I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Don’t Make A Fuss


Storms and gales are bad enough, but that is not all the sea can do to you.

George Orwell begins his diary entry for August 19th matter-of-factly enough.

Since 17.8.47. at Glengarrisdale [in the northwestern part of the Hebridean island of Jura where Orwell spent much of the last few years of life and where, substantially, he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four]. Fine weather all the time. Sea calm. Water supply has dried up & will not begin again until it rains. Well in field fairly good water.

Having got the essential Crusoesque information down, Orwell then moves to incident.

Time to Glengarrisdale about 1 hour 45 minutes (still the detail). On return journey today ran into the whirlpool & were nearly all drowned. Engine sucked off by the sea & went to the bottom. Just managed to keep the boat steady with the oars, & after going through the whirlpool twice, ran into smooth water & found ourselves only about 100 yards from Eilean Mòr, so ran in quickly & managed to clamber ashore. H[enry] D[akin] jumped ashore first with the rope, then the boat overturned spilling L[ucy] D[akin], R[ichard] & myself into the sea. R. trapped under the boat for a moment, but we managed to get him out. Most of the stuff in the boat lost including the oars.

But enough of this nonsense ‑ there is important information to be imparted.

Eilean Mòr is larger than it looks – I should say two acres at least. The whole surface completely undermined by puffins’ nests. Countless wild birds, including many young cormorants learning to fly. Curiously enough it has a considerable pool of what appears to be fresh water, so there must be a spring.

Orwell’s blasé account of this (very) near death experience at the hands of the notorious Corryvreckan whirlpool perhaps recalls his way of dealing with another interesting experience he had had, just over ten years earlier at Huesca on the Aragon front during the Spanish Civil War:

The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.

We must assume that if Orwell cared little for his own life (he was, at this stage, already dying from tuberculosis anyway) he would have been devastated by the loss of his infant son Richard or his nephew and niece, Henry and Lucy. As it turned out they were rescued from Eilean Mòr by fishermen after a few hours. The fishermen offered to bring them round the coast to Orwell’s house at Barnhill after their ordeal. To the teenage Lucy’s understandable fury Orwell airily refused the offer, forcing them to go barefoot over three miles of rough country.