‘HAPPY birthday, Charlie!’
Those were the words of Portsmouth’s Lord Mayor as he laid a wreath at the door of the birthplace of Charles Dickens, one the greatest writers of all time.
Councillor Frank Jonas was joined at the ceremony by Ian Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles.
Yesterday marked 204 years since Dickens was born at 1 Mile End Terrace, Portsmouth – now re-named 393 Old Commercial Road and a museum to the quintessential Victorian author.
People of all ages gathered outside the museum and wished the writer a happy birthday before giving three loud cheers.
Charles’ father, John Dickens was a clerk in the Royal Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth before the family moved to London.
Cllr Jonas said: ‘He’s the son of a dockyard man.
‘We are very proud of what he achieved. Worldwide, everybody reads his books. My two favourites are A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations.’
Ian Dickens told The News: ‘Two hundred and four years and he remains as relevant and as popular now as he did back in the day.
‘The fact that’s he’s commanding primetime television with the characters and personalities that came out of his head tells you everything you need to know about his popularity.’
Ian said his favourite Dickens novel was Pickwick Papers.
‘It was the first one I read and the first he wrote and it’s such a funny, laugh-out-loud story,’ said the 60-year-old, who lives in Bedfordshire.
Tom Seymour, 61, and his wife Jean Seymour, 59, from Copnor, came to pay tribute to Dickens.
‘We come most years,’ said Mr Seymour.
‘We are very privileged that he was born in Portsmouth. He was a great social reformer. He tried to reform the ills that he saw and especially with children.’
Geoffrey Christopher, secretary of the Birthplace Branch of the Dickens Fellowship, of Northern Parade, said: ‘Dickens wrote a completely different book every time.’
Following the ceremony at the museum, a garland was placed around the neck of Dickens’ statue in Guildhall Square by Cllr Jonas.