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Laurie Lee


‘He had a nightingale inside him, a capacity for sensuous, lyrical precision’ Guardian

Laurie Lee was born in 1914, and brought up in the village of Slad. He left home at nineteen to begin a journey on foot that would take him first to London and, a year later, to Spain. The story of this journey is immortalised in his autobiographical trilogy, Cider with RosieAs I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War

On his return to England he trained 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 health. 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. He married his wife Katherine Polge in London in 1950, and they had one daughter, Jessy, born in 1963.

Despite his limited early formal education, Laurie was a master of the English language and a talented artist and musician. 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. His journey through Spain on the verge of civil war is poignantly illustrated in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, and 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. A Rose for Winter is the evocative story of Laurie’s return to Andalusia.

Although best known for his memoirs, his first love was always poetry, and he published five volumes of poetry in his lifetime, including The Sun My MonumentThe Bloom of Candles: Verse from a Poet’s Year, and My Many-Coated Man. He also wrote many essays for magazines and broadsheets, many of which are now collected in I Can’t Stay Long and Village Christmas.

Laurie died on 13 May 1997 at home in his beloved Slad and is buried in the local churchyard.