Letter from John Ireland to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
August 29th, 1952

14 Gunter Grove
Chelsea, S.W.10

My dear V.W.,

While the rare pleasure of meeting you yesterday is fresh in my mind, I take the opportunity of congratulating you for your approaching 80th birthday, before you are overwhelmed with public and private letters and events to mark the occasion.
We are both getting old (I am 73!) and are the last remaining of our group of R.C.M.1 Stanford pupils and colleagues. I remember the occasion in our student days when early efforts of your & mine were being tried over on the orchestra and after your piece (called “Heroic Elegy” I think) Stanford said to me “That’s better than anything you could write, me bhoy” - a remark the truth of which is borne in upon me whenever I hear your works - as during the splendid “Tudor Portraits” last night.2
That the greatness of your work is now universally acknowledged is a joy to me but from the first, I knew it would be so. And me - the position of esteem and affection in which you are held is entirely the result of merit, personality and artistic integrity.
May there still be many happy returns of your birthday and a still greater contribution by you to the fabric of creative musical Art.
With all affection and admiration - and congratulations.3
Yours ever,


1. Royal College of Music
2. The concert was in March 1901 and the work was Heroic Elegy and Triumphal Epilogue, Catalogue of Works 1900/1. The programme included Ireland’s own Symphonic Prelude ("at high noon beneath the sun the strong surf beats...") and performances of Tchaikowsky's B flat minor piano concerto and Beethoven Eighth Symphony. See VWL178. The Five Tudor Portraits had been given at a Promenade concert conducted by Malcolm Sargent -see R.V.W.: a biography, p.324.
3. VW's reply is VWL2479.

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