Saturday, 19 September 2020: Virtual Johnson Birthday Supper
While circumstances sadly prevented the Society from holding its traditional Johnson Birthday Supper in 2020, the anniversary was memorably marked by a ‘Virtual Supper’ held via Zoom on Saturday, 19 September. This included a talk by our Chairman Phil Jones, Johnsonian readings by Graham and June Nicholls, and very welcome contributions from representatives of other Johnson Societies in the UK and around the world, namely Ian Keese (The Johnson Society of Australia), Noriyuki Harada (The Johnson Society of Japan), Loren Rothschild (The Samuel Johnson Society of the West), Robert DeMaria (The Johnsonians), Stephen Clarke (The Johnson Club) and Catherine Dille (The Johnson Society of London); a message was also read out from Stephen Karian (The Johnson Society of the Central Region), who was unable to attend. The event (a video of which can be viewed below) concluded with the traditional toast to ‘Johnsonians the World Over’.
The Virtual Supper was a great success, and a moving tribute to the bonds that unite Johnsonians everywhere. Many thanks to all who contributed and attended, and to Ian Cherrie, Tim Cockitt and Stephen Brierley for their technical support.
Monday, 16 March 2020: Willow Planting at Arboretum
Acting on a suggestion from the Johnson Society, Lichfield District Council generously provided cuttings from Johnson’s Willow, which the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield kindly agreed to accept into its collection. The cuttings were planted at the Arboretum during a ceremony on Monday, 16 March 2020 which was attended by representatives of all three bodies. The four saplings can be found at two locations at Water’s Meet within the Arboretum.
As Johnson’s Willow helps to preserve the memory of the people of the past and their achievements, it is fitting that cuttings from it have now gained a home at the Arboretum, which was founded with similar aims. The Johnson Society thanks both Lichfield District Council and the National Memorial Arboretum for their support in bringing this project to fruition.
Paul Niven (Community Gardener, Lichfield District Council), John Winterton (Heritage Liaison Officer, the Johnson Society), Councillor Joe Powell (Chairman, Lichfield District Council) and Philippa Rawlinson (Managing Director, The National Memorial Arboretum) planting the first cutting.
Paul Niven of Lichfield District Council and Paul Johnson of the National Memorial Arboretum planting the second cutting by the River Tame.
Members of the Johnson Society after the planting of the second cutting.
Monday, 2 March 2020: Johnson’s Chair Ceremony
On Monday, 2 March 2020 the Society held its annual ‘Chair Ceremony’ at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, to honour a chair associated with Johnson, and also to commemorate Johnson’s journey to London with David Garrick on that date in 1737. More about the ceremony can be found in the Birthplace’s blog entry for 28 February on its website.
After the ceremony, the date is also marked by the Society’s Annual lecture, which this year was delivered by Emily Ireson on the subject of ‘Fashions and Fancy: Clothing the 18th-Century Lady – From Excesses of Fabric, to the Bare Minimum’.
‘To the immortal memory of Samuel Johnson’ (photo by Stephen Brierley).
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.