Lawrence Lord (2)
You know one of the oddest things about this blog is that I send out questions into the ether and although it sometimes takes months to get a reply, I can never tell where on earth that reply is going to come from
Take this one. I first spotted the plaque to the ‘Bon Viveur, Raconteur, Bar Stool Philosopher and Lifetime Guest of the Year’ Lawrence Lord last June and by that point it was ten years old.
As everyone who has lived here for any amount of time will know, stuff gets lost very quickly around these parts. We choose to celebrate the ancient Royal past and forget more recent, perhaps more fascinating things.
The very recent is often the hardest thing of all to find. I had no idea who this best-ever regular at the Trafalgar Tavern might have been and, of course, none of the staff did. The place isn’t what it was ten years ago, and I’m not even sure they have regulars any more.
BTW – if you want to see the plaque, it’s just inside the Regency balcony in the large centre window bay – not immediately noticeable, not least because getting a seat in that bay requires booking at birth.
Anyway – I asked the Netosphere who Laurence Lord was and have actually had a reply – from America…
It seems that he was a pensioner at Trinity Hospital almshouses, next door to the Power Station. For anyone who’s ever wondered what’s behind that permanently-locked black arched door, here’s a reminder of the delightful glimpse you used to be able to sneak from the Thames Path before they stopped leaving the door open…
But I digress. Tom, from St Louis writes:
My wife and I were Yanks in search of Whitebait at the Trafalgar Tavern about 15 years ago. As you mentioned the Whitebait were a disappointment, but by good fortune we were seated next to Lawrence and spent the next 4 or 5 hours in conversation. We exchanged addresses and would write and send small gifts of interest.
When we returned several years later, we met again for the entire afternoon. During that visit we walked down to visit Trinity Hospital, including his room and the common areas. He had hoped to live long enough for the 400 year anniversary coming up soon. He also had asked a friend to do a watercolor of Trinity Hospital, the Trafalgar, and the Museums, which still hangs in our house.
We continued to correspond, and when I returned with my sons a few years later, I wrote, but received no response.
When we went to visit the Trafalgar, we learned that he had become ill with cancer the prior winter and had died in early 2001. We were directed to the window and I have kept the photo as a remembrance. Somewhere is a box of many photos is a photo we took of Lawrence, his friend, Marie, a waitress originally from Dublin, and us.
Even after so many years I have clear memories of good friend, despite only spending 2 days with him. Of note was that he was raised in Yorkshire as a Communist with a picture of Joe Stalin over the fireplace. His served in WWII with a Scottish regiment in a kilt. Some time in the early 50s he and a friend drove to the USSR for several months. What he saw was appalling. He remained a Socialist, but not a Communist.
Once while the O2 venue was completed, Lawrence was interviewed at the Trafalgar on the BBC TV. I have always felt lucky to have met such an interesting man.
So – we have a little more news – he sounds like a fascinating character. I’m hoping that Tom manages to find that photo. I have an image in my head of Lawrence in the Dickensian cloak and top hat that the pensioners used to have to wear, but aparently that was only up until the 1940s and now they only wear that kit for the annual Visitation Court at the Mercers’ Company. He was probably allowed out in the evenings by then too (the rules of the old almshouses were really quite scary.)
Still more to be discovered about the modern characters of Greenwich – but we’re getting there, folks, we’re getting there…
Here is what the plaque looked like ten years ago…
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