Wessex Worthies: Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee was born in 1914 near Stroud, but moved as a boy to the nearby village of Slad. This move forms the opening of his best-known work, Cider With Rosie, published in 1959, and a staple of high school English lessons ever since. Cider With Rosie was followed by two autobiographical sequels, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning in 1969, and A Moment Of War in 1991.

Whilst he is chiefly remembered for his memoirs, his true passion was poetry. He published three volumes of poems, and in 1968, Samuel Barber composed a choral arrangement of the poem Twelfth Night.

Lee was politicised as a young man by an encounter with the Whiteway Colony, a community of Tolstoyan anarchists based near Slad. He later fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco’s fascists, having learned a few words of Spanish from an Argentinian girl whose family had moved to Slad.

In later life, Lee and his wife moved back to Slad. Shortly before his death in 1997, he helped save the Woolpack pub, illustrated above, from closure. The pub is still open, serving real ales and ciders, and also acting as a village shop.

Lee is buried in the village churchyard. Shortly after his death, Cider With Rosie was made into a TV movie featuring archive recordings of his voice, and with a teleplay by his friend John Mortimer.

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