The small world of Johnsonia

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  • Post published:November 27, 2005
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JSA Treasurer Barrie has sent us this report of an extraordinary chance meeting on a recent visit to London with his wife, Fay.

“You’ve come to see our house, have you?” said the charming lady sitting behind the table in what is now the entrance hall to Johnson’s house in Gough Square London

“Yes,” I replied, “and we’ve come a long way to do so – 12 000 miles, from Australia. And, what’s more, we’re members of the Johnson Society of Australia.’

“Well then, you must know John Byrne.”

“We certainly do.”

“John Byrne?” said a voice to my left. And when I answered that I wasn’t the good John, the young man, an antique dealer, told me he was to meet John at the Johnson House at one o’clock that day – to sell him a replica of Johnson’s Pembroke mug.

You can imagine our astonishment. We waited, of course, until I spotted John from the front window rushing along Gough Square past the statue of Hodge for the front door, all hot and flustered – he was late, having become lost in the labyrinth of London streets around Chancery Lane.

So, after the disbelief at the amazing coincidence (neither of us knew the other was in London), John, who is a member of the Johnson House Trust committee, treated us to a personal tour of the house, complete with an explanation of the exposed charred beam of the top-floor ceiling. Originally a beam from a Thames hulk of Armada origin, it was blown, burning, into the square when the house took a direct hit from a buzz-bomb during the Blitz.

And, after all that, there were drinks, of course, in “Ye Old Cheshire Cheese” with much good conversation.