Ten Years On The Parish, The Life and letters of George Garrett

Monday 15th May
Written by Mike Morris 

After the hurly burly and madness of the Mayday Parade, which was the official launch of Ten years On The Parish – the Autobiography and Letters of George Garrett,  it felt good to be able to concentrate on talking about the book itself at the second launch event held at Waterstones Liverpool One on 15th May. It also felt good to be with my two-co-editors Tony Wailey and Andy Davies, and to be able to share the discussion with them as well as publicly acknowledge their work in bringing it together. The turnout was good, but what struck me most from my position facing the audience was the diversity of ages who came along, and that I didn’t know most of the people there – always the best sign when you are working to bring Garrett’s work to new audiences.

I introduced the book, discussing it in general as well as commenting on the letters exchanged between Garrett and his editor John Lehmann, which are included alongside the autobiography. Tony Wailey discussed Garrett’s American links, particularly the Ghetto Pastoral movement and the Wobblies, and andy Davies discussed Garrett in relation to the ‘Red Atlantic’, placing him in the context of the work of Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker.

With over fifty percent of the audience being women, it wasn’t surprising for the first question to be about Grace, Garrett’s wife, who he was married to from 1918 until his death in 1966. Liverpool women aren’t soft, and many of them remember fathers, or grandfathers, absent for months on end when at sea. The underlying question, perhaps understandably as Garrett lived in America for a total of four years, including three unbroken years between 1923 and 1926, is whether he supported Grace, or whether he achieved what he did at her expense. A number of the women involved in the archive group have had an interest in Grace, and one of those, Rochelle, stepped forward to discuss the issue; as far as we are aware, from the family as well as from Garrett’s writings, is that he did send money home throughout his time away and in America, and both times was working to try and bring over Grace and their growing family, only to be thwarted by Customs in 1921 and the gathering recession in 1923.

The Garretteers answering questions became a feature of the night, and myself, Tony and Andy were more than happy to share the platform with them – the book is as much their achievement as it ours. The questions ranged across Garrett’s many aspects of his life and work – too many to detail here, but all are answered in the book! It was with pride again I noted that members of Garrett’s family had also made a long journey to join us for the event. We continued the discussion in the pub – which is where all the best discussions take place.