Sunday, 23 May 2010


Updated: 2nd October 2010, 7.20 p.m.

  On Saturday, 22nd May 2010, at Moreton Dorset, there was a 75th anniversary Commemoration of the death of T. E. Lawrence, jointly with the 25th anniversary of the formation of the T.E.Lawrence Society.
  The day started with a buffet lunch for Society members at the Frampton Arms, next to Moreton railway station. The gathering included two ladies who had come all the way from Italy. Everyone then motored the couple of miles or so to St. Nicholas' Church, Moreton, for the 'Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Life of Thomas Edward Lawrence 1888-1935', which began at 2 p.m. On arrival, the church was found to be already rather full with other Society members, etc.
  The service was conducted by the Rev. Jacquie Birdseye, accompanied by the Moreton Benefice Choir.

  The portrait of Lawrence is one of those by Augustus John. Ian Heritage is the current Secretary of the Society. The two poems chosen to be read from Minorities were 'Arabia' by Walter de la Mare, and "When I Set Out For Lyonesse" by Thomas Hardy.

  The Rev. Birdseye and congregation then walked down to the cemetery and Lawrence's grave, passing on the way about six assorted Brough motorcycles on display with their proud owners on the village green:

  At the graveside, after being introduced by the Society's Chairman,

 I gave my following Tribute:
"Good afternoon everyone. I was the Society's second Chairman. Some of what I am to say may overlap or be an augmentation of what was said earlier at the Service.
"We have passed from the place of religious observance of remembrance to this focal spot of T.E.Lawrence's final resting place. We are a smaller, more restrained gathering than that which descended on this consecrated plot 75 years ago yesterday. A gathering which then included an invited selection of the great and the good from Who's Who, as well as many onlookers - the latter including one of the young lads involved in the fatal accident, as one of the many photographs taken at the time show.
"Lawrence was born  in North Wales, in a house named Gorphwysfa, which means 'place of rest'. Less than 47 years later, he prematurely found another Gorphwysfa here in rural Dorset. Though some may question that, for this spot has since become a place of pilgrimage, both by the knowledgeable and the just curious. The former come perhaps to ponder on the "What if" he had not died, with still potentially many years of life and possible public service ahead of him. The merely curious on the other hand may be disappointed to find that this headstone is not very enlightening; and they may even be forgiven for wondering whether they are looking at the correct grave.
"For those of a sentimental nature, they can draw some comfort from knowing that Lawerence does not lie here alone - albeit with two of his brothers lying in some foreign fields that will be for ever England; his parents together in an Oxford cemetery; and some ancestors in a small graveyard in the centre of Ireland. However, his distant kinsfolk, the Framptons, have lived across the road in 'Moreton House' for hundreds of years; and it was one of them who donated this piece of ground to be used as a cemetery. Even more closely, some of his contemporary Frampton relatives also lie here only a matter of a few yards away over to the [speaker's] right.
"Also lying close by are Pat and Joyce Knowles, over to the [speaker's] left, who lived in the cottage opposite Lawrence's own Clouds Hill, and who became his very close friends.
"Also permanently represented here is Lawrence's close army friend, the late Arthur Russell. The two first met when they served together in the Tank Regiment at Bovington in the early 1920s. Russell was to be rewarded for his friendship by being one of the pall-bearers at Lawrence's funeral.
"And it was Russell who about 20 years ago, donated this bench behind me. The 'Patroclus' mentioned on the seat's back-rest refers to Greek mythology, in which Patroclus was the constant companion of Achilles. When another of Lawrence's friends, the poet Siegfried Sassoon so named them, one can only conjecture as to whether Sassoon had anything in mind as to what could have been Lawrence's 'Achilles heel'!
"As Sir Edmund Gosse said in 1928, a couple of months after the death of Thomas Hardy: 'This is not the moment for attempting to make a final pronouncement about the character of Hardy's works in detail. They will occupy a hundred pens, and will be subjected to close analysis by every variety of commentatot.' This can be said to have been appropriately true in the case of Lawrence's character.
"Over the years interest in, and appraisal of Lawrence has ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned. The expression 'many faceted' is a possibly over-used one generally used in describing Lawrence. Though it is an expression that cannot be bettered, and one justly deserved in this instance.
"I will not go through the long list of his achievements and interests, which most of us are probably knowledgeable of anyway - this through the many biographies and critiques that have been written about him right up to the present day.
"He himself once foretold that his bones would be rattled after his death, but it may be doubted whether even he considered this would be continuing 75 years later. There have been upteen biographies and esoteric publications; articles; plays; an epic film; TV documentaries; and now numerous websites devoted to him. All this commentary has ranged from the adulatory to the vitriolic. Even now there is not let-up in what has been described as a Lawrence industry.
"We must not of course overlook Lawrence's own legacy of his three autobiographies. There was, of course, his monumental Seven Pillars of Wisdom, detailing his close involvement in the 'Arab Revolt' of World War One. Then came the posthumous publication of The Mint, about his early time in the Royal Air Force. And thirdly, the thousand or so seemingly inexhaustable surviving canon of correspondence he wrote up to the day of his fatal accident.
"Back in May 1985 there was considered to still be sufficient interest in Lawrence for there to be an organised 50th anniversary remembrance, based here in Dorset. A memorial tree was ceremonially planted near the crash site, up from Bovington Camp. The honours being undertaken by a soldier who had been with Lawrence in the Desert Campaign.
"For those of us who were here at Moreton at another event, you will recall the large interested crowd which attended on that sunny Sunday afternoon. As well as the Commemorative Service in the church, there was an associated 'T.E.Lawrence Exhibition', with the star attraction being undoubtedly the powerful Brough motorcycle on which Lawrence had his final accident. It was a monster machine, wondrous to behold, For myself at least, an awe-inspiring moment.
"Lawrence confessed to not deliberately seeking publicity. And whilst in the army and airforce was somewhat punctilious in doing his duty, and generally keeping a low profile - though not backward in contacting the highest echelons of authority to get petty service regulations changed. One biographer was thus persuaded to entitle his biography of Lawrence - Backing into the Limelight. Though with Lawrence roaring around barrack-squares, and the length and breadth of the countryside on his powerful, noisy motorcycles, this title could be considered something of an understatement, or mis-statement.
"To return to the point I was starting to make. It was at the time of that 50th commemorative event in 1985 - and to misuse another mythical source - there rose like a phoenix out of the flames of renaissance euphoria the inspiration for the forming of a T.E.Lawrence Society. Today is thus a happy celebration of the 25th anniversary of that Society's formation, right here in Dorset.
"It was the brainchild of a young lady teacher at Wareham - Ingrid Keith - whom it had been hoped could have been here with us this afternoon.
"I said happy celebration, because the Society was formed at an auspicious time. Not only because of all the positive publicity being generated at the time, but there was already sufficient keen local interest and support to get such a viable Society up and running.
"In those early heady days there were still people alive who knew or had met Lawrence, and many of these were subsequently interviewed for their valuable reminiscences. One such was Arthur Russell, who I mentioned earlier. I well remember the visit my wife and I made to Coventry to meet him, and being regaled not only with a nice lunch, but for three hours or more with stories about his time with Lawrence. He later came down to Dorset to attend some Society and other events.
"Then there was the local elderly gentleman member of the Society, who in the early 1920s had been working in the same Westminster building in which Lawrence had spartan attic accommodation, and was busy writing his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
"Alas, these and others have now departed. That is with the notable exception of an active centenarian lady not far from here in Dorset, who acted in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles back in 1924, which Lawrence attended with his friends Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hardy.
"There were happily also in 1985 several building and locations in Dorset, and around the country, with Lawrence associations, which could still be visited and photographed. Then in 1989 an intrepid band of Society members made an unforgettable visit to Jordan, the scene of some of Lawrence of Arabia's finest achievements.
"And later in that year my wife and I stayed for a memorable week at the cottage in north-east Scotland, where Lawrence spent a holiday with friends in 1930.
"Again, alas, many of these locations have since disappeared, or changed out of recognition. I instance the R.A.F. Mountbatten complex in Devon, where Lawrence served following his return from India in 1929; the Scott-Paine powerboat works in Hythe, Hampshire, where he helped design and test R.A.F. air-sea rescue craft; the R.A.F. marine craft workshops in Bridlington, Yorkshire, from where he retired in 1935; and the Bovington village post-office and garage, visited by Lawrence on the day of his fatal accident.
"In the 25 years since its formation the T.E.Lawrence Society has grown into a truly international one, and doubtless exceeding the expectations of its founders and early members. On a more practical note, this pathway was part-financed by the Society.
"Thank you."

  The Society's floral tribute was then laid on the grave by member Sylvia Clarke:

   After which group photographs were taken, and possibly a video:

 I was then asked by some members to show them the various graves I had mentioned. Here I am with Pieter Shipster (on the left) the T.E.Lawrence Society Vice-Chairman:

  The above five photographs were taken by Alan Hammond, to whom acknowledgements are given.
  Should anyone else who happened to be at Moreton for this event, and took photographs which they would not mind me placing in this blog, I would be greatly appreciative and obliged if they could please send them as email attachments to Photos published will carry the sender's name, unless they wish otherwise.

No comments:

Post a Comment