Ranjitha Ashok, who has probably read more books by Wodehouse than even Wodehouse himself sent me an email last week stating that Norman Murphy was dead. I am giving a link to his obituary that appeared in The Telegraph of London –http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/10/19/lieutenant-colonel-norman-murphy-founder-of-the-pg-wodehouse-soc/
To those of us who grew up reading Wodehouse from the cradle and lived happily thereafter, Norman Murphy is a kind of patron saint. He dedicated much of his life to tracing the various buildings, streets and personalities of London on whom PG Wodehouse based his stories. It was Murphy’s Law that when Wodehouse invented a street name, he usually retained the first letter of the original. Thus Hays Mews became Halsey Court (most of Wodehouse’s struggling bachelors lived here till they made their millions running onion soup bars). And so on. It is to Murphy’s credit that he traced most of them, proved incontrovertibly (for the meaning of that word, read The Truth About George) through interviews with several old timers and the poring over of records. He became Chairman of the PG Wodehouse Society (UK) and later its Chief Remembrancer. The society, for those not in the know, supports the preservation of the Berkshire pig, of which glorious ilk The Empress of Blandings was also one.
Murphy wrote several books based on his findings about Wodehouse’s works. These include:
In Search of Blandings
One Man’s London
A True And Faithful Account of the Amazing Adventures of the Wodehouse Society on Their Pilgrimage, July 1989
The Reminiscences of the Hon Galahad Threepwood
A Wodehouse Handbook: The World and Words of Wodehouse
All of these are published by Popgood & Groolley (but naturally).
I am however the proud owner of a signed copy of his Three Wodehouse Walks. This features self-guided trails of Bertie Wooster’s West End, The London of Gally Threepwood and Stanley Ukridge, and Valley Fields, A Wodehouse Walk in Dulwhich.
How I came by this book and was introduced to Murphy is a wondrous tale. It was 2012 my dear, the year Jujube won the Goodwood. I happened to be in London at a time when Ranjitha Ashok was also roosting there. She knew Norman Murphy and organised a Wodehouse Walk on a fine day. We met outside the Green Park station (once Dover Street station where Psmith met Freddie Threepwood). Norman came along complete with umbrella, morning coat and trousers as worn. We then walked behind him and listened open-mouthed as he took us to places on which were based the Criterion, Barribaults where the better sort of Maharajah and American millionaires lunched, Berkeley Mansions where Bertie lived, the house of Aunt Dahlia on Charles Street, the Drones Club and finally Marios, where so many of Wodehouse’s heroes fought valiant battles against waiters. Here is a picture from that memorable day:
By then Norman’s voice was weak but once you got accustomed to the dull roar of London’s traffic, everything was oojah cum spiff.
I guess all good things must come to an end (Rather neat that Jeeves! Your own?). I hope Norman had a peaceful end, surrounded by memories of Wodehouse. Good night Sweet Prince! May flights of angels wing thee to thine rest (The Bard of Avon sir).
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