of the library of Orwell scholar Professor Peter Davison coincided with Richard Blair‘s unveiling of a plaque commemorating his father’s use of Wigan Reference Library (now within the Museum of Wigan Life). This will make Wigan one of the leading centres for Orwell studies in the United Kingdom.
Richard Blair, beside the plaque commemorating the work of his father, George Orwell (Photograph: Wigan Council).
Professor Davison‘s address was delivered for him, by Quentin Kopp.
“I feel I must apologise for not being present on what I regard as a wonderful and important occasion. I should so have enjoyed being with you today – and even more had my wife survived to accompany me. She invested much effort and many hours into the production of the 20-volume edition of George Orwell’s work and, as a Lancastrian – she was grew up in Eccles and we were married there in 1949 – she would have thought this presentation particularly appropriate. Alas, she died last September, and I feel her loss deeply. Unfortunately, I find getting about now, even with help, very difficult. My sons, one of whom would have accompanied me, are unavailable: one is playing with Welsh National Opera in Llandudno, the second lives in New Zealand; the third is televising women’s rugby in Vancouver Island. And the granddaughter, Martha, who escorted me so caringly to the unveiling of the statute of George Orwell outside Broadcasting House last November, is due to give birth to her second child this very day.
Professor Peter Davison, with Professor Jean Seaton of the Orwell Foundation.
“I was delighted when I heard that the Orwell Society was arranging with Wigan that you would provide a home for my collection of Orwell’s books so that they could be made readily available to anyone who might wish to consult them. Work on Orwell will go on. There is more to learn, more to be discovered. As I write news comes that correspondence, which was unavailable to me when editing the Complete Works looked at last as if it might be released. Orwell’s writing, his ideas, his persistence, his integrity will continue to be an inspiration. His reputation and his influence will grow even more. There is something singularly appropriate in his work finding a place – no, not a place, a home – where it can readily be consulted by future generations. Thank you, Wigan“.
[Quentin Kopp of the Orwell Society and Rob Sanderson, Head of Customer, Culture and Resources at Wigan Council]
Earlier this year, at the unveiling of the Orwell statue at the BBC, Professor Davison fell into conversation with Eleanor Blair, daughter-in-law of George Orwell, expressing a wish that his library would not gather dust but be put to use. Members of the Orwell Society quickly recognised that Wigan Reference Library, which had hosted commemorative events for The Road To Wigan Pier in 2017, was a fitting place. As the room where George Orwell himself had worked in 1936 it was even more special.
Richard Blair and Quentin Kopp liaised with Donna Hall, CEO of Wigan Council. While Rob Sanderson, Head of Customer, Culture and Resources, and Archivist, Alex Miller, prepared the destination, the Society put together a crack team of bibliographers to index and record the library. This week’s event has now brought the two together. The library remains the property of the Orwell Society, but it is the Society’s intention that Wigan is its long-term host.
Such as large collection of books by and about George Orwell makes it an ideal place to study. In addition, many of the library contents are annotated, or contain ephemera relating to the analysis Orwell’s work, or letters and other communications between Orwell specialists who have contacted Professor Davison. The Davison Collection thus provides a resource for students of literature, politics and cultural analysis, but also a training resource for librarians and information scientists as well. We do not expect any part of it to gather dust.
Uploaded 18 May 2018