Monday, 25 November 2013

Ripe Malcolm Lowry

Having recently read in Iain Sinclair's American Smoke that the writer Malcolm Lowry was buried in the village of Ripe, not too far from us, I thought a visit to the grave was in order.  This is how Sinclair describes the scene: 'Lowry's name on a curved slab, a granite postcard buried in an extension of St John the Baptist Church, is not in deconsecrated ground, but this garden strip, close to a low wall, has a detached aspect.  Like a recently abandoned allotment.  Margerie is not beside him or with him.  The salient facts are faded but visible.  Combing back untrimmed blades of grass, I discover a glazed tablet with a Spanish inscription: "Le gusta este jardin?  Que es suyo?  Evite que sus hijos lo destruyan!"  I have a notion where that comes from but I'll have to check.  Also buried are several empty mescal miniatures.  And a Guinness can. [not visible on my visit]  The grave is thoroughly libated.  Wild roses thrive.'

Lowry died during the night of 26th June 1957 of an overdose of sleeping pills combined with alcohol.  As Sinclair notes, Lowry's wife, 'could not be planted further from her husband without striking off towards Charleston' - despite precise instructions in the porch of the church, I couldn't identify her gravestone.  Iain Sinclair also comments on this.  Biographer Gordon Bowker has questioned aspects of Lowry's death and the subsequent inquest [Foul Play at White Cottage, TLS 20th Feb 2004], pointing the finger of suspicion at Margerie.

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