Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 20 (1989) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
The year began, as always. with the Annual General Meeting on March 25th. The four officers were re-elected and Daphne Paton was welcomed to the Fellowship Council. Joan Bunn was re-elected and both ladies have proved very supportive throughout the year. The business meeting was followed by a showing of slides of North Warwickshire then and now - a fascinating collection by John Burton, Chairman of the Bedworth Society, and to show our appreciation we made a donation to the Society's appeal fund to save the Pump House at the Nicholas Chamberlaine Almshouses in Bedworth.
The second event was almost unknown to me, since it was to be a Surprise Party to mark the end of my twentieth year as Fellowship Secretary. All I knew was that I had to be at a certain place at a certain time on a Saturday in March. I had imagined that we were to have a little get-together. To say that it was a Surprise Evening very much understated it! When I arrived I was utterly amazed to find a hall full of many familiar faces; amongst them some very special people, including Gabriel Woolf, Margaret Wolfit, Jonathan and Marjorie Ouvry who had all travelled up from London to entertain me. Joining them were John Letts, sculptor of the George Eliot statue, Ruth Harris who read to me, and Lord and Lady Daventry as well as many close friends. Beautiful gifts and flowers were given to me and we had a feast of words and music. My beloved George Eliot was joined by my equally beloved Edward Elgar, and I felt completely surrounded by goodwill and affection. My only regret was that I couldn't have it all over again and really enjoy it completely; as may be imagined, I was in a euphoric haze for much of the evening! But how very grateful I was for all the hard work put in by the organising sub-committee, and how amazed I was that it had been kept so secret, particularly as my husband was one of the organisers.
In April we had our annual visit by Gabriel Woolf to present his very successful programme of Readings in Nuneaton and Coventry. He had chosen as his theme 'The Warwickshire Pen' so George Eliot was joined by an interesting collection of other major and minor writers who were either born in Warwickshire or had made their homes there - from, inevitably, William Shakespeare to Angela Brazil and including a lovely piece of writing about the Coventry Watch Trade by our Chairman, Bill Adams. Gabriel had, as always, chosen well, and he entertained us with a splendid selection of material, beautifully read. He was subsequently booked to repeat 'The Warwickshire Pen' by The National Trust at Coughton Court near Alcester so George Eliot had an airing in a very beautiful setting. In Gabriel's hands (or voice!) she keeps making appearances all over the world; how fortunate we are in our Vice Presidents!
Gabriel joined us again at the end of April when he attended the first seminar of the Alliance of Uterary Societies in Birmingham and read to a large gathering of other literary societies, proving to them how the uncommitted are drawn to a writer after hearing the works read aloud... The Fellowship has long been aware how many listeners turn to the printed word, having had their appetites whetted in this entertaining way. The seminar was very successful and from it, the Alliance has changed from a very informal organisation instigated by the George Eliot Fellowship fifteen years earlier and run very informally by me during that time, into a more formal and, hopefully, more effective organisation which will be able to do a valuable job in the world of literature. I was very relieved to hand over the secretary's job to someone else and I wish them every success in their future endeavors. Bill Adams has become our representative on the newly formed Alliance committee, and Gabriel Woolf has been elected President.