ORWELL'S BARNHILL VISITORS
To Orwell Today,
re: VISITING ORWELL'S BARNHILL
Just discovered your fine website and it is a wonder. Thanks so for having the passion and taking the time to go to Barnhill and post your pictures. You mention people downstairs "hearing" Orwell typing - who was there when he was working? Family? Locals? I had the image that he worked there mostly alone.
Thank you for your kind comments about "Orwell Today" and for letting me know you enjoyed the photo journey to Barnhill.
Actually, Orwell was only alone three times at Barnhill and that is when he went there for the first time to decide whether or not to lease it, and the second time was when he had made the decision and arrived a couple of weeks ahead of everyone else to get set up, and the third time was when he went there one December to plant fruit trees.
The first person to arrive to join him was his younger sister, Avril, a spinster who had run a successful Tea Shop in the seaside town of Southwold, Suffolk (East Anglia) where their parents had gone to live after retirement.
Between the years 1939 and the time Orwell moved to Barnhill in 1945, he and Avril lost both their parents and one sister, leaving the two of them alone - except for Orwell's toddler son Richard - his wife Eileen having died as well.
When WWII was over and Orwell made the move to Jura he brought with him the housekeeper/babysitter - Susan - who had lived with him in his Canonbury Square flat so that she could look after Richard in Barnhill.
But Avril and Susan didn't get along - the house wasn't big enough for both women - and so eventually Susan packed her bags and left. Avril then did all of the housework and the looking-after of Richard so that Orwell could devote most of his time to writing. Orwell could never have managed at Barnhill without Avril.
During the summers (and then the winters) that Orwell lived on Jura, many friends from London made the long trek to visit, and they would stay a few days or longer. But even when visitors came, Orwell didn't spend much time with them - devoted as he was to his book.
Also, during the time that he lived at Barnhill, Orwell was in partnership with his great friend Richard Rees (who is portrayed as magazine owner Ravelston in KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING). They had the idea of making Barnhill a producer of sheep and agriculture but nothing came of it in the end because the jura (Viking word for deer) ate everything in sight. But Richard Rees often stayed at Barnhill.
Richard Rees hired an experienced sheep farmer, Bill Dunn - who was working on the Kinuachdrach farm two miles north - and he fell in love with Avril and so he was always in and out of Barnhill.
And also, the locals used to drop by to bring mail, exchange eggs, milk and other produce, and whenever they did, Avril would offer them tea or a "wee dram" of Scotch whisky.
So these are all the people who used to sit in the kitchen downstairs and hear Orwell "pounding away" on his typewriter above them.
You can read about it all in more detail in the article ORWELL'S LIFE ON JURA.
All the best,
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~