The Little Count

JB's memorial stone


I wrote this tune to celebrate the life of Józef Boruwłaski (1739–1837), perhaps the first of many Polish people to enhance life in Britain. Jozef was a Polish-born dwarf born near Halicz in Poland in November 1739. At his full height he measured 99 cm (39 inches). Joseph was a good violinist, guitarist and dancer. He embarked of several musical tours on the Continent and in Britain. In the course of one tour, on the road back from Edinburgh to London, he arrived at Durham and liked it so much that he stayed.

In a letter to one lady friend, Boruwłaski included a short poem explaining his love for Durham.
It read: “Poland was my cradle, England is my nest; Durham is my quiet place where my weary bones shall rest.” He was friends with Stephen Kemble, an enormous, oversized actor, an activist against slavery and Durham resident, and their contrasting appearances caused much amusement as they strolled the banks of the Wear together. Joseph died, after 47 years in Durham, on September 5, 1837, at the age of 97. He was buried in Durham in the Cathedral beside friend Stephen Kemble, his grave can be seen near the main door, marked by a stone slab 15 inches square. It simply reads “JB”
There is a life-size statue of him in the Town Hall at Durham, together with a small display of his personal effects, including a suit, hat, cane, chair and violin. The Town Hall also has a large oil-painting of Joseph as an old man. A tetrastyle Greek temple, restored in 2007, stands on the banks of the River Wear at Durham: this is called the ‘Count’s House’ and its position suggests that it may have been an ornamental folly in the Count’s garden. There is a collection of documents relating to the man Durham people called ‘the Little Count’ at the Palace Green library of Durham University.

I’m grateful to Maurice Condie for his flawless guitar accompaniment on the recording.

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