For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Ronald Duncan's Hut: Margins And Borders


This is the stone-built work hut of the writer and man of letters, Ronald Duncan (1914-1982). It's been beautifully restored by some members of his family, and stands directly by the South West Coast Path on the border of Devon and Cornwall. The door was open, so I went inside. Under the window was Duncan's desk and chair, and a box of his books, with a hand-written sign saying 'Help Yourself!' I took a couple of paperbacks and stuffed them into my rucksack. On one wall hung an information board, which contained some interesting facts about this most prolific yet little known of writers...


Duncan read English at Cambridge with FR Leavis, and was much taken with Gandhi, whom he met in India in 1936. (He remained a life-long pacifist.) Back in England, he moved to Devon, where he established a community farm in the small village of Welcombe - a project he describes in his book Journal Of A Husbandman (1944). He wrote plays, poems, fiction, fables, film scripts, opera librettos, autobiographical essays, journalistic pieces, literary criticism, and topographical books about the landscape of his beloved Devon and Cornwall. He was one of those figures destined to stay on the margins of belles-lettres, forever in the shadow of his more famous literary and artistic friends, who included Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, Benjamin Britten, Jean Cocteau, and the sculptors Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

This is the view of Marsland Mouth from Duncan's writing desk. I'm not sure I'd be able to write anything at all with a view as amazing as that. I'd be perpetually distracted. Where I'm standing is in Devon, but I'm looking down on Cornwall...



And here's the border sign ('Kernow' means 'Cornwall' in Cornish). There was no passport control, no officious guards, no body searches. I just slipped right through, over the long, green grass, past the gliding fulmars and cronking ravens, into a new county, almost a new country...

7 comments:

George said...

I didn't know anything about Robert Duncan until I read this post, Robert. Very interesting! Oh how I would like to have that little hut with a small bed, my books, and that incredible view. That, I suspect, could bring my days of wandering to an end, at least physical wandering.

Bonnie said...

Good to hear he is not forgotten and I imagine that hut will be there for years to come. Now it's your turn.

gleaner said...

McMansions may be the current trend but thats exactly the type of house I want - perfect! I'd just add a flower garden around its borders.

The Solitary Walker said...

The issue of heating comes to mind. Particularly in the winter months. Wood burning stove? Though no chimney...

gleaner said...

Hehe, you don't expect a dreamer to think about things like that - perhaps I would need to transport the house back here to Australia to solve the heating problem.

Leigh B said...

I lived in Welcome 1972-1978 and often walked the loop- from lower mead cottage down the hill to Welcombe Mouth, rock hopping over the beach to Marsland mouth and up the hill, quietly past the hut just in case there was work going on within, stopping to pat Rosemary's horses by the farm and back down around the corner again to home. What a glorious time in that wild and wonderful place! Seeing Ronald's hut brings back lots of memories. I hope it is still as wild and wonderful. I now live in Melbourne ( another very liveable place!) but will never forget what a remarkable place and the interesting people I was lucky enough to be a child amongst all those years ago.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Leigh B for your comment. So glad my post brought back some happy memories for you!