Saturday 14 – Monday 16 September 2019: The Birthday Weekend
September 2019 saw the traditional celebration of the anniversary of Johnson’s birth. An overview of the festivities is provided by the Johnson Society’s Chairman, Phil Jones, in a video by Annette Rubery:
On the morning of Saturday 14 September members of the Johnson Society joined civic dignitaries in a procession from the Guildhall to the Market Square, where a wreath was placed on the plinth of the Johnson statue by the Mayor of Lichfield, Cllr Mrs Deborah Baker (photo by Stephen Brierley):
During the day, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum welcomed visitors, with Johnsonian birthday cake being dispensed (photo by Stephen Brierley):
In the evening, the Johnson Society held its annual Birthday Supper at the Guildhall, in the course of which Dr Rowan Williams was installed as the Johnson Society’s President for 2019–20.
Dr Williams with Jemma Green (School Captain) and Kieran Banner (Head Boy) from the King Edward VI School, Lichfield (photo by Richard Thompson).
The Birthday Supper in full swing (photo by Richard Thompson).
Dr Williams delivering his presidential address (photo by Chris Lockwood).
On Sunday 15 September a special Johnson service was held in Lichfield Cathedral, in the course of which Dr Williams placed a wreath below the bust of Johnson in the south transept (photo by Stephen Brierley).
The Birthday celebrations concluded on Monday 16 September with the annual commemoration of Johnson’s act of penance in Uttoxeter. The picture shows the Mayor of Uttoxeter, Cllr Sue McGarry, placing a wreath on the Johnson memorial in the Market Place (photo by John Winterton).
Sunday 7 July 2019: Friendship Walk
Today saw the second annual walk to Johnson’s Willow and other places of Johnsonian interest in the area, this time led by Colin Greatorex. The emphasis was again on Johnson’s capacity for friendship; this year, the theme was enhanced by the very welcome presence of representatives from Netherstowe School (morning walk) and from Friends 2 Friends and Probus (afternoon walk), who gave readings at the Willow (the video shows Tia from Netherstowe School reading an extract from Two Odes on the Litchfield Willow by Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson). The now traditional toast to the Willow was also offered here.
Thanks are due to Colin for arranging and leading the walk, to Richard and Marilyn Davies for presiding over the refreshments at the Willow, to the various readers, and to Stephen Brierley for the video.
Saturday 30 March 2019: visit to St John’s Gate
For the Society’s annual outing, members made a coach excursion to London to visit St John’s Gate and the Museum of the Order of St John at Clerkenwell. The priory at Clerkenwell served as the English headquarters of the Order of St John of Jerusalem; its most prominent surviving feature is the Gate, completed in 1504. From the Society’s perspective, the Gate’s chief claim to fame is as the original home of The Gentleman’s Magazine; in the upper room, Edward Cave produced the magazine, and Johnson wrote copy for it. As well as the Gate, the museum and the crypt of the priory church, the group visited the nearby Charterhouse, a former Carthusian monastery which now serves as an almshouse.
Many thanks to Phil Jones for the photographs of St John’s Gate.
Friday 22 March 2019: Guildhall Workshop
A workshop run by Jo Wilson from the Birthplace Museum and Nick Seager from Keele University gave participants, including members of the Johnson Society, the chance to handle primary source material from the collection of the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum: these included a second edition of Anna Seward’s poetical novel Louisa; copies of The Gentleman’s Magazine; letters from Samuel Johnson to Mrs Thrale; eighteenth-century playbills; and, of course, Johnson’s Dictionary. There were also enjoyable things to do, such as learning how to fold sheets of paper into an octavo volume like a Georgian printer. The workshop, held at the Guildhall, was part of a series funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Many thanks to Annette Rubery for the images of the workshop.
Saturday 2 March 2019: Johnson’s Chair Ceremony
On Saturday, 2 March 2019 the Society performed the annual ceremony to honour a chair associated with Johnson, which now resides in the birth room at the Johnson Birthplace Museum. This is the chair which Johnson probably left in the garden at Edial Hall in lieu of debts, and was then kept by the partly assuaged gardener. It was eventually sold to a Dr John Salter of Chasetown; he in turn sold it, just before the War, to the archaeologist Halstead Vanderpoel of Washington, who presented it in 1981 to the Johnson Society. Mr Vanderpoel (who died in 2004 at the age of 92) came over to make the toasts in what has since become known as the ‘Chair Ceremony’. The Society links the ceremony to the March 2 celebrations, the date that Johnson and Garrick left for London. (Video of the 2019 ceremony courtesy of Annette Rubery.)
Sunday 8 July 2018: First ‘Willow Walk’
The first ‘Willow Walk’, on the theme of ‘Friendship and Refreshment’, was held today. Led by David Titley, the walk took in numerous places in the Stowe Pool area of Lichfield with Johnsonian connections, especially those illustrating his great capacity for friendship; the party also paused to take refreshments at Johnson’s Willow, where drinks were served, and a toast was offered to ‘Johnson and Johnson’s Willow’ (see image). The walk was much enjoyed by those taking part, and credit is due to David Titley and Colin Greatorex for arranging the Willow Walk, and to David for leading it.
Many thanks to Stephen Brierley for the image of the toast.