Malcolm Lowry (1909-57), author of classic modern novel Under the Volcano, is to be honoured by Wirral Council with a Blue Plaque in his birthplace of New Brighton. To be unveiled on Lowry’s birthday, 28 July, it will be positioned on the sea wall looking out to the Mersey Estuary, a resonant site for a writer whose voyages took him across the oceans. The honour comes during Wirral’s year as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture.
The son of a Liverpool cotton broker, Lowry grew up exploring the Deeside of the Wirral, when the family moved to Caldy. He left Merseyside at an early age, but the topography of his childhood - beaches, woods, golf courses and lighthouses, set against the backdrop of North Wales - is vividly recalled in his writing. Published in 1947, Under the Volcano, set in Mexico as the world headed towards war, was hailed as a modern masterpiece and continues to be listed among the most significant 20th century novels. Though Lowry never returned to Merseyside, his childhood haunts inform his writing, not least in his ‘lost’ novel, In Ballast to the White Sea, set largely in Wirral and Liverpool, and published in a scholarly edition in 2014.
Since 2009, a group of Lowry enthusiasts, the Firminists (named after the main character in Under the Volcano, Geoffrey Firmin) have worked with Bluecoat to research and celebrate the writer and reconnect him to Merseyside through an annual ‘Lowry Lounge’ programme. They have worked with Conservation Areas Wirral to realise the Blue Plaque.