The George Borrow Trust
(Charity Number 1114630)


1-2 November 2013—The conference, sponsored by the George Borrow Trust, was planned and organised by Ann Soutter and Clive Wilkins-Jones as a celebration of the centenary of the famous George Borrow Celebration held in Norwich in 1913. It attracted a marvellous crowd to the fine Music Room in the Assembly House at Norwich over two days, Friday and Saturday, preceded by an almost too crowded convivial evening on the Thursday at The Champion, a hostelry of which the boxer Mendoza was the landlord in Borrow's day. There were 61 participants altogether, most of them attending on both days, including members both of the George Borrow Society and the Norwich Society. This was probably the largest gathering of Borrovians to have met since July 1913!

The programme consisted of the following papers and visits:

Friday, 1 November 2013
Borrow's Irish Education, Colm Kerrigan
Making his Mark: Borrow and Norwich City Library, Clive Wilkins-Jones
S.M. Peto as a Railway Builder, Adrian Vaughan

Participants had a choice of afternoon visit with guided tours of Norfolk Record Office (including a very interesting display of Borrow manuscripts, shown to us by Freda Wilkins-Jones), Mousehold Heath and a Borrow Trail in Norwich, for which Ann Soutter had revised the original Borrow Trail she prepared for the Bicentenary in 2003. [Copies are available on application to Dr Soutter.]  

An additional item in the programme was a meeting on Friday evening at the ancient Suckling House in St Andrew's Street. This is now an art cinema but it also has a bar and meeting rooms. Our evening consisted of an informal get-together over drinks and an excellent buffet supper, with readings from Borrow by John Hentges and a local actor, Trevor Markworth. Particularly enjoyable was their joint reading of the passage in Lavengro describing Lavengro's dialogue over dinner with Sir Richard Phillips, his publisher. The evening was enlivened by Gypsy-ish musical interludes performed by David Nuttall on his concertina which were much appreciated.

Saturday, 2 November 2013
Our morning began with the George Borrow Society's Biennial General Meeting. The morning session followed with papers on:
Borrow, John Venning and Russia, by Vicky Manthorpe
At the Atchin Tan: Gypsies, Music and Memory in East Anglia and South-East England, by Hazel Marsh
From Myth to Reality: Borrow's Early Years, by Ann Soutter
Borrow, Oulton and Beyond, by Ivan Bunn: the Ninth Sir Angus Fraser Memorial Lecture. This was not in fact a lecture but a skilfully illustrated video presentation of the Borrows' family life at Oulton, lasting the whole afternoon. It could probably have lasted a lot longer but we had to leave at 5 o'clock!
The day ended with our Conference Dinner in an upper room at the Library Restaurant on Guildhall Hill, at which we were very pleased to welcome the Lord Mayor of Norwich and his daughter. In fact he was so interested in our proceedings that he cancelled his taxi and stayed far longer than planned. Dinner was followed by another reading by John Hentges, and a very amusing account of the 1913 Celebration by Clive Wilkins-Jones. We ended with our traditional toasts: to absent friends, to Borrovians the world over, and to the immortal memory of GEORGE BORROW.

Particular thanks are due to Clive Wilkins-Jones for his part in the organisation of the programme and all the local aspects of the event. The Conference Proceedings are now available (pp. x + 90, a B5 paperback). As the publication is being sponsored by the George Borrow Trust (which as a charity is unable to trade), they have been distributed free of charge to participants and to others who have ordered a copy. The Trust welcomes donations in appreciation, however, and the Trustees are most grateful for the generous response so far. A donation of £8 is suggested to include postage, but any sum would be greatly appreciated to enable the Trust to support more work on Borrow. Cheques should be made payable to The George Borrow Trust and addressed to Ann Soutter (address on order form), who will pass them on to the Trust's Treasurer.) There will be a limited number of spare copies and orders may be placed using the order form.