The lives of others: diaries and their stories

Sometimes the lives of others, as recounted through their diaries, contain all sorts of revealing pieces of information. This is especially true of writers such as Virginia Woolf, whose journals over many years play an important role in charting people and their whereabouts. To a perhaps smaller extent, the same is true of the diaries of Thomas Dunhill, currently in the process of being digitalised, within which there are numerous entries relating to Ireland, who was a close friend. He had even been Dunhill’s best man at his wedding at St Luke’s church on 4 April 1914. While these diaries span many years, starting in 1893, a snapshot of some of the entries in a single year’s diary gives a sense of how Dunhill’s record-keeping contributes to our knowledge of Ireland, both socially and professionally:


On 11 February Dunhill recalls a ‘long conversation on the phone with Jack Ireland’. This was at the end of a busy day which included working at the RCM and at Verne School, practising, playing with his children and visiting Albert Sammons. On 24 May, in ‘fearfully hot weather’, Dunhill was part of the audience listening to Howard-Jones’s recital at Bechstein Hall, specifically going to listen to his performance of Ireland’s Piano Sonata, which Dunhill heard for the second time. 27 September saw him at the Proms to hear Ireland’s ‘Symphonic Rhapsody’, after the concert meeting with him for drinks. (This was the premiere of Mai-Dun, as confirmed in the Proms Archive for that year.) Three weeks later, on 17 October, Ireland dined at Dunhill’s house, where the two men ‘spent a very interesting evening’.

While the diaries contain only little nuggets of information, taken together they prove quite illuminating, as well as corroborating some of the more speculative aspects of Ireland’s biography.






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