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Plaque unveiled where George Orwell’s Animal Farm almost went up in flames

PUBLISHED: 16:27 12 September 2012

Ed Fordham and Richard Blair at the unveilling of a plaque dedicated to Richard's father George Orwell at the site of their former Kilburn home at 10a Mortimer Crescent, now Kington House.

Ed Fordham and Richard Blair at the unveilling of a plaque dedicated to Richard's father George Orwell at the site of their former Kilburn home at 10a Mortimer Crescent, now Kington House.

Archant

The only living heir of George Orwell has unveiled a plaque at the house where the writer and his family once lived – and where the original manuscript of Animal Farm almost went up in flames.

Kington House in Mortimer Crescent, Kilburn, may not be much to look at since the original Victorian terrace was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb during the Second World War in 1944, while Orwell was living there.

For two years, Orwell, real name Eric Blair, etched his way into literary history there – writing the first draft of his 1945 classic novella.

His adopted son and only child Richard Blair has remained out of the limelight for most of his life.

His father and mother died when he was a young boy and he was sent to live with Orwell’s sister in Scotland.

But Mr Blair, now in his early 70s, made a rare appearance at West End Lane Books in West Hampstead after unveiling the plaque on Tuesday.

Sharing little else but a name with his father, Mr Blair plays golf, is a “cynical” Tory and became a farmer.

Speaking of the man he knew for for just six years, he told the Ham&High: “His problem, of course, was that because he suffered from TB (tuberculosis) he didn’t want to be close to me physically.

“He was highly concerned that I might contract TB so he had to stand back.

“I don’t think it had any lasting effects but it was definitely something that troubled him and he wrote about in his letters.”

Mr Blair was too young to remember the explosion that almost left Animal Farm in ashes. But the image of Orwell rifling through his manuscripts in a mad panic has become family folklore.

“Of course he had all his books in that house and he couldn’t find the damn manuscripts!” said Mr Blair.

“He spent hours and hours rifling through (bomb site) rubbish. Fortunately, he found it.”

Local historian Ed Fordham, who arranged for the blue plaque to be put up, said: “It’s great that, at a time when there is a debate raging about a statue at the BBC to George Orwell, and whether he was radical or not, we here in Kilburn can get on with recognising one of our most famous past residents.”

For Mr Blair, his acquaintance with his father may have been fleeting.

But for Orwell, it was the power of words that always won out – as he carefully burned the names of his son’s birth parents off his birth certificate with the end of a lit cigarette.

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