v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Huntons, O'Shaughnessys and Orwells

I'd like to pay especial tribute to 'ghgraham' (George H. Graham of Tulsa, Oklahoma) for his admirably assiduous researches – we all owe the most enormous debt to such meticulous investigators, from whose findings the rest of us all too often skim off the results without acknowledging their fons et origo. Respect!

Another mention of thanks goes to 'JackieJura' (Jackie Someone resident on Jura, Inner Hebrides), whose contributions are wide-ranging and eclectic, in a dramatically emphatic style.

The O'Shaughnessy males are referred to as Laurence below, but this is spelt as Lawrence in some sources. The one we knew was always as Larry and the spelling of his given name was never gone into. In any case he was an extraordinarily private person, and apart from saying he was the nephew of George Orwell (technically this was debatable, and nephew-in-law might have been a better way of putting it) he never ever referred to his background or upbringing.

Note that the writer whose name is immortalised by his satires Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, depicting the vileness, evil and hypocrisy of totalitarian tyrannies such as Nazi Germany and (particularly) Soviet Russia, married his first wife as Eric Arthur Blair and his second as George Orwell. They are therefore correctly known as Eileen Blair and Sonia Orwell respectively.

This is also as good a place as any to declare my undying admiration for George Orwell – the hero of my teenage years, during which I read Animal Farm (a true masterpiece), 1984, Aspidistra, Clergyman's Daughter, Down & Out, Wigan Pier, Burmese Days, and all his essays that I could find. Brought up as I was in a family atmosphere of claustrophobic deceit, concealment and pretence, I found his works exhilarating. Some of them are inevitably dated now, but Animal Farm is easily on a par with Gulliver's Travels (I read that in the authentic, complete eighteenth century version published by Collins, with wonderfully intricate typography, and saucy bits).

Hilary Spurling, The Girl from the Fiction Department:
A Portrait of Sonia Orwell
, Penguin Books, 2003

(nb cover very artfully pre-distressed!)

Needless to say, Larry (the nephew of Eileen) had no time for Sonia and maintained that she had misappropriated, or at best grossly mismanaged, the huge royalties that would accrue from Orwell's literary legacy. The real villain is now known to have been Orwell's accountant. Well whatever next. Or the Inland Revenue. Or both. It's all very complicated.

The lives of the Huntons, the O'Shaughnessys and the Blairs were closely intertwined, and in the table below I try to recount them simultaneously, generation by generation.

It is ironic that Gwendoline Hunton, who in 1938 bore Larry O'Shaughnessy in wedlock, also rescued a three-week-old baby born out of wedlock in 1944, who was then adopted by Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) and christened Richard Blair. Both boys lost their fathers at an early age, and Richard's childhood thereafter was rather precarious, but Larry's subsequent upbringing by Gwen seems to have been secure. As adults however, their fortunes diverged dramatically, as I shall try to outline later on.

#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
‑3Dr Frederick Hunton1,  2
(25 Jun 1869 –
4 May 1917, KIA Gaza WW1)

Sedgefield, Co Durham

His antecedents have been traced as far back as ghgraham.org/ emanuelhunton1757.html
Maude Mary Laing Young
(1876 3Q Stockton 10a 88 –
8 Sep 1902)
(m 1898, 1Q Stockton 10a 105)
Gwendolen Mary Hunton
(1899, 3Q Sedgefield 10a 97 –
31 Aug 1963, 3Q Norwich 4b 521)

Winifred Hunton
(b Feb 1901, 2Q Sedgefield 10a 104)

Maude Ænid Hunton
(b ca Sep 1902, 3Q Sedgefield 10a 109)
Eleanor Mary Webster Young (triplet sister of his first wife)
(1876, 3Q Stockton 10a 88 –
3 May 1929)
(m 1907, 4Q Sedgefield 10a 193)
Doreen Hunton
(1910, 2Q Sedgefield 10a 177 –
30 Jul 1969)

Arthur F[rederick?] Hunton
(b 1912, 1Q Sedgefield 10a 353)
‑3Laurence O'Shaughnessy
(24 Jan 1866 –
5 Nov 1929,
4Q Windsor 2c 491)

Customs & Excise official in Sunderland area
Marie/Mary Westgate
(1866 –
21 Mar 1941, 1Q Greenwich 1d 1325)
Laurence O'Shaughnessy
(24 Dec 1900 –
27 May 1940)

Eileen Maud O'Shaughnessy
(25 Sep 1905, 4Q South Shields 10a 766 –
29 Mar 1945, 2Q Newcastle T 10b 110)
‑3Richard Walmesley Blair
(ca 1857 –

lowly and ill-paid official in Indian Civil Service, monitoring opium trade from India to China
Ida Mabel Limouzin
(18 May 1875 –
19 Mar 1943)

trained midwife

Eric with Ida Blair
Marjorie Frances Blair
(21 Apr 1898, W Bengal –
3 May 1946)

Eric Arthur Blair
(25 Jun 1903, Motihari –
21 Jan 1950)

Avril Nora Blair
(6 Apr 1908 –
11 Jan 1978)

Eric and Marjorie with their parents Ida and Richard Blair

Marjorie, Avril and Eric Blair
‑2Dr Laurence Frederick O'Shaughnessy1,  2,  3 MB BS FRCS
(24 Dec 1900 –
27 May 1940)
Dr Gwendolen Mary Hunton MB, BS Durham
(ca 1899 –
31 Aug 1963, 3Q Norwich 4b 521)
(m 3 Oct 1926 Khartoum)
Laurence (Larry) O'Shaughnessy
(13 Nov 1938
3 May 2003)

no photograph exists, but he looked very like his father, though with large rather lustrous eyes and the perpetual threat of a dark 5 o'clock shadow

Mary Catherine O'Shaughnessy
(m George Vowles Moncure IV, 27 Jun 1964)
‑2Georges Kopp1,  2
(1902, St Petersburg –
15 Jul 1951, Marseilles)

Georges and Doreen admiring their second son Quentin
Germaine Warnotte
(14 Feb 1901 –
(m ca 1925)
Michel Kopp
(b 8 Feb 1926)

Pierre Kopp
(22 Oct 1927 –
17 May 2010)

Jean Kopp
(9 Feb1929 –

Anne-Marie Kopp
(b 6 Jul 1930)

Paul Kopp
(b 26 Jan 1932)
Doreen Hunton
(1910 –
30 Jul 1969)
(m 1944)
Stephen M Kopp
(24 Feb 1945 –
12 Sep 1964)

Quentin Kopp
(m Liz Pošner)

Mary Geraldine Kopp
(m Andrew William Wheeler, 20 Sep 1980)

George & Doreen are implausibly saidA to have adopted Richard Blair after Orwell's death
‑2Beatrice Binning
(b 1891?)

see opening chapter of The Girl from the Fiction Department
Charles Brownell
(ca 1882 –
29 Dec 1918)
Beatrice Brownell

Sonia Mary Brownell
(25 Aug 1918, Ranchi –
11 Dec 1980)
Geoffrey Dixon
(m 5 Jan 1920)
Michael Dixon
(b 1921)
‑1Sonia Mary Brownell
(25 Aug 1918, Ranchi –
11 Dec 1980)
Eric Arthur Blair
aka George Orwell
(25 Jun 1903, Motihari, India –
21 Jan 1950)
(m 13 Oct 1949)
Maj Michael Augustus Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers
(27 May 1917 –
Dec 1999)
(m 1958 –

strange bedfellows
‑1Marjorie Frances Blair
(21 Apr 1898, W Bengal –
3 May 1946)
Humphrey Burns Dakin
(12 Jul 1895 –
Q4 1970)
(m 1920)

civil servant
he subsequently (Q3 1946) married Vera S Vardon, daughter Charlotte Dakin
Jane Frances Dakin
(b Q2 1923)

Henry Burns Blair Dakin
(b Q3 1926)

Lucy Penelope Dakin
(b Q4 1930)
‑1 Eric Arthur Blair
aka George Orwell 1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6,   B
(25 Jun 1903, Motihari –
21 Jan 1950)
(m 13 Oct 1949)
the most brilliantly savage satirist since Jonathan Swift

he certainly merited his reputation as a secular saint, but he wasn't terribly likeable, and had few if any social skills

(that's the trouble with saints and prophets in general, and why they so often get cold-shouldered by the wayward populace)

his diction was also criticised by a BBC mandarin as being unattractive and likely to repel his Indian target audience; it was variously described as strangulated (not helped by the bullet through his throat or his chain smoking), and a peculiar mixture of old-Etonian and Estuarine
Eileen O'Shaughnessy
(BA English, Oxon, 1927)
(MA Psychology, UCL 1936)
(25 Sep 1905 –
29 Mar 1945)
(m 9 Jun 1936)
much the nicer and more accomplished wife IHMO
Richard Horatio Blair1,  2,  3
(b May 1944, Tyneside, rescued by Gwen Hunton, and adopted Jun 1944)

Orwell was a most devoted, affectionate and responsible father to him
implausibly said A' to have been re-adopted by Georges Kopp and Doreen née Hunton after Orwell's death

in reality he lived with Orwell's sister Avril and her husband Bill Dunn, initially on Jura, later on the mainland

(m Eleanor Moir,
24 Jun 1964)
Sonia Mary Brownell
(25 Aug 1918, Ranchi –
11 Dec 1980)
(m 13 Oct 1949,
1949 4Q Pancras 4d 801)
‑1Avril Nora Blair
(6 Apr 1908 –
11 Jan 1978)
Bill Dunn
(b ca 1921 –
(m 1950)

he subsequently married Jane Dakin
Avril and Bill brought up Richard Blair after Orwell's death
0Jane Frances Dakin
(b Q2 1923)
Bill Dunn  
Bill Morgan  
0Henry Burns Blair Dakin
(b Q3 1926)
0Lucy Penelope Dakin
(b Q4 1930)
Harold Robert Bestley
inter alia,
Peter Bestley


A A' republic-of-teesside.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/george-at-greystone.html#!/2013/02/george-at-greystone.html

Eileen and Orwell also adopted a son, Richard, which made life very difficult when their flat was bombed in a German air raid. Fortunately, early in 1944, Eileen's sister-in-law, Gwen, invited them to stay at Greystone. Gwen was a Hunton - a family of Sedgefield doctors and Stockton solicitors whose home was Greystone. (v)) Her husband, Lawrence, a world-renowned chest surgeon, was Eileen's brother, but he had been killed at Dunkirk in 1940. Eileen was obviously close to the Huntons. She had introduced Gwen's sister, Doreen, to Orwell's Marxist commander in the Spanish Civil War, a Russian revolutionary called Georges Kopp, and they had married.(vi)

How the worries of the world must have crowded in on [Orwell] as he sat for a few dreadful days at Greystone. There was Eileen's funeral to arrange (she was buried in Jesmond, Newcastle); there was Richard's future to sort out (he was adopted by Doreen, the doctor's daughter from Sedgefield, and Kopp, the Russian revolutionary).(vii) There was his own health to worry about – he was coughing and spitting blood – and there were ideas and notes for his new book nagging away at the back of his mind.

After the funeral, Orwell packed up at Greystone and severed his ten-year association with the North-East – an association that had brought him love, happiness, security and ideas, but which had ultimately ended in tragedy.

B www.jstor.org/stable/4463609?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

The later stages of Orwell's terminal pulmonary tuberculosis, then known as consumption, were marked by cachexia, maybe these days still an accepted medical terminology, meaning pathological wastage of the body. A similar (though archaic) diagnosis in such circumstances (as I've noticed) seems to have been phthisis, which in a specific context implies wastage of any bodily organ such as the eye, but if stated without qualification implies overall bodily shrivelling – cachexia would seem to mean bodily phthisis.

Laurence (Larry) O'Shaughnessy
(13 Nov 1938 – 3 May 2003)

Churchill once described Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The same could have been said of Larry, both during his lifetime and to this very day. The allusion is particularly apt in view of both Larry's and Churchill's connections with 34 Redcliffe Gardens.

At the moment (Jan 2017), Larry's only unequivocally-established achievement is to have written, and had published, an authoritative, well-written and very clearly-presented guidebook to social security for the unemployed,

Please click here for a pdf of the Table of Contents and the Introduction – the information itself is not included as it is by now (Jan 2017) 40 years out of date.

As noted on the back cover, Larry published under a pseudonym, possibly to avoid being targeted by the authorities for giving the game away, though in fact he wasn't revealing any secrets as such. However, I suspect he'd been 'on the dole' for rather more than three years.

A Descent into the Maelström

Or perhaps the Corryvreckan would be a more appropriate heading, as Larry's obsession with the Orwell connection was to undermine his sense of purpose in life. But whatever the analogy, Larry's personal vortex was relentless and irresoluble.

The following narrative is an extract from my side of an email correspondence (14 Dec 20168 Jan 2017) with Larry's cousin MGW. I refer to Larry as Laurence, as that was the name MGW knew him by.


Between about Jan 1965 and Sep 1967, I had a small room in the top-floor flat at 34 Redcliffe Gardens, London SW10 – not far from the Earls Court Road (because of the number of expatriate Australians who lived thereabouts, that area was often known as New South Kensington). It was a four bedroom communal arrangement, and the three most recent arrivals paid their monthly dues to the oldest inhabitant, who then settled up with the property owner (an Australian!). When I arrived, the senior chap was Chris Kendall, Anglo-Irish, a postgraduate at Imperial College just up the road, but a graduate of Trinity College Dublin – I'm sure you immediately see a connection. Almost everybody who lived there at some point or another was connected with TCD, IC or both, and it regularly functioned as a drop-in centre for people of that ilk.

One of the TCD people at the time I arrived was Jonah Barrington, who not long afterwards became world squash champion 5 times running. He was in the doldrums when I arrived, having been a TCD law undergraduate, but sent down after a couple of years or so for flour-bombing a procession of academic and civic dignitaries at the beginning of the new academic year. He was still an unknown in the world of squash, but obsessively dedicated to breaking into the big-time. A lovely chap, with a huge sense of humour!

I believe that Laurence and Jonah must have overlapped at TCD for a while (Jonah was born 1941, but I don't know when either of them started at TCD), because quite early on we (I and my girlfriend Sonia Kaulback, also with links to TCD) started to notice that Laurence was spending time at #34, ostensibly to chew the fat with Jonah (who was always out until late evening anyway, having been training demoniacally all day at the Lansdowne Club. So we got chatting to Laurence, and pretty soon we seemed to be his main point of contact there (Chris was a geology student anyway, and hadn't known Laurence at TCD).

We learned (or thought we did) certain things about him pretty early on:

  • he'd been at TCD (and we assumed he'd graduated)
  • he was reading for the Bar (presumably in his own time and using his own resources) but was only aiming for the pass-mark of 40%
  • he was a nephew (sic) of George Orwell (this was long before the internet arrived to clarify such things)
  • that he would inherit a substantial amount at the age of 40
  • that meanwhile he was entirely dependent on Social Security
  • that he was prone to major panic attacks
  • he always dressed in a brown check sports-jacket and grey flannels ("Prep School history master")
  • he smoked quite heavily, but didn't drink noticeably
  • he could be quite abrupt and suddenly leave more or less in mid-conversation, saying "Well, look, I've got to get going!"

Rooms in the flat did become vacant from time to time over the period I lived there, but Laurence didn't avail himself of these opportunities, saying he couldn't afford the rent.

We also never learned certain other things about him.

  • He didn't mention he'd been taken to visit Orwell on Jura
  • He never mentioned his parents, or his sister, or any other family (except for his aunt Eileen O'Shaughnessy), or friends
  • He never told us where he lived
  • He didn't mention having ever had any sort of job
  • He never mentioned (in the late 1970's) actually receiving the legacy
  • He didn't show any interest in the arts, literature, sport, or even romance (of whatever tendency)

He was more or less totally self-absorbed, and would talk endlessly about how he could scarcely get by on Social Security payouts. In fact he was very indignant about "black people" coming over here and scrounging Social Security money that by rights should be going to him! (He could do a wicked impersonation of the Nigerian and Ugandan accents). He did at one point write a Guide to Getting Benefits, hoping to make some money by getting it published, and lent me a section of the typescript to read (it never got any further, as far as I knew). In fact he seemed to be pretty proficient on the typewriter, and all his letters to us in later years were typed.

So far, however, it must seem all very negative, and to suggest that he was a bad sort. I don't think he operated a system of "suppressio veri et suggestio falsi", as my brother was once quite justly accused by his headmaster! In retrospect he simply seemed to operate a "need to know" policy, and I suspect that had we ever tried to quiz him he would just have clammed up entirely. We actually liked him, he was enigmatic, but he was amusing and good fun even. And we tried our very best to keep him on the level over the years that followed.


Sonia and I became engaged in the summer of 1967, and I graduated (in chemistry) at the University of London. I wanted to do research, so looked around and eventually decided on the University of East Anglia (UEA). We found a first-floor flat in a terraced house (453B) on the Earlham Road (£4 a week, a bit expensive!), located on the city side of the Fiveways roundabout. We were to be married in London in mid December, but of course I moved out of Redcliffe Gardens up to Norwich towards the end of September, Sonia remaining in her little bed-sitter in Barons Court meanwhile.

Laurence was a bit dismayed by all this upheaval, and so it was agreed that he could move up to live for a while in the spare room at 453B until early/mid December, while he looked around for somewhere else to live in Norwich, meanwhile paying me £1 a week for lodging. This all worked pretty well, and at the end of October I said Hi Larry time to cough up the 4 quid, or words to that effect. He hemmed and hawed, and indicated that he was a bit strapped for cash, so we agreed to roll it over until the end of November.

£8 was not an inconsiderable sum of money at that time, so I was looking forward to benefitting from it, but at the end of November, he said, Look Robin, I'm sorry, but I really don't want to become involved in your financial problems.

I was a bit stunned by this interpretation of the arrangement, but said, amicably enough, Well, by the time you leave, Larry, it's going to be £10, which will be even harder to pay.

Leave? he said, Who said anything about leaving, it's very comfortable here!

Well, the female of the species is of course much deadlier than the male, and when Sonia came up the next week-end, in early December, not long before she herself would be coming up to join me permanently, Laurence had to face facts. It was all very amicable, there were no harsh words, and we helped him move into a very pleasant little bedsitter at the upper end of Unthank Road, just a short bus-journey away.

He would come round one or twice a week, and particularly for Sunday lunch, which he always addressed with great gusto. He might possibly have done some part-time teaching, but I can't remember too much about that time. My supervisor was turning out to be an absolute dud, and I was really struggling to find my feet.

But I think Laurence stayed up in Norwich at least until we moved down in July 1970 to a bedsitter in Highgate, and I found refuge in Kings College London to write my thesis.


After we left Norwich, we (or rather I) only saw him occasionally, though keeping in touch by letter or telephone.

In Sep 1971, about the time I got my doctorate, my wife Sonia undertook a three-year course in physiotherapy at Bristol Royal Infirmary. By dint of creative financing, she had got a mortgage from the Halifax Building Society to buy a little terrace property in Redfield, a rather dingy area of Bristol. It had rising damp and a leaking roof, but we felt as Tom Lehrer once remarked about the Deep South, "What the hell, it's home".

During that first year (for some reason) I stayed up in Highgate, and commuted every day to teach at a crammer in Hampstead. But during that year, I'm pretty sure that I visited Laurence several times down in Croydon (quite a tube and railway journey from Highgate), and tried to persuade him to work in the charity sector, as with a degree (or so I thought!) he could well have managed a charity shop, thereby gaining a sense of purpose plus a modest income. I also suggested he take a cheap package holiday to the Greek islands, as I thought his horizons needed widening, and in such surroundings one could survive indefinitely (as I had done a decade earlier) on a pittance, and enjoy all the fringe benefits of sunshine, colour and uninhibited lifestyle. He wasn't enthused, sadly, as I think time was running out for his state of mind. He was certainly getting odder, but I didn't yet imagine that it was eventually to become so serious.

From Sep 1972 to Aug 1976 I joined Sonia down in Bristol, with a research position at the University, and our first son was born. We heard from Laurence by letter from time to time – he seemed to be moving around from place to place rather randomly, but of course we had our own preoccupations and took his news quite calmly.

We then moved to Reading, I got my first job and Sonia got a part-time post at one of the hospitals there (so she could combine working with child-rearing), and by the 1980's Laurence started telephoning rather than writing, always reversing the charges, which we didn't mind. It may also have been his way of remaining untraceable. He said that "the doctors" had prescribed various medications but they (the doctors) were all pretty stupid and he didn't bother with taking the tablets. From there on, it was downhill (I'd very much appreciate any corrections that you could make to my timescales, from what you may know about Laurence's changes of address and states of mind).

He did visit Reading just once, whilst still reasonably rational, and stayed at what turned out to be a basement doss-house in Christchurch Road. I visited him there, and it was like a dimly-lit vision of Bedlam. The person he was sharing a room with had set fire to his (own) mattress the night before and was still in a state of frenzy. The shouting and groaning and aggressive swearing was very scary. I went back a couple of days later but he'd already moved on and I never saw him again.

Since that era I've known two cases of extreme paranoid delusional schizophrenia at quite close quarters, and I'm certain that his symptoms were an exact match with theirs. He became certain that MI5 and the CIA were constantly monitoring his movement and even his thoughts, via a radio-transmitter they'd implanted in his head, and that eventually they planned to kill him. There was much more of that sort of thing, but I can't quote chapter and verse. He became extraordinarily argumentative on the phone, and got furious if we so much as interjected a friendly question. And he started demanding money, comparatively large amounts relative to our extremely modest circumstances at the time. Sometimes we could oblige him, but one final time he wanted an unreasonable amount, and Sonia said "Larry, we can't afford that". He replied "So you're against me too, then" and rang off. This would have been in the late 1980s or early 1990s and he never called again.

It's just occurred to me that we must have had a Box Number address in order to send him money, so he wasn't quite incommunicado, but there was no longer any point in trying.

He was a Lost Soul, poor Laurence, and we still feel deeply saddened about him and his basic inability to cope with life – or at least, with organised society. Like Orwell in Wigan Pier or Down and Out, or the eponymous clergyman's daughter Dorothy, he roughed-it quite capably, and survived from one day to the next, just about, but he couldn't fit into a stable, structured existence, or form meaningful personal relationships.