Tributes for modest creator of Jennings and his chums

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
The creator of children's fiction's second-most famous boarding-school boy, renowned for his high-jinks and inventive expletives, died this week.

Anthony Buckeridge, author of more than 20 books about Jennings and his chums at Linbury Court boarding school, died on June 28. He was 92.

Mr Buckeridge created the character of Jennings while working as head of English at St Lawrence college, an independent preparatory school in Kent.

Jennings first appeared in a 1948 radio play. This was developed into a full-length novel, Jennings Goes to School, which was published in 1950.

Since then, the books have been translated into 12 languages and sold more than six million copies worldwide.

But the Jennings stories, with their tales of japes by schoolboys in short trousers and fourpenny bus rides, gradually lost their appeal. A more streetwise, cynical generation found little to relate to in Jennings' "gay" escapades and trademark expletives, such as "petrified paintpots" and "fossilised fishhooks".

But with the emergence of Harry Potter, children's interest in boarding-school stories was renewed. With some slight modifications to the language, and allowances for pocket-money inflation, Jennings was reprinted and enjoyed a substantial revival.

New Jennings books continued to appear until 1994.

Mr Buckeridge published a memoir, While I Remember, in 1999. Last year, he was awarded an OBE for his contribution to children's literature. He had previously told a radio interviewer that such recognition for children's writers was "way over the top".

Nicholas Tucker, a children's literature critic and friend of Mr Buckeridge, said that this was typical of the author.

"He was an elfin man, with twinkly eyes," he said. "And he was modest.

"He wouldn't make claims for great literature. But he wasn't a push-over.

He got very angry when people criticised Jennings for being out of date."

Jennings fans include the actor and writer Stephen Fry, who has spoken of a childhood fondness for the novels.

The playwright Alan Ayckbourn attributes his early attempts at writing to Mr Buckeridge's influence.

He said: "The Jennings books were an important part of my childhood and an inspiration for my first play as an 11-year-old. I shall remember Anthony Buckeridge with affection."

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