Laurie Lee – Personal background

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Photo: © Paul Matthews

He was brought up in the nearby village of Slad which is the centre of his most well-known work: Cider with Rosie.

First published in 1959 this is the first of his autobiographical trilogy, which also includes: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning; and A Moment of War. Cider with Rosie is acknowledged as a seminal piece of English literature that captures the spirit of a childhood, family, community and rural life at a moment of great change in the early twentieth century.

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Photo: © Paul Matthews

Laurie left home at 19 years old to begin a journey on foot that would take him initially to London and a year later to Spain. His journey through Spain on the verge of civil war is poignantly illustrated in the second part of his autobiographical trilogy: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. The final book, A Moment of War, paints an evocative picture of his time as a volunteer in Spain during the war against Franco’s fascists; and his subsequent capture and repatriation to England.

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Photo: © Paul Matthews

On his return to England he began to train and develop as an artist and a writer. At the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered for military service in the UK, but was turned down on account of his epilepsy: a condition that plagued him throughout his life. Through his connections with the world of art and literature he met his wife Katherine Polge. They married in London in 1950 and had one daughter, Jessy, born in 1963.

laurie-5-300Despite his limited early formal education, Laurie demonstrated throughout his life that he was a master of the English language and a talented artist and musician. His early creative work focused on poetry and playwriting. Periods of paid employment as a young man included spells during the War as a scriptwriter with the Crown Film Unit and the Ministry of Information publications division. He was also appointed caption writer for the 1951 Festival of Britain for which he was appointed MBE.

Laurie died on the 13th May 1997 at home in his beloved Slad. Survived by his wife Kathy and daughter Jessy, he is buried in the local churchyard.

Activities, events and publications to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Laurie’s birth in 2014.