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1884 map of the River Thames

EPSON scanner imageOn the strap line of the home page (near the Society’s logo) and – if you scroll down the home page contents – there are links to an 1884 Map of the River Thames. This appeared just five years before the Three Men embarked on the their journey from Kingston. Who knows, they may even have had a copy of this same fold-out map!



David Bagchi has reminded me of the Hiawatha parody subtly included in the last chapter of  Three Men in a Boat when the trio start on their homeward journey from Oxford (Chapter XIX beginning at the bottom of p.303 in the 1st edition). Jerome clearly liked his Longfellow – and in one way owed his success to him, for it was after reading Longfellow’s poem ‘Gaspar Beccera’ from By the Fireside that Jerome had the idea of writing about his experiences as an actor. The result was his first published success: On the Stage and Off. Here’s the parody from TMIB:

The river – with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the grey-green beech-trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows o’er the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to the lilies, wantoning with the weirs’ white water, silvering moss-grown walls and bridges, brightening every tiny townlet, making sweet each lane and meadow, lying tangled in the rushes, peeping, laughing from each inlet, gleaming gay on many a far sail, making soft the air with glory – is a golden fairy stream.            But the river – chill and weary, with the ceaseless raindrops falling on its brown and sluggish waters, with the sound as of a woman, weeping low in some dark chamber, while the woods all dark and silent, shrouded in their mists of vapour, stand like ghosts upon the margin; silent ghosts with eyes reproachful, like the ghosts of evil actions, like the ghosts of friends neglected – is a spirit-haunted water through the land of vain regrets.

Gryf Rhys Jones, Rory McGrath, Jeremy Nicholas president of JKJ Society, and Jonathan Simpson


The President and Chairman of the Society joined other ‘VIPs’ on the treacherously narrow pavement of Tavistock Place at noon on 21st May. The occasion was the unveiling of a new plaque commemorating the time that Jerome lived there before he became the successful author we all know and love.

Also among the company were the Mayor of Camden (who admitted he had never read anything by Jerome K Jerome), another member of the Labour Party Frank Dobson MP (who also admitted he had never read anything by Jerome K Jerome), Three Women in a Boat (in comely red blazers and faux boaters who were shortly to row the length of the Thames for charity), and two actor / comedians – Griff Rhys Jones and Rory McGrath who had appeared in a series of TV documentaries purporting to be about Jerome K Jerome and Three Men in a Boat.

Speeches were made in front of No.32 with the use of a microphone and PA system loud enough for the mercifully brief utterances to have been heard in Westminster. Mr Rhys Jones expressed his gratitude to JKJ for having kept him on the television screens for longer than expected (a whole 7 episodes) while the jovial Mr McGrath tried a JKJ quiz on the audience. ‘What does the “K” in Jerome K Jerome stand for?’ The answer was duly shouted back. ‘And why was he named Klapka?’ Someone started telling Rory it was something to do with a Hungarian general until the President rudely interrupted and told him he was mistaken. ‘And finally,’ the Jerome aficionado asked, ‘what was Jerome’s stage name when he was an actor?’ ‘Harold Crichton,’ said the President promptly. Mr McGrath was crestfallen.

The Marchmont Assocation organised the plaque and the event, having undertaken a great deal of research to establish exactly in which house JKJ lived. There were several candidates. He lived at No. 11 Tavistock Place and he also lived at No. 19. No. 19, it turned out, is now No. 32.

The Chairman of the Marchmont Society, Ricci de Freitas, then invited the Mayor, the President and Messrs Rhys Jones and McGrath to enter the building (now some sort of hotel – though the Ritz it was not) and climb the stairs to the first floor. These were the very rooms in which Jerome lived, though now divided up into much smaller rooms. Cats and not enough room to swing by the tail came to mind. The Mayor and the President stepped out gingerly on to the fragile Juliet balcony on one side while the two actor / comedians went into another room and stepped out on to the balcony there.

By some oversight or mismanagement, the Chairman of the Marchmont Association then asked the President of the JKJ Society to unveil the plaque. Griff looked somewhat astonished but went along with the umpire’s decision and gamely took photos, as did the small crowd below. The ceremony over, the quartet descended the stairs to the relative safety of the ground floor and the pavement where more photographs were taken:

After a brief impasse, it seemed to be time to cross the road where the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is situated. It was their caterers who kindly provided a very generous selection of finger snacks and some indifferent white wine. The President and Chairman, having conversed with all and sundry, felt not only that had they had quite enough of this social intercourse but that they required a rather more substantial intake of food. A brief consultation followed and they left to hail a taximeter cabriolet which took them to the Garrick Club for a well-earned lunch. Read more



Guest Speaker: Admiral The Right Honourable The Lord West of Spithead, GCB, DSC, PC.

The Society held its Annual Dinner as usual at the Fairlawns Hotel, Aldridge, on Wednesday 29th April. Guests filed in past the uniform Jerome wore while serving as an ambulance driver with the French Army in the First World War, a poignant reminder of his contribution to that tragic conflict, the outbreak of which will be marked nationwide in August. As a further reminder, long-standing member Mike Evans later read an extract from My Life and Times in which Jerome recalled his days on the front line.                                                                           Indeed, national service was very much the theme of the evening, for the President had managed to persuade one of Britain’s most distinguished public figures to be the guest speaker: Alan West, otherwise known as Lord West of Spithead, joined us with his delightful wife Rosie (in elegant matelot attire). They were piped in to a bosun’s whistle enthusiastically blown by Entertainments Manager John Alsop. Alan served with distinction during the Falklands War and subsequently was appointed First Sea Lord, then a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for national security.                                                                        The excellent dinner aptly  included a main course of various fishy things – sea bass among them – followed by rhubarb crumble, perhaps an oblique reference to the Chairman’s speech of welcome to the guests which, this year, had been typed out in full in large characters and was delivered more or less coherently. Only the order in which the pages were arranged defeated its complete fluency, putting one in mind of Harris’s valiant but doomed performance of the lyrics to the First Lord’s song from HMS Pinafore (‘…And now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!’).                                                                                                                                  It was to this episode in Three Men in a Boat that the President alluded when introducing Lord West. In return, Alan gave us the welcome assurance that he would not be attempting to emulate Harris’s efforts to entertain the assembled company by singing. Instead he entertained us with one of the most memorable and hilarious speeches we have heard, tales of mishaps at sea, gaffs by him and others in the presence of eminent heads of state – and some very good jokes. He made obvious his love and knowledge of the Thames, and reminded us in a rare serious moment of the need for surveillance – no matter how much many of us dislike the idea of Big Brother – to work against the ever-present security threats to our nation.                                                         The evening concluded with the raffle – many thanks to those who donated such generous prizes – and members drifted out well-watered with their hand-delivered copies of the latest edition of Idle Thoughts (No.35). The Hon Sec (aka Hon Chairman Gray) had worked tirelessly to bring this before the members in time for the Dinner. Even more miraculous is the fact that this is the second edition of IT he has produced within the space of 12 months. Bravo! All this – and the Christmas Concert still to come. Who says membership of the JKJ Society isn’t good value!

Phot Gallery page on the Jerome K Jerome website

New photo gallery

We’ve added a new photo gallery to the site today, found under the About Jerome menu above. The first images are of the filling station that Jerome stopped at in Cheltenham on his final journey in 1927 from Devon to London, as discussed in the forum ( The pictures were very kindly submitted by Ian Statham, aka Lodrun in the forum.

Any Jeromians who would like to contribute to the photo gallery, please send your pictures to President Jeremy at idlethoughts (at) jeromekjerome (dot) com. Make that into a proper email address – we don’t write it as such here or we’ll get overrun with spam.

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JKJ Christmas Carol Concert

The Society will be holding its annual Carol Concert once again in the splendid surroundings of the Guildhall, Lichfield. Date for your diary: FRIDAY 6TH DECEMBER 2013.  Please note, this event is open only to members and their guests.

More news on the entertainment to follow when we have it, but President Nicholas will be at the piano, as usual, to accompany the carols. And no doubt the Chairman will be on hand to compere proceedings…

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The photos show the distinguished ballerina Madame Gallina introducing some of the more agile members still able to remain upright to the art of ballet at the 2009 Carol Concert.

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New radio adaptation of Three Men in a Boat

This Sunday on BBC Radio 4 at 3.00pm you can hear the first of a two-part dramatisation of Three Men in a Boat. It stars Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis (from the Now Show) and the excellent Julian Rhind-Tutt. I’m not holding my breath. The trails on Radio 4 have sounded about as funny as putting on a pair of wet swimming trunks, ponderous, reverential and with clunky non-Jeromian dialogue. The Radio Times bills it as an ‘Edwardian adventure down the Thames…’
I’m delighted to see that JKJ is on the radio once more but why does it always have to be the same book? In 2009 I tried to get Radio 4 to mark the 150th birthday by dramatising something else of Jerome’s. But no. Not a flicker of interest.
I may be wrong about this latest adaptation – I hope so. But let us know what you think!