THE JOHN MEADE FALKNER SOCIETY
Founded 8th May 1999
Newsletter No. 33
8 May 2010
Overdue Subscriptions There are only eleven subs now not paid. I will gently remind those members and hope all continue. If they do, we have a total membership of fifty four, which includes the Friends of Burford Church as an Honorary member. Since we started in May 1999, we have had 83 join - some of those, alas, now passed on.
Journal No 11 - July 2010 I already have articles relating to JMF’s A Midsummer Night’s Marriage and A History of Oxfordshire, and am including another of his poems which was uncovered by the late Bernard Jones. Royd Whitlock has very kindly produced an Index for Journals 1-10, which will either accompany, or be part of, Journal 11. There is still room for further articles - I would be delighted to hear from you.
Three Priories Thanks to many of you, sales of this lovely limited edition of three of JMF’s poems are going well. I do hope those who haven’t yet purchased a copy will now do so. At £10 [+ £1 p. & p.] it is a real bargain and a collector’s item.
Chesil Beach recollected from Argentina
As I went through the article on Chesil Beach, it reminded me of 2009. After the wonderful Society meeting, I went to the south and I put up at a B&B in Abbotsbury. My dream was to walk from Portland along the dike of pebbles up to Moonfleet, which I realised was impossible since walking along the pebbles for a while can be very tiring indeed! Anyway, I was able to make my dream come true in a way after I was able to see both ends of Chesil Beach. Starting from a small town (I can't remember its name now) west of Abbotsbury, where there is no lagoon yet but just the beach full of pebbles and a small cliff of brown clay and sand, I started walking eastwards back to Abbotsbury. At first I didn't know whether to walk along the beach or the coastal path but as I knew it would be a long walk, I finally decided to go along the narrow path lined on both sides by tall grass. I was cautiously doing so when suddenly, just in front of me, a snake slid across the path. Not interested in finding out whether it was poisonous or not, I just walked backwards slowly and immediately made up my mind to walk along the pebbles at least for a while hoping to take the coastal path again somewhere later on. I remember the snake very well, it was white and had like black triangles one beside the other one all along its body. Any idea what kind of snake it was? Well, after having walked for an hour along the pebbles, and not making much progress I realised that if I wanted to make it back to Abbotsbury before midnight I would have to follow the coastal path again. Fortunately, I didn't come across any snake again. The walk was very long but it was worth doing it. The view was wonderful, and although I couldn't see the sea from there I was able to see now and again like small lagoons. After about a four-hour walk I was able to make it back to Abbotsbury, exhausted but satisfied. The following morning, after a good night's sleep, and a wonderful breakfast I was ready to go on another walking trip again, but this time to the other side towards Moonfleet. This time I walked along the road and slowly moved southwards and eastwards, went through Langton Hering until I reached Moonfleet caravan park. From there I went along the coastal path towards the east. The view from there is beautiful, as the land is quite high you can see the huge lagoon, the dike of pebbles and much further to the back the blue sea. And to the east Portland Bill. It's really worth walking those miles. I just kept on walking along the coastal path trying to guess where the church could be. I had been walking for quite a while when I suddenly saw a child playing near a mile stone and as I looked inland I noticed a familiar group of trees gathered around a small building, which instantly made me realise that I had reached The Old Fleet Church. If it hadn't been for that boy playing there, I wouldn't have looked inland and would have missed it! I remember it was a beautiful hot sunny day and the churchyard with its mowed grass was all covered with tiny white flowers. It was really a peaceful and wonderful sight and once there I really forgot how tired I was after having walked for about the four hours. Finally, I was on my way to the bus stop when I spotted, to my surprise, not a snake this time, but a beautiful red fox about 50 metres away. We just looked at each other for a while and then we just moved on. I had never seen this lovely animal in England and it was like a beautiful reward for my two long but wonderful walks. Chesil Beach and the Old Fleet Church are places, surely among others, really worth visiting again and again, there is always something different to discover.
Society Meeting in 2011 I am determined not to let too long a gap occur again between Society gatherings. Giselle will be coming over from Argentina next year and this has spurred me on to suggest our next meeting will be the weekend 8th/9th July 2011. It will be held in the Fleet-Dorchester area and we will concentrate on JMF’s life before his move to Newcastle as well as on his most famous novel - Moonfleet. Diaries out now!
Another Fan of JMF I was recently leafing through Frank Morley’s Literary Britain - A Reader’s Guide to Writers and Landmarks (Hutchinson, 1980) and thought I might share his comments on JMF with you.
[p.53] “The remarkable John Meade Falkner (1858-1932) came to Durham as a young man and was fascinated by the cathedral; whether it was the fortress-feeling that led him into the armaments firm of Armstrong Whitworth I can’t say. Falkner’s business acumen enabled him to become chairman of that firm, but he kept up his interest in church architecture, heraldry and palaeography and was thus occasioned to write the novel The Nebuly Coat. Falkner’s gift for story telling had been demonstrated previously in Moonfleet, a cracking adventure story identified with the Dorset coast, which is where I shall speak of Falkner again - for he was by heritage a man of the south country, whose clergyman-father lived and brought the boy up in Wiltshire, with holidays in Dorset. For what [p.54] cause Falkner was expelled from Marlborough I don’t know, but it did not prevent him from proceeding to Oxford and, as a tutor, to Newcastle, and so to fall in love with Durham.
[p.194] A happy memory of the Dorset coast hereabouts is provided by J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet. The publication of Stevenson’s Treasure Island in 1883 had whetted a demand for rival adventure stories... Moonfleet (1898), in so far as the boy-hero is involved with smugglers and a sea-adventure [is] in the Treasure Island pattern, and in my view has several points of superiority. Falkner’s firm writing achieves effect without the taint of over-writing; and a singular pleasure of Moonfleet is the abiding feeling it conveys for the Dorset coast from Portland Bill to St Alban’s Head, and the tunnels and caves within Purbeck itself. Meade Falkner was born in 1858 at Manningford Bruce in Wiltshire, the son of a poor clergyman. As a boy he knew intimately the Dorset quarry coast, and the feeling for it stayed with him throughout his unusual career.”
So, all in all, a very positive trumpeting of JMF. I only counted a couple of minor errors!
The Royal Mail’s “smilers” I seem to be very slow on the uptakein certain areas - George Robson very kindly send me sheets of “smiler” stamps from the Royal Mail. Next to the first class stamp itself was the portrait of JMF (the one I use at the top of each Newsletter) encased in a circular design. Inevitably, they are rather more expensive than ordinary stamps, but I applaud the marketing initiative. Treasure your envelope as well as the Newsletter this time! Thank you, George, for so substantially cutting the costs of this mailing.
JMF and Ebay Occasionally, amongst the scores of Moonfleet paperback editions for sale, an interesting item comes up on Ebay. It is usually connected to Elswick and the Tyne. In February I thought I would bid for a rather atmospheric postcard of the battleship Agincourt, which was moored alongside the Works, and dated January 1914.
Kenneth Warren , in his biography of JMF, mentions the bizarre story of the Brazilian battleships which Falkner had negotiated for the Elswick shipyard in 1906. A second ship, the Rio de Janeiro, had built and launched but by 1913 the finances of Brazil were in a dire state. The following year it was sold to Turkey instead and, renamed the Sultan Osman I, was being fitted out, when it was commandeered on 3rd August by the British Admiralty. “The new ship, originally Brazilian, so briefly Turkish, eventually sailed as HMS Agincourt to join the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. A few years later, having fired only a few broadsides in warfare, it was scrapped”.
I was all ready to punch in £27.50 in the dying moments of the auction when “£50” suddenly appeared from another (wealthier) bidder. You can’t win them all.
‘Moonfleet’ on Tour again: I had this email at the start of April:
“Just wanted to let you know that we will be taking our show of Moonfleet back out this Autumn. September and October dates are planned. We're contacting theatres at the moment. When I have a full list of dates then I'll pass them on to you to circulate to your members. Hope all's well.”
Tamsin Fessey Co-ArtisticDirector www.angelexit.co.uk
You may remember this exciting project went on a very successful tour of Britain last year. Well worth seeing. When known, I will circulate dates and venues.
Falkners mentioned in ‘strange places’Trevor Winkfield kindly sent me Vol. 36 of Mosaic - the Journal of the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics (ASPROM). In it, in an article entitled Women and the Recording of Mosaics, reference is made to Kathleen Albinia Falkner neé Vidler (1908-2002). Stephen Cosh, the author of another article in the same Journal, received a letter from Kathleen in 1999 about her painting of a tesserae found in All Saints Road, Dorchester. Cosh was erudite enough to mention her connection with JMF ‘the author of Moonfleet’. Kathleen, of course, was not only married to Tom Falkner, JMF’s nephew, but was instrumental in establishing this Society on a firm financial footing.
JMF Society Authors I find it tremendously uplifting to be responsible for a Society where its membership, although small, provides so much talent. Javier Mar í as kindly sent me in February a copy of a wonderful little short story of his (‘a boiled-down gem’) about Elvis in Acapulco called Bad Nature. Try and get hold of it - I’m not lending my copy!
The JMF Crossword It is now a year since I posted out George Robson’s Crossword to you. Those of you who did have a go, please let me have the results. The winner will be the one who got most clue correct!
The General Election
Those of you living in the U.K will have cast your vote (or not) by now. Think of Lady Noble, who at the grand age of 101, cast her vote for the first time in the 1929 Election.
Best wishes Kenneth Hillier Greenmantle, Main Street, Kings Newton, Melbourne Derbyshire. DE73 8BX