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Bishop becomes new Johnson Society president

Bust of Dr Johnson at the Birthplace Museum

Bust of Dr Johnson at the Birthplace Museum on Saturday

Last night the Johnson Society welcomed the Bishop of Lichfield, The Rt Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, as its new president at its annual birthday supper in the Guildhall. This year the guests wore evening dress, in honour of Johnson’s tercentenary, and began with toasts proposed by the Mayor of Lichfield, Councillor Terry Thomas, Miss Holly Youlden of King Edward VI School, and Johnson Society Chairman, Mrs Mary Baker.

After a four-course meal involving 18th-century favourites such as steak and kidney pudding, the outgoing president, Mr John Byrne, formally installed the Bishop of Lichfield and gave him the Johnson medal. He then presented Mrs Baker with a hand-made box made of jarrah wood, joking that he had received the medal in a ‘dodgy plastic box’ but hoped this would be a suitable place to store it in future.

Guests enjoy the steak and kidney pudding

Guests enjoy the steak and kidney pudding

The tradition of smoking clay pipes was preserved during the interval, though due to the smoking ban, this was done outside. Afterwards, Johnson’s favourite punch was distributed, followed by the traditional toast to ‘the immortal memory of Samuel Johnson’. Catherine Lamb and Elizabeth Barter entertained the company with a musical interlude, before the Rt Reverend Jonathan Gledhill stood to deliver his inaugural speech.

Taking Johnson’s faith as his theme, the Bishop spoke about the writer’s troubled childhood, his charity, his hatred of slavery and his compassion towards people of other faiths. ‘We are pygmies in the use of language compared to our ordinary forebears let alone a genius like Dr Johnson,’ he said, concluding that Johnson was a man who ‘rose above his disabilities to become the most famous essayist in the English language’. The evening closed with a vote of thanks and the national anthem. Each visitor was given a special commemorative clay pipe carrying the image of the great lexicographer.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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A media and communications professional with ten years’ experience on Metro newspaper and a passion for web development and social media.

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