Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Philip Larkin Plaque Unveiled at Haydon Bridge

Monica's former neighbour, June Willis, with her daughter, Jacqueline, and Dennis Telford, author of Monica - 'Dearest Bun' - A Haydon Bridge Love Story, outside 1A Ratcliffe Road, Haydon Bridge. (All pics: PAUL KELLY.)

Haydon Bridge pays homage to renowned poet's secret love nest

Joseph Tulip
Wednesday 6 August 2014

A blue plaque to commemorate poet Philip Larkin’s association with Haydon Bridge is set to go up in the village later this month.

The plaque which will be placed at 1A Ratcliffe Road, Haydon Bridge, in honour of poet Philip Larkin.

It will be unveiled outside the “secret love nest” he shared with his friend and lover Monica Jones, during a special ceremony on August 26.

The love nest – a house at the east end of Ratcliffe Road – was bought by Miss Jones in 1961, with nationally acclaimed writer Larkin spending much of his time there before his death in 1985 at the age of 63.
A commemorative plaque in Haydon Bridge has been talked about for several years, especially after they have gone up elsewhere, including Hull and Belfast, where Larkin has connections.

But with the support of local historian Dennis Telford, the house’s current owner and the national Philip Larkin Society, Haydon Parish Council has progressed the scheme over the past 12 months.

Speaking at the latest parish council meeting, Coun. David Robson said the plaque was ready to be installed, and that an unveiling ceremony had been planned.

He said: “It’s good that we’ve finally got this far and I hope everybody is happy with the plans. It would be nice to see people turn out for what should be a nice village occasion.”

Councillors were not ready to confirm who would carry out the unveiling of the plaque, which will include an extract of a letter written by Larkin, about the house, in 1962.

However, it will be followed by high tea and a musical presentation by Johnny Handle, at the General Havelock Inn.

A keen local historian, Mr Telford has long believed that recognition for Larkin would complement a plaque on the Old Bridge in honour of the village’s most famous son, artist and engraver, John Martin, as well as the John Martin Trail, which opened almost a decade ago.

The poet and Miss Jones were often seen in the village’s shops and streets during their time in Haydon Bridge.

June Willis, Monica's former neighbour

Much earlier, they had worked together at Leicester University, where she was a lecturer in English and he was a librarian, in the 1940s.

They were close for many years, and when Monica took ill in the early 1980s, she moved to Larkin’s house in Hull, where she remained after his death. Monica died in 2001, aged 78.

Tynedale played a part in the writings of Larkin, with notable references to allotments in Haydon Bridge, while the poem Show Saturday, is said to have been penned after Larkin visited the 1973 Bellingham Show.

Journalist Paul Kelly at the unveiling

In 1984, Larkin was offered the role of Poet Laureate following the death of John Betjeman. The decision to decline may have been influenced by Larkin’s own failing health.

Today, Larkin’s work is studied in schools and his poetry collections, including The Whitsun Weddings, published in 1964, have been part of the English literature A-level curriculum.

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