Life & Times - more
When the first TV series of the Poldarks was shown in the 1970s it was a huge success with audiences peaking around
14 million. Shown on Sunday evenings at 6.30, the story is that vicars moved or even cancelled church services rather
than trying to get the congregation to attend when Poldark was on. The first seven of the Poldark novels were
adapted for that series (the remaining five were not yet written) and it was the first such historical series by a living
author produced by the BBC. Winston and Jean stayed in touch with many of the actors. Robin Ellis, Angharad Rees
(who so sadly died in 2012), Christopher Biggins and Jane Wymark amongst others all became good friends.
In 1966 at the early age of 54 Jean suffered a severe stroke. Never daunted, she and Winston continued to travel
extensively visiting thirty-two countries over a period of twenty-five years as well as entertaining their many friends at
the house in Sussex. Jean died in December 1992. Winston remained very much alive and active for a further twelve
years, continuing to live in their Sussex home and the beautiful garden they had created together, writing and
enjoying the company of friends including his Poldark actors. Even into his nineties Winston maintained a routine of a
once a week trip to London for lunch at the Savile Club or at The Beefsteak, regaling all with his vast memory store of
poetry, anecdotes and stories. And he continued to answer the call of his beloved Cornwall with regular visits to
friends old and new.
Winston died in his home at Abbotswood, Buxted, East Sussex on 10th July 2003. He was 95 and had continued
writing and publishing to the very end. Most of the obituaries got the date of his birth wrong. This was hardly
surprising since Winston never talked about his age and, as he grew older, he made increasing efforts to conceal it.
When asked, he replied that if publishers knew how old he was they would be less interested in his work and less
willing to publish him.
In 2008, to celebrate the centenary of Winston Graham’s birth and his long connection with Cornwall, the Royal
Cornwall Museum set up an Exhibition: Poldarks Cornwall: the life and works of Winston Graham. The exhibition
included the trilby hat without which he never went out, personal memorabilia and many of his manuscript notebooks.
Several of the actors came and it was all a huge success. Recently a new edition of Poldark’s Cornwall was published
and this year, fourteen years after his death, we have the re-publication of more Poldark novels and another TV series.
He would be delighted.