George Orwell and The Generator

Barnhill, The Chain

Barnhill, The Chain

Barnhill is a remote farmhouse at the north end of Jura – defined by it's most famous tenant, George Orwell, who stayed there to write 1984. Much has been made of whether it was Orwell's self-imposed exile to a remote island and detachment from modern society (he was in convalescence from illness) that led to his inspired vision of a future society governed by a police state. Nothing could be further from the truth here in Jura where we have no police presence - just a couple of very rarely utilised part-time special constables. Although Steve's webcam showing a view of the old pier from his shop has introduced a small degree of surveillance...!  (see here)

Since coming to live in Jura, thanks to the Fletchers' generosity, I've been fortunate enough to visit and stay at Barnhill several times. It requires a degree of determination just to get there. Several miles over a stoney track requires a decent four wheel drive vehicle, but perhaps the most eccentric obstacle is 'The Chain'. In the middle of absolutely nowhere, the track weaves its way across a boggy moorland towards the north of the island. To the traveller's surprise, on the boundary of the Barnhill Estate, two short posts on either side of the track support an old rusty chain held in place by a large old fashioned padlock. The 'Key to the Chain' is a thing of legend in these parts and is protectively guarded by Kate Johnson (nee Fletcher), through whom vehicular access to Barnhill must be skilfully negotiated in advance.

The house itself is refreshingly unspoilt by progress, and reminds me of old times in Jura – candlelight, jumpers, board games and silence. It does however have one very cool technological feature: The Generator. Triggered automatically when a light switch or power socket is switched on, the machine splutters into action; providing a slightly flickery supply and a rather pleasing background hum. It is located in a shed which adjoins the house and has an exhaust pipe which is engineered to poke surreptitiously out of an old stone wall. It's hard to articulate why it's a pleasing sound, perhaps my fondness for classic cars explains it, but the sound the old engine makes is quite unique; dependable and strong.

So I found myself at Barnhill with my high quality recording gear to capture this unique audible experience. I'm not sure exactly how it will feature on the record but I hope to have it in there somewhere. Effected recordings of old corrugated iron roofing sheets (a common Jura fabric), also recorded at Barnhill, have already found their way into the track 'To The Lighthouse'.

Incase you're unable to negotiate 'The Chain' yourself, you can hear The Generator here.


Hugh Carswell