Former landlady serves up George Orwell tale

HE may be known the world over as George Orwell but a former publican says the respected writer “was just Mr Blair to me”.

Irene Stacey and her late husband George leased what was The Plough pub, in Wallington, near Baldock, when the prolific political essayist, journalist and author lived in the village.

The 94-year-old said: “I knew him for about 12 months, I lived next door to him in Wallington.

“To be quite honest he was a perfect gentleman, he was very quiet and I had no idea he was a brilliant author – I had no idea at all.”

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, leased a cottage in Kits Lane, Wallington, from 1936-47 and famously wrote 1984, Animal Farm and Down and Out in Paris and London.

Mrs Stacey, of Icknield Green in Letchworth GC, remembers the former imperial policeman had a taste for the local brewery’s mild beer.

She said: “He used to come into The Plough for a pint of Simpson’s beer, which was the local Baldock brewery.

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“He used to buy a pint of ale and take it back with him. I’ve still got the jug he used to borrow.”

The mother-of-two also remembers putting up some of his literary friends when they visited the village.

“I would provide bed and breakfast for them for a half-a-crown (12-and-a-half pence) a night,” she said.

“I believe one was Quentin Crisp and one was a baroness.”

Orwell famously fought on behalf of the republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and nearly paid the ultimate price for his idealism when he was shot in the throat by a sniper.

The author also toured poverty-ravaged areas in the north of England and lived as a tramp for a number of months.

But despite his hard life, Mrs Stacey said the author, who died aged 46 in 1950, did not talk of his experiences.

“He didn’t talk about anything and he didn’t talk much but you felt comfortable with him, you knew he was a very quiet lovely man.

“At the time I didn’t know he was George Orwell. He was just Mr Blair to me.”

A celebration of the author’s brief but inspirational life will be staged in Letchworth GC in September with a community-based week of events.