Obituary: Michael Milburn

Michael Frederick Hewlins Milburn, agriculturalist and festival organiser: born 17 February 1923; Lt-Cdr Royal Navy, retired 1952; land agent 1956-62; married 1949 Elspeth Spottiswood (four sons, one daughter); died Plymouth 24 May 1993.

MICHAEL MILBURN was a highly proficient naval officer, whose distinguished record included service in HMS Ajax, and in action at Crete and the Normandy Landings. But in the early Fifties he resigned to retrain as an agriculturist, and founded the Bocaddon Poetry Festival in Cornwall.

Milburn had a deep love of the land, particularly of Cornwall and its landscape, which stemmed from childhood in the West Country, where his father was a Somerset landowner. After studying estate agency and forestry, he became the Earl of Plymouth's land agent, which gave him the practical experience needed to acquire Bocaddon, near Lanreath, in Cornwall and develop it into a thriving modern farm.

Milburn involved himself in many local activities - serving on the parish council, and with the Samaritans; and was connected with poetry and arts festivals, organising several himself at Bocaddon. Being something of a natural poet himself, he numbered many literary figures and painters among his friends, both in Cornwall and London, where he was equally at home in the Chelsea Arts Club.

The Bocaddon Poetry Festival, founded by him with the aid of a grant from South West Arts, took place on three or four occasions during the late Seventies and early Eighties, and proved a potent draw to poets both well-known or aspiring, and especially those who made their homes in Cornwall, including Charles Causley and Peter Redgrove. Not only poets - but writers in all genres, painters and musicians, their families and friends, who foregathered to hear the readings and listen to the music, enjoy eating and drinking in the relaxed atmosphere and creative spirit for which the festival became justly known.

In 1949 he had married Elspeth Spottiswood, daughter of an Aberdeenshire landowner. At Bocaddon the Milburns, together with their growing family of five children, kept open house and fed and watered a stream of visitors who looked on it as a dear and second home. Both were the kind of hosts who gave their guests freedom to enjoy themselves, to read, walk, fish, or simply sit about chatting in some Cornish pub such as the Ship at Lerryn on the river Fowey.

Milburn loved travel, camped all over southern Europe with his wife and children before it became commonplace, and visited Russia, before the Iron Curtain rose, to see the icons. In his later years he developed an interest in Jung and the Persian mystics, being that very English mix of practical man drawn to things of the spirit.

He was interested in the teaching of Meher Baba, the silent Indian 'God-Man', who had declared, 'I've come not to teach, but to awaken, to bring together all relgions and cults like beads on one string and revitalise them'; yet Milburn found his natural expression in the mystical Sufi tradition, as exemplified by Faz'al Inayat Khan, teacher and psychotherapist, whose grandfather brought Sufi teaching to the west in 1910.

In the Eighties Milburn sold Bocaddon and rebuilt nearby Trevawden, ably supported by Chitrani Hammond, whose own work as a painter he had helped foster. There he continued to entertain people of all ages, nature-watch, plant trees and shrubs, and play with his beloved grandchildren.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot