George Orwell and the geography teacher

George Orwell and the geography teacher

“The Moon Under Water” is an essay by George Orwell. It was originally published as the Saturday Essay in the Evening Standard on 9 February 1946. In it George Orwell provided a detailed description of what his ideal public house, the fictitious Moon Under Water, would be like.

Among others, the article was to inspire a young Tim Martin, who read it some thirty years later.

Timothy Randall Martin had been born on 28 April 1955, in Northern Ireland. He was educated at eleven different schools in Northern Ireland and New Zealand including Campbell College in Belfast. Despite being told by one teacher in New Zealand that he would never amount to much, Tim went onto study law at the University of Nottingham.

Unfortunately a fear of public speaking made Tim abandon his plans for a career as a barrister and he decided instead to move into the hospitality business. He bought Marleys, a pub he had frequented as a law student in Muswell Hill, north London.

As his website puts it “he swapped his legal bar for one of his own”

Using Orwell’s blueprint he created a pub that was free of music so that the customers could talk easily, sold cheap and nutritious food, served its draught beer in pewter and glass tankards; at reasonable prices, and was a place where the barmaids should get to know customers by name and be genuinely interested in them.

When it came to naming the pub Martin originally changed Marleys to the somewhat obvious Martin’s, but later changed it Moon Under Water in homage to Orwell.

The business was successful and soon expanded. Martin now needed a name for a chain.

That new name J.D. Wetherspoons is taken from two different sources one cultural though maybe not as highbrow as George Orwell and one for Martin’s past.

The J.D. is the cultural reference. It is taken from the 1980s US TV series The Dukes of Hazzard and the character Sheriff J.D. (‘Boss’) Hogg

For the second part Tim went back to his schooldays and the teacher who had predicted such a limited future for his business career. Mr. Wetherspoon was in fact the name of the geography teacher than Martin had encountered at a New Zealand school, who told him that he would never amount to anything in business

Now a multi-millionaire it probably still brings a smile to Martin’s face every time he sees one of his pubs or hears someone talking about the successful chain that is Wetherspoons.

I’m sure Martin will have raised many a glass in his ‘honour’ which probably just makes it even worse because Mr. Wetherspoon is a teetotaller.




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