John Rowan: George Walford Memorial

Harold Walsby Circa 1948
Harold Walsby circa 1940s

I don’t know when I met George, but it must have been after 1951, when I came back to London after raveling round the North of England with Harold Walsby, selling encyclopaedias. There were several of us at that time interested in Walsby’s ideas, and the two I knew best were Peter Rollings (later Shepherd) and John MacGregor. It was Peter who had introduced me to Walsby’s ideas in the summer of 1950 when we were both working on a farm. John I had met later when he also came up North to sell encyclopaedias. I probably met George at Harold’s flat in Hampstead, where we used to congregate and discuss things. As time went by, I became aware of George’s acute dialectical intelligence, and the way he could see the contradictions in what anyone said very fast. I thought he was second only to H in that.

Later, after H had died, George became the only person who really took up the banner of systematic ideology which H had pioneered, and wrote a slim pamphlet putting the ideas rather differently from the formulations in H’s book, The Domain of Ideologies. This later became a full-fledged book. I was a bit critical of the way in which George never consulted any of us about his writing, and only let us see drafts after it was too late to change anything. I think his work would have been much better if he had consulted more, but he was a very independent spirit, and not to be told.

Then of course came the newsletter, Ideological Commentary, which gave him the opportunity to dig up old essays, revise previous notes, devise new bullet points, and indulge his intense hobby of baiting the SPGB – and to a lesser extent, other anarchist groups and organs. Again there was little involvement with other people, except to dispute with them, and it was very much a personal thing. I always enjoyed reading it because of its combative and yet careful spirit.

George was a good polemicist and a fair fighter, and I imagine the circulation of IC gradually spread as time went on. Certainly the production improved considerably over the years, as George got on terms with the computer. I made various suggestions from time to time, but George hardly ever took them up. He did publish one short piece I sent in.

George came to our New Year’s Party in 1994, and got into many vigorous dialogues with people he had never met before. He seemed in his element, and to be enjoying it very much. That was the last time I saw him. It was shocking to hear of his death, because he always seemed so much alive. His appetite for ideas always seemed irrepressible.

I think he made a very important contribution to the intellectual health of the world, and I do hope that his work can be carried on in some way in some form. A few of us are getting together later this year to see if something can be done.

September 1994

continue reading George Walford, A Memorial (1998):
Introduction | Notes and Quotes | Trevor Blake | Alan Bula | George Gook | Mary Anne Knukel | Encounter in Autumn by Dr. Zvi Lamm | Seeking George Walford by Paul Minet | Peter Shepherd | John Rowan | George R. Russell, SPGB | Thoughts on Ideological Minimalism by Eric Stockton | Reminiscences of George Walford and the Walsby Society 1976 to 1994 by Adrian Williams | Jack as I Knew Him by Brenda McIntosh | Alison Walford, Sharon Goodyear, Richenda Walford