Enid Blyton Bevin Boys Roy Faiers
—Sir: In the letter “Meeting Enid Blyton” (“Post Box”, Summer 2017), Mrs. Sutton recalls a visit she made to Swanage in 1947 and meeting the famous children’s author. That bookshop, Hill & Churchill, was owned by Ted Gathercole, my uncle.
Enid Blyton and her husband Kenneth Darrell Waters were keen golfers — he bought the local course — and they were frequent visitors, staying at the Grosvenor Hotel. Some of Enid’s books were set in Dorset.
When my uncle died in 1947, my brother, newly demobbed from the army, took over the management of Hill & Churchill, so the “salesman” who greeted Mrs. Sutton was undoubtedly him, Bill Hurrell. He lived with his wife and children in the elegant two-storey flat over the shop. He died in 1992.
I met Enid Blyton often when staying in Swanage, and she once invited me to be “companion” to her daughters. I was 18 and a music student, so declined! resistant to another production that he thought wouldn’t be anything like as “good” (he was particularly partial to the leading lady!).
Grandfather Ridgeway took a big risk and put the proposed production into rehearsal. He managed to persuade Hardy to let him bring the entire cast down to Dorchester to perform it in his dining room at Max Gate. Hardy stipulated that there were to be no press at the occasion, which was a problem for Grandfather as publicity was what he was after! He agreed, but cast a few “pressmen” as extras (fully costumed) so he got his publicity although there is no record as to Hardy’s feelings about this.
There are letters from Hardy to my grandfather in the Dorset County Museum. Hardy was enchanted by Gwen Ffrangcon-davies who was cast as Tess. The production went ahead with a month at the Barnes Theatre and was followed by a transfer to the West End. — LOUISE DENNY, ST.
LEONARDS-ON-SEA, EAST SUSSEX. Sir: Regarding the “Bevin Boy” article (“Forget-me-nots”, Spring 2017) I was conscripted in August 1944 and had a similar experience. On my demob in November 1947, the coal industry had been nationalised and a massive investment programme was implemented. The NCB needed to train personnel to carry out the reorganisation and I was approached and asked to consider a career in mining. After some thought I opted to train as a mine surveyor and attended Wigan Mining College, qualifying in 1953. Many Bevin Boys remained in the industry and had successful careers as managers, scientists, geologists, etc. I completed 40 years of service.
The Bevin Boys in general, including myself, had a very rudimentary knowledge of mining and most of us were not interested. After a few years I realised what a fascinating, interesting, hard and rewarding job it was to win coal. We have an ex-bevin Boys’ Association and I am a member sitting on the national committee.
I would highly recommend a visit to the National Museum of Mining at Caphouse Colliery, near Wakefield, Yorkshire. — PHIL ROBINSON,WARRINGTON, CHESHIRE. Sir: Further to the well-deserved tributes to This England and Evergreen’s founder Roy Faiers, I have the first issue of Norfolk Life from June 1967. It was produced by Roy Faiers from his office in The Street, Brundall, Norfolk, for the wonderful price of three shillings.
I subscribed to this magazine for many years and copies are safely preserved in my bookcase today. They are a quality magazine reflecting, in the words of Roy Faiers, “the true spirit of Norfolk and its people both past and present.” Illustrated by the uniquely characteristic drawings of Colin Carr, and black-and-white photographs old and new, they are a delightfully gentle resource to dip into.
After several years it was allied with Suffolk under the title of Norfolk and Suffolk Fair. I do not think that this magazine is produced any more, but it has some successors including Suffolk and Norfolk Life. So I would like to feel that Roy Faiers established a pattern of local magazine production that others still follow. Our heritage is what we leave behind. —
GEOFFREY DIXON, SMALLBURGH, NORFOLK.
Sir: I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Roy Faiers. My first meeting with him was in 1967 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. I had just moved to the area and was seeking employment in the printing trade. I had come across a small local printers called Windles, which Roy Faiers had
bought to print his first monthly magazine Lincolnshire Life. I commenced working for him and within a few weeks had settled in to what I can honestly say was one of the happiest periods of my working life.
Other magazines soon followed including Cotswold Life, Chiltern Life and Norfolk Fair all celebrating the life and times of each county, with no society weddings or celebrity gossip. It was a busy time, with more work than a small printer could cope with so, when This England was launched in 1968, an outside printer was used.
When Devon Life was added to the monthly magazines, the printing was transferred to Exeter and I was instrumental in establishing the new plant.
Roy Faiers subsequently moved all the editorial offices from Grimsby to Cheltenham and was concentrating all his energies on This England, which had really taken off. By 1972 he decided to sell the printing side of the business, which brought to the end my association with him as my employer.
However, our paths did cross again in the late-1980s when I was working as a print estimator for Wheatons, the book and magazine publishers in Exeter. Roy approached the company for a quotation for book printing and thus began a new association with him as my very valuable customer! For the following 10 years I worked on some of his books, which were invariably illustrated by Colin Carr, including Parlour Poetry; Forget-me-nots; What’s On the Box? and The Whimsical World of Colin Carr.
So for me, my working life has been involved, with Roy Faiers starting with our serendipitous meeting all those years ago. — THOMAS DUNN, ALPHINGTON,
EXETER, DEVON. * This England celebrates its 50th birthday in 2018 and we will be marking it with articles in the magazine and a special publication in the summer. —Ed.