Memorial Poetry Reading

7 December 2005

A Memorial Poetry Reading was held on Wednesday, 7 December 2005 to commemorate the life and work of Victor Selwyn, the Editor-in-Chief of the Salamander Oasis Trust, who died on 26 October at the age of 88.

The occasion was attended by his widow Mrs.Irene Selwyn, his two daughters and other relatives, and by a few of the surviving poets who appear in the six anthologies of World War II poetry which had been published by the Trust between 1976 and 1990.

The gathering was chaired by Dr.John Rae, author and educational leader, a former Headmaster of Westminster School (1970 - 1986) in London who welcomed Victor's family and others associated with the work of the Oasis poets.

The commemoration of Victor Selwyn's life opened with an extract from the BBC programme "Brief Lives" broadcast three weeks earlier on Radio5Live. This broadcast included an extract from a previous BBC programme in which Victor Selwyn himself explained his belief that the poetry written in World War II deserved an equal place with the much better-known poetry of The Great War (1914 - 1918).

"Brief Lives" had opened with a recording of a poem by a WAAF radar operator Molly Repard and an interview by Daton Adebayo of the BBC with one of the Oasis poets, Colin McIntyre. Colin now runs the Trust's website In the BBC programme McIntyre read the poem Lament written by George Malcolm, then Laird of Poltalloch and of Duntroon Castle.

This BBC programme was followed by Lord Denis Healey, a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, also an Oasis war poet. Denis Healey read Fleet Fighter by Olivia Fitzroy; Solemn Occasion by Lisbeth David; and Naming of Parts by Henry Read.

Actress Carolyn Pickles next read several other poems from the last Oasis anthology "The Voice of War", including Ad Astra by Molly Corbally and I Didn't Believe It ... by Joy Corfield. Carolyn was then joined by actor and broadcaster Paul Moriaty in a duologue in reading Address to the Mother of a Dead Observer by Anthony Richardson.

Paul Moriaty followed with other poems from Oasis anthologies including Friends Gone by Ian Fletcher, Italy to Austria by Robin Ivy and Beyond the Wire by John Cromer Braun. Both Robin Ivy and John Cromer Braun were in the audience. He also read The Soldiers at Lauro by the ex-Goon comedian Spike Milligan who had served in the war in Italy and only died last year.

There were further readings of poems written by Eric de Mauny (read by Julia Cave) and Voluntary Ladies of the Town by John Ropes (read by Jan Stanford). The broadcaster and actor Martin Jarvis, a reader of Oasis poems on many occasions in the past, sent a recording from Los Angeles, of Polliciti Meliora by Frank Thompson, one of seventeen Oasis poets to die in World War II.

Trixie Harmer, Victor Selwyn's eldest daughter, responsible for the organising of this Memorial Tribute to her father, spoke a few words about his life and Paul Moriaty read Victor Selwyn's favourite poem: Luck by Dennis McHarrie. The occasion ended on a deliberately lighter note with Lord Healey in a magnificent singing rendition of The D-Day Dodgers.