Friday, September 12, 2008
John Moore of Tewkesbury
If you live in the Tewkesbury area you may have heard of John Moore - there is a museum in his name in the town, but it's tucked away so you could easily miss it. There is even a John Moore society but only a very few of the forty books he wrote are still in print and he has been unfairly neglected for a long while. Which is a shame, because he was one of the earliest writers to draw attention to conservation issues, and in a relatively short life (he died at the age of 60 in 1967 of cancer) he packed in an awful lot; as well as writing many novels he founded the Tewkesbury Festival of Plays and the Cheltenham Literary festival, covered the Spanish Civil War as a journalist on the Republican side, worked his passage on a tramp steamer and hitchhiked round Europe, flew in the Fleet Air Arm and worked for the War Office during the war, wrote a couple of plays, was chairman of the Society of Authors, collected (and wrote knowledgeably about) moths and butterflies, broadcast regularly on the BBC, wrote any amount of articles for various publications, as well as a weekly column in the Birmingham Evening Mail, tried his hand at every country pursuit imaginable and generally managed to stay one step ahead of his creditors - he always believed in the principle that if you've got it, spend it!
If you've never read a John Moore book and would like to know why I rate him so highly then I'd recommend you start with 'Portrait of Elmbury', a thinly disguised look at Tewkesbury, and the book that made his name when it was first published in 1945. It was the first part of a trilogy and this and the second and third parts ('Brensham village' and 'The blue field') formed the basis of a BBC serial 'Brensham People' which starred Michael Hordern and was very well received when broadcast in the late 1970's. The Brensham trilogy books are fairly easy to get hold of as all three books have been reprinted several times. If you like the Brensham books then you will also like his books of country pieces - 'The season of the year', 'Come rain, come shine', 'Man and bird and beast' and 'The year of the pigeons'.
If you don't like reading about country matters you might instead try 'You English words' which is one of the best books on the delights of the English language you'll ever read, and, although long out of print, still not too difficult to find.
John Moore has finally had his biography written ('John Moore, true countryman' by David Cole) and a fine effort it is too, a 'warts and all' portrait of a fascinating character.