I still love the William books

How wonderful it was today to meet up with my writing group. We met in the park, not all at once, some arriving and staying, others arriving then having to leave after a coffee and a natter, but it was delightful just to be in their company. Some I have manged to see, albeit distanced, others I haven’t seen since last year, a couple I haven’t met since just after Christmas last year. We caught up with each other’s news of course, we chatted about the state of the country, the world and the unmentionable crisis, and we told each other what we have been doing with our writing since we last met. One of us brought their sister and brother-in-law who mentioned the William books by Richmal Crompton.

As a child I was, and as an adult I still love the William books; William Brown is an eleven-year-old boy who had a great imagination and appetite for adventure with his gang, the Outlaws. I remember laughing and laughing till my eyes streamed at some of the things he got up to. I think I was told that Richmal Crompton was actually a woman writer, and even when young was amazed at how perfectly she captured his character and personality. I wonder if I would be disappointed if I reread them?

Back to the park… my friend, her sister and brother-in-law had lived in Bromley where Richmal lived, and in fact Brother-in-law had met her when he was a child. I was so happy to discover that she was a really lovely, kind person and great fun. Although she lived in Bromley – now in Greater London but in the historic county of Kent, Richmal Crompton Lamburn was actually born  in Bury in Lancashire – a place I know very well.  She was born in 1890 and her father was a vicar and she eventually became a teacher. She moved to Bromley in 1917 but unfortunately contracted polio and permanently lost the use of one of her legs. She had already started writing (I’m sure she must have written stories from being a child!) and once she had to give up teaching she wrote full time. Her first collection of children’s stories – her first William book was published in 1922, although she had first written stories about him five years earlier. She went on to write thirty-eight books ‘starring’ William, as well as other stories for children over forty other books for adults – how amazingly prolific!

It was interesting hearing about her from people who had met her and that they thought many of the adventures William and his gang had were based on places they knew, on Bromley Common – woods, commons, streams. I have such a vivid image of the places William and his friends rambled because Richmal was such a clever writer that without great chunks of description she must have woven realistic details into the stories for me to be able to ‘see’ the landscape. She died in Bromley 1969 at the age of seventy-eight.

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