Letters remembering Piers Plowright

Piers Plowright pictured in a studio full of his artwork

Piers Plowright - who loved painting and even created a mural of Adam and Eve for the Bragg family home, in 2015 - Credit: Victor Hall

Niamh O’Donnell-Keenan, chair and trustee, LitFest, writes:

We were very sorry to hear about the recent passing of Piers Plowright (Ham&High). Piers was kind and generous and a marvellous supporter of Proms at St Jude’s LitFest.

He interviewed for us several times and his interviews were always conducted with great warmth, skill and sensitivity. 

He was an absolute pleasure to meet and will be sorely missed.

Robert Sutherland Smith, Widecombe Way, East Finchley, writes:

A few poetic words and thoughts on the late Piers Plowright. 

He long swam the Highgate Pond from which he will undoubtedly be missed.

The Artist and Swimmer
Piers, you were ever fond of a poem and a swim in Hampstead’s Highgate Pond;
Not far from the spot where Coleridge and Shelly met Keats.
Your name, like his and ours is writ in water.
Whilst fishes come and go and swans are gliding past
And memories remain alive,
You shall continue to be remembered with a rare and fond, affection;
your, civilising, decent, kindest heart,
- until the final memories of them too depart! 

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Thane Byng, founder of ABC (Admiral Byng Campaign) in 2007, collateral descendant of Admiral John Byng, writes:

Piers Plowright playing guitar on holiday in Walberswick, Suffolk in 1977

Piers Plowright on holiday in Walberswick, Suffolk in 1977 - Credit: John Haynes

Piers Plowright has been a staunch supporter of the cause to exonerate my forebear, Admiral John Byng [1704 - 1757] who was executed “for failing to do his utmost”.

Piers met members of the ABC on several occasions at Burgh House, Hampstead – and he was due to attend the premier of one of the major projects created to raise awareness of the campaign, The Musket Ball: an oratorio composed by Piers Maxim to my libretto, in March 2016 at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The Thameslink train, which took several of the prospective audience to Greenwich, broke down en route. Piers, among many others were forced to turn back. Piers apologised afterwards, in his wonderfully polite way, saying that due to not feeling well, he was very sorry that he was unable to muster that extra effort to attend.

In the Ham&High, Piers reviewed an exhibition of mine at Burgh House, and a memorial event in honour of GF Handel and Admiral Byng at St George’s Church Hanover Square . 

My research reveals the fact that GF Handel paid tribute to Admiral Byng by rewriting a previous oratorio [in Italian] and staging it in English, at Covent Garden in 1757 as Triumph of Time and Truth three days before Admiral Byng’s execution. 
Piers was the first journalist to publish the information about the connection between Handel and Byng in the Ham&High.

Piers always remained interested in ABC’s endeavours and offered to lend his name to the growing list of supporters. 

The latest supporter is Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP, who has discovered through the ABC that he is distantly related to the Byngs and thus to Admiral John Byng.

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, writes:

Piers Plowright and Poh Sim sit on a fallen tree on Hampstead Heath

Piers Plowright and Poh Sim on Hampstead Heath - Credit: Antoinette Eugster

Thank you for your report on Piers Plowright – a truly Hampstead man, a pillar of the community, and supporter of many of the local institutions.  

I was deeply sorry to hear of his death, being privileged to have had his friendship over many years, mainly through his connection with Burgh House.   

His “Lifelines” interviews there with local personalities, even including John Bercow, the former Commons Speaker, were always thoroughly researched.   

Apart from his wide ranging professional commitments, he also helped to arrange the Gayton Road Festival and led Poetry evenings at the Magdala Tavern before it closed – now fortunately reopened.   

His former house was a landmark for local children with a huge rocking horse intentionally on show in the front window.

His passing will be mourned by all who knew him, and indeed by many others who did not, through his creative work.  

Hampstead will simply not be the same without his warm and friendly presence around its streets.