Burnley and District Historical Society lecture on 'Sem' and Benedictine

The long-lasting popularity of the Benedictine liqueur in Burnley was the focus of the latest talk from the Burnley and District Historical Society.

Society chairman Denise North gave a lecture entitled “Side-tracked by Sem” in which she described how easy it is when researching a subject to get totally side-tracked with an entirely different subject – this is what happened to her when carrying out research for another of her talks about Benedictine liqueur and its association with Burnley Miner’s Club.

She came across an advertising poster for the liqueur which was signed by the artist “Sem”.

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Georges Goursat was born in Perigeux in the Dordogne region of France in 1863, coincidentally the year in which Benedictine was first produced in Fecamp.

Burnley Miners' Social Club in Plumbe Street which sells more Benedictine than anywhere else in the world


He inherited wealth from his father allowing him to live well whilst producing a prolific amount of artwork using the name Sem. He moved to Paris where he enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous including royalty and aristocracy, at the races, the theatre, and in the bars and restaurants.

His artwork was used by many establishments, one particular favourite of his was Maxim’s where the world famous and celebrities still frequent today and which still uses Sem’s work to advertise.

Outbreak of war

On the outbreak of war in 1914 Sem at the age of fifty was too old to enlist and became a war correspondent his artwork changing dramatically in producing sketches of French troops in action.

After the war Sem returned to Paris producing further artwork featuring the roaring twenties, and the jazz age.

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He was a fine artist with exceptional skills becoming famous in his lifetime through his caricatures and albums of sketches depicting life in Paris in the earlier years of the 20th. Century.

Wall Street Crash

The Roaring Twenties went out with a whimper when the Wall Street Crash resulted in the collapse of world stock markets and fortunes were lost. Sem became impoverished and died in Paris from a heart attack in 1934.

The next lecture will take place on February 8th at 2pm at St John’s Church hall, Ivy Street. Molly Haines will present the lecture entitled “Two Midland Hotels” Current members, new members, and guests are welcome to attend.