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This article is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

on Seán Rafferty
It Never Was in France or Spain
Horatio Morpurgo
You are told a lot about your education but some beautiful, sacred memory, preserved since childhood, is perhaps the best education of all.
                               from the epilogue to
The Brothers Karamazov                  

THE POET SEÁN RAFFERTY and his wife Peggy kept a village pub in Devon for thirty years, retiring in the late 1970s. ‘Seán’ was a youthful tribute to the land of Yeats. Born ‘John’, in the Scottish Borders, he was educated at Edinburgh University but spent his adult life in England, rarely returning north. With his Scots origins, Irish adopted name and English adoptive home, it is tempting, in the midst of present multiple muddles, to cast him as the British riddle personified. He comes to mind for so many reasons at the moment.

I knew him best after he and Peggy retired to a house at the bottom of a farm track, a short walk across fields from my own childhood home. He could never remember how many times the BBC had sent a reporter to interview them at the pub about the death of the English village. He would check with Peggy in a little ironic double-act: ‘How many times did the village die while we were there?’ In one context or another, that scepticism about overblown claims was a constant.

He’d read Classics at Edinburgh and was forbiddingly well-read. I didn’t know what to say to him as a small child but that gradually changed and he acted as a kind of tutor-without-portfolio during my student years and for some time after. With ...


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