Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Raymond Sheppard goes fishing! Part Two

 In the previous article I mentioned two fishing books in which Sheppard work appeared. Today I'm looking at two others.


The Constant Fisherman - Cover
The left hand picture is by either Bernard Venables or Alex Jardine

 THE CONSTANT FISHERMAN by Major H. E. Morritt, London: Adam & Charles Black, 1952

There exist, perhaps, short cuts to the alphabet of fishing, but none to the fish lore which is what really matters, and on which success depends. The acquisition of fish lore can only be the result of many hours of complete happiness spent in a variety of different but always entrancing surroundings. All these experiences possess their own background, their own truth and excitement, and must add something to the cumulative completion of the fisherman. Thus the successes and failures of seventy years, not only in the British Isles but in countries as far afield as Iceland, Kenya, Norway and South Africa, contained in this little book should be of assistance to fellow addicts.

 The delightful cover shows the scene where the "Goddess of chance smiled on" the author as he helped his son Robin, understand how to catch at Rokeby - a mythical place to which the book is dedicated. The foreword by the author Swallows and Amazons knew the author and talks of Sir Walter Scott and the author's Great-Uncle Morritt. The chapters are Rokeby, South Africa, Ireland, Wales, Mackerel at Aberdovey, Chirk, Norway, Kenya, Iceland and Rokeby again.

Sheppard's illustrations are gorgeous. 

Frontispiece - "Catching the trout for Robin p. 85

Just stop and look at the trees, bushes, and river as well as the weight of Robin on the rock as well as the tension of Morritt's line tugging at the trout. 


p. 11 "Landing him with my hat"

p. 27 "Fish circling as if they were show specimens in an aquarium"

The image on page 27 of trout circling is taken from the description of the author who states "I imagined that I had discovered the most superlative trout fishing in the British Isles". 

p. 59 "Coaxing the pig"

 Page 59 is unusual and you may not expect the illustration in a book on fishing, but the author explains this was a sight he encountered of a patient Norwegian girl leading - never driving - a pig to the farm, from the boat it had arrived on. A delightful Sheppard image.

p.65 shows the fisherman near a startling sign!

Page 65 is based in Kenya and the Club sign "Beware of the rhinoceros" is Morritt's first time of taking into account pachyderms in the pool in which he fished. he didn't see any rhinos but did catch three "good rainbow trout".

p.89 Otter killing salmon

The last image shows an otter catching a salmon in which the author talks about his son's questioning why things have to die or be killed. 

Major Henry Edward Morritt also wrote Fishing Ways and Wiles (published in London by Methuen and Company in 1929).


Hampton on Pike Fishing - cover borrowed from Abebooks

HAMPTON ON PIKE FISHING by J[ohn] Fitzgerald Hampton London & Edinburgh:W & R. Chambers Limited, 1947

 Much of this work appeared initially in Angling and The Fishing Gazette as mentioned in Hampton's preface, where we learn he was based in Taplow, Buckinghamshire at the time of writing. Just like the other fishing books by Chambers mentioned previously this is a bit of a 'mish-mash' when it comes to illustrations but at least we have some gorgeous illustrations by Raymond Sheppard.


p.25 "The hulking female is generally attended
by three or four prospective consorts (p. 15)"

p.39 "Their main diet ...some eels (p.31)"

p.61 "Competition between the males (p.118)"

p.82 A pike slinking on the bottom between weeds

p.89 "Swoops relentlessly upon the individualist (p.130)"

There's a wonderful story on page 144 which I've taken the liberty to reproduce below:

Fishing one day in a large lake in Fryksdal in Wermeland, when they had proceeded a considerable distance from the shore, the fisherman suddenly pulled the boat right round, and in evident alarm commenced rowing with all his might towards the shore. One of the party asked the man what he meant by this strange conduct. "The sjo-troll, or water sprite, is here again", replied he, at the same time pointing with his finger far out to seaward. Everyone in the boat then saw in the distance something greatly resembling the horns of an elk, or a reindeer, progressing rapidly on the surface of the water. "Row towards it," exclaimed Lekander; "the deuce take me if I don't give the sjo-troll a shot; I am not afraid of it." It was with difficulty, however, that Modin (the fisherman) could be prevailed upon once more to alter the course of the boat, and to make for the apparition. When they neared the object sufficiently, Lekander, who was standing gun in hand in the bow of the boat, fired, fortunately with deadly effect. On taking possession of the prize they found it to be a huge pike, to whose back the skeleton of an eagle was attached. The fish, or rather the bones of the bird, had been seen by numbers for several years together, and universally went under the above designation of sjo-troll.
The flesh of the eagle had rotted away and the skeleton, completely overgrown with algae, from a distance resembled a small bush

The only other book I could find by Hampton was Modern angling bibliography : books published on angling, fisheries, fish culture, from 1881 to 1945 by J. Fitzgerald Hampton. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1947.

What do we know about Hampton? Not much! 

International Authors & Writers Who's Who 1977, lists him under the name Jack Fitz-Gerald Hampton, address 29 St. James Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2NX. They give his place of birth as "Hampton, Middx."...Educated London School of Economics & Political Science". Besides his book titles they list him as "Broadcaster, Norwegian Radio, BBC Wales. Hons: Silver Medalist Int. Culinary Exhib., Frankfurt, Germany; FHCI; ARSH."


The Writers Directory 1984-1986: "Hampton, Jack Fitz-Gerald. British, b. 1909. Business/Trade/Industry, Sports/Physical Education/Keeping fit. Lectr., Walsall Sch. of Art, and Sutton Coldfield Coll. of Further Education. Publs: Hampton on Pike Fishing, 1947; Modern Angling Bibliography, 1947; Catering Establishments and Prevention of  Food Poisoning, 1952; Factory Canteens and Their Management, 1952; Canteen  Cookery, 1953; Club Management and Control, 1956. Add: 14 Speedwell Rd., Edgbaston, Birmingham B5, England."

Leader Magazine cover for 26 November 1949

 Leader Magazine, which was published 8 January1929 - 14 October1944 and then incorporated into Picture Post, had a lovely review of the above Hampton on Pike Fishing

 The 26 November 1949 issue contained three images from the book illustrated by Sheppard and I've reproduced them again here with a selection by Jack Hargreaves called "Profile of the pike"


Leader Magazine  26 November 1949 p. 28

Leader Magazine  26 November 1949 p. 29

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Raymond Sheppard goes fishing! Part One


Running Silver endpapers

A lack of sleep one morning led to me reading "Hampton on Pike Fishing" (more in my next post). You need to know I have been fishing twice in my life - once as a teenager with my father and sister - my Dad loved fishing - and my sister caught a minnow in an Irish stream. The second time my son wanted to go fishing and, fortunately, a friend was also a keen fisherman and was willing to take us out and taught us fly-fishing on Rutland Water. I caught two trout; my son one! I can appreciate fishing is not all about getting fish, and these fishing books certainly reflect some of that.

The Boy's Book of Angling (Cover artist unknown)

BOYS' BOOK OF ANGLING by Major-General R[obert]. N[eil]. Stewart, London/Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers Limited, 1955

This is a fishing book, not a manual. The author is a lifelong angler and has fished in many parts of the world, and is fully qualified to write upon the subject.
General Stewart felt that there is a place for such a book. With much the same sort of upbringing as is described the author had such pleasure from those early days, that some record of these events, he thought, would be good reading. How right he was you will see.
General Stewart has been able to give in some measure help and happy fishing days to a few young anglers, but he hopes that this book may reach a greater number than he can ever have the pleasure of knowing, or helping, and that they will enjoy their holidays with him beside a river or a loch in the pages of this book.
We are sure that the reader will agree that he succeeds.
The book is easy to read, as is expected, but the images are the interesting part. Sheppard produced the Frontispiece and two other drawings (unless you count the tiny one on the title page too - which i don't think is Sheppard). This feels like the images came from somewhere else as one doesn't even fit on the page. 


Frontispiece and Title Page
There are two scraper-board illustrations in the book which I wonder might be by Major-General Stewart himself - one small example below. There are also  drawings of tackle and knots with no credit given.

Unknown artist - is it the Major-General?

Sheppard's second image is strange because it doesn't fit on the page (my scan curls on the left in the gutter, but the right edge is not my fault!) and his signature appears squashed! He does however show the reflective light on the top of the mackerel very well.

"For the mackerel we want spinners and for the lythe the rubber eels" (p.67)
This appears on page 15

His third illustration is bold and simple showing a trout caught by a fisherman's line, leaping out of the water.


RUNNING SILVER  by Major-General R[obert]. N[eil]. Stewart, London/Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers Limited, 1952

Running Silver - Cover

Stewart produced many stories for the BBC's Children's Hour, such as "Our Journey to France: a humorous journey to Cannes" in 1954, the intriguingly titled "In Search of Shoes", 1954, where "R. N. Stewart, returns with another tale of the ' unfortunate male '"! This one concerns "Finney, Jumpy and Bubabout" three baby salmon.

In the book, Sheppard has the endpapers (see top of this article) with a wonderful piece showing salmon swimming around each other. It's reproduced on the cover and also on page 33 as below

Again the book has artwork by various people but looks a bit more coherent than the Boys' Book of Angling. here we have 5 illustrations listed on the Contents page - none of which are Sheppard and several others are not covered at all. I think the 5 are by 'Cowell' and there's a scraper-board by 'JcT'. There are also paragraph dividers of ducks and birds, but not by Sheppard! Very strange how this top illustrator has been used in this context.

Running Silver page33


  • Experiment in Angling, and some essays. Inverness: Northern Chronicle Office, 1947.
  • Casting around. Essays on the art of angling. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, [1948]
  • Running Silver. London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1952.
  • Open Spaces. The reflections of a naturalist London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953.
  • Dogs of the Northern Trails London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1956]
  • The Boys' Book of Angling.London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1955]
  • The Boys' Book of Boats. London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1956]
  • The Boys' Book of the Deep Sea. London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1957]
  • The Boys' Book of the Jungle. London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1958]
  • The Boys' Book of the Yukon. London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, [1959]
  • Unsung Trails. By-ways of Exploration and Adventure London; Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1960.
  • Fishing as we find it Moray Maclaren and R.N. Stewart  London: Stanley Paul, 1960.
  • Salmon and Trout. Their habits and haunts. Edinburgh; London: W. & R. Chambers, [1963]

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Raymond Sheppard and Jack Schaefer and Philip Yordan

 I recently acquired another book for my collection - whilst looking for a completely different one. I find Sheppard's work easy to sight from a distance so when I received an alert from eBay for "The Canyon" by Jack Schaefer - which once again led to disappointment - I saw under "Other suggestions" what looked to be Raymond Sheppard's work... and here it is!

The Big Range - Cover by Raymond Sheppard

This is a really strange composition for Sheppard - the headless horseman! I've yet to read the stories to see if it's significant the rider's identity is hidden but I suspect this was a mistake by an art editor at Andre Deutsch who enlarged the image for the cover with no thought to the man(?) on the horse! And the publisher is interesting too as I didn't realise Sheppard had done several for them. 

I've been searching for "The Canyon" for years because Christine Sheppard has it in her collection and having now tripped over several others I thought I'd bring them together now rather than wait till I have based on experience that may be a few years yet!

Here's the dustjacket description:

 THE BIG RANGE - JACK SCHAEFER Author of Shane and First Blood

Seven tales about seven people. Place: the Western frontier. Time: the days when you could claim your home was a 'town' if there was 'a stage stoppin' in and gold goin' out' and when, if you could add to this the presence of a couple of women, your claim was pretty well substantiated. The people are Jeremy Rodock, a hanging man when it came to horse thieves; Miley Bennett, a funny little frog-faced runt who loved the range because it made a man feel big too; Emmet Dutrow who, in his horror of saloons and painted women, ruined not only himself but his wife and son; General Pingley, a stubborn old coot of a southerner for whom the Civil War had never ended; Sergeant Houck, a big slab of cross-grained granite with a tender heart; Kittura Remsberg, who built a way of life by smashing a mirror; and Major Burl, whose belly bumped his saddle horn as he rode and who could stitch words in a string.
None of these people could have been what they were and none of these things could have happened except in the wide-open spaces of the old West. Each story is based on an incident which really happened and the background details come from Mr Schaefer's study of the diaries and journals of the time. Jack Schaefer is the only writer of Westerns who can make realism and romanticism run as a team; who can take the hard facts of those pioneering lives and combine them with drama, humour and pathos in such a way that his stories delight everyone, whether their brows are high, low or middle. 'What he does is well worth doing,' as J. B. Priestley said of Shane.

Dustjacket to The Big Range

"Schaefer shares the individual stories of seven people-rancher, sheepherder, homesteader, town settler, soldier, miner, and cowboy-in this collection. He tells the tales as they can only be told: in the open spaces of the Old West. In these memorable narratives Schaefer depicts the unique conflicts of settler life and captures the spirit of the resolute, willful, determined, and broken characters found on the Western frontier" - later edition's blurb.

It's interesting to research Schaefer on the Internet and how little 'meat' there is online regarding his biography. Basically he was born on 19 November, 1907 and died on the 24 January, 1991 and was a journalist/novelist who wrote about the old West without having travelled there!

The book, for which I have been searching for many years, is a more popular title by Schaefer called "The Canyon". However the edition I want is the Sheppard cover. Luckily Christine Sheppard has a copy which I have photographed below.


The Canyon by Jack Schaefer

THE CANYON - JACK SCHAEFER - Author of Shane and First Blood
The Canyon
is the story of Little Bear, a Cheyenne Indian who was different from the rest of his people. He was an orphan and his legs were short and bowed like the legs of the badger so that, as a boy, he could not run as fast as even the slowest of his companions. He grew to be a good hunter and respected in the village, but his humility kept him always a little apart so that his thoughts and dreams became unlike the thoughts and dreams of other men, and the difference between him and them weighed on his heart. When an accident - or was it the Maiyun, the spirits who inhabit the hills? - led him to the lost canyon and imprisoned him there, a strange existence began for Little Bear, in which he found happiness. Mr Schaefer's description of how his hero made himself the necessities of life, found food and shelter, devised traps for buffalo and fought the deadly puma single-handed has the true Robinson Crusoe touch.
Little Bear escaped from his canyon at last, but he left his heart there. The story tells what happened when he found another love - Spotted Turtle, who became his wife -and had to decide whether to keep her in his private world or to forget his 'difference' and fall in with the ways of his people.
The Canyon is a long story or a short novel. For full measure, three more of Jack Schaefer's stories have been added to it: Elvie Burdette, Cooter James and Josiah Willett. All three are distinguished by a delightful dry humour and add unforgettable details to the picture of the West as it really was: something which Jack Schaefer knows better than any living writer.

It's interesting to see how the art editor used the same device (the title 'bubble') but used it without eliminating masses of Sheppard's artwork. You would think the artist's brief would include the fact "your design must leave a lozenge shape free for the title" or similar!

Now being a keen researcher into all sorts of minutiae, I started searching for more Andre Deutsch books published by these authors and subjects at that time and that led to the third Jack Schaefer title with an illustrated cover by Sheppard

The Pioneers by Jack Schaefer

I've joined two images together to show the spine as best I can without a copy, thanks to Waverley Books for the image via eBay which is too expensive even for my obsession!

The blurb:

Exploring varied tales of life in the West, Schaefer shares the stories of exceptional characters conflicted with humanity as they navigate the challenges and opportunities that can only be found on the frontier. From the humor in "Cat Nipped" to the common concerns found in "Prudence by Name," Jack Schaefer again places himself as the authentic voice of the West. Other stories in the collection include "Something Lost," "Leander Frailey," "That Mark Horse," "My Town," "Harvey Kendall," "Out of the Past," "Old Anse," "Takes a Real Man," and "Hugo Kertchak, Builder."

The fourth book I found as a result of searching came from Brought to Book Ltd which is run by Adam Lay. "Man of the West" by Philip Yordan - read more about him here and I'm sure you've seen a few of his films as he has 69 credits as screenwriter and an Academy Award to his name! Adam kindly sent me some images to share - thus the watermarks! The fact that Yordan's book is in the same format gives me hope there may be more!

Man of the West by Philip Yordan

Man of the West dustjacket

The town of Good Hope boasts an Early Street, an Early hotel, and an Early Sweet Shoppe. This would certainly surprise Mr. Early if he were alive today, because when he first rode into the place with his son beside him, men scowled and women called their children in from the street. For Good Hope aimed to be a law-abiding place, and Mr. Early carried with him the dangerous glamour of his past as a gunman, even if he did intend to settle down on the land he owned and find some peace at last.
The red-haired Jo Ann made matters worse when she ran out on her employer and joined Mr Early on his farm, but the real crisis came with the arrival of Mr Grimsell. Mr Grimsell planned to drive twenty thousand head cattle over Angel's Pass and through the valley, making a desert of it as they went by. The people of the town thought they could reason with Grimsell but Mr Early knew at once that it's guns, not people, which would have to do the talking.
Men died violently before it was all over -good men and bad  And the story of how it all happened makes a novel all the more stirring for being true to life as it really was in the days when the West was still wild.
This is Philip Yordan's first novel. Hitherto he has been best known for his famous play Anna Lurasta.

 I did check "First Blood" by Schaefer published by Andre Deutsch, in 1954 but that cover is definitely not Sheppard. It would have been fantastic to discover Raymond Sheppard drew a cover for Schaefer's most well-known work Shane, but no, that's available on and is not by Sheppard.

Any booksellers wanting to use the blurbs above, please help yourselves.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

David Apatoff and Raymond Sheppard

Rabbit sketch

This is a really quick notice to say David Apatoff, the author of many art books which I own, such as
Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator's Illustrator, The Life and Art of Mead Schaeffer, Albert Dorne: Master Illustrator, The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs and my favourite so far, Austin Briggs: The Consummate Illustrator, has written about Raymond Sheppard.

David's Amazon profile says:
David Apatoff likes great art in humble places: magazine and book illustration, comic strips and advertising art. "Many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air." I should use that as it sums up my hobby so well. 

I've been following David's blog for years as I love reading writing about art as it educates and inspires, and his recent series on The energy of the 1960s really made me appreciate another section of illustrators' works which as a child I dismissed as ghastly (compared to the naturalism of say, Sheppard). I need to warn you, you are about to go down a very entertaining rabbit hole if you follow any of these links to his blog!

Thanks for making contact David.

Illustration Art blog

Links to David's articles on Sheppard:

Monday, 20 July 2020

Raymond Sheppard and Ruxley Oast House, Chilham Square, Eynsford Bridge and Olive Cook too

Ruxley Old Church

An email can send me down rabbit holes of fun sometimes.  Come with me to Kent, the "garden of England" (is that still true?). Cilla Hawkley wrote to me sharing an image of an Oast House she had.
I have a framed picture by Raymond (see picture attached), which I've been unable to find anywhere online.  I wonder whether you know anything about it?  It is in exactly the same style as some of the illustrations in The Rolling Year by WJ Blyton that I've seen online.  Maybe it appears in there? [Afraid not Cilla]

The picture belonged to my uncle and was framed rather strangely, so I had it redone. On the back it said 'Oast House and Old Church (used as a barn) Ruxley, Kent. 

I've always absolutely loved the picture, but knew nothing about the artist, or why my uncle had it, although he was born in Kent.  I wondered whether the buildings are still there, and have now found that Ruxley is now classed as in Bromley.  The barn/church now appears to be Grade II listed by Historic England but there is no sign of the oast house.

My uncle was born in 1921 in nearby St Mary Cary (then hop- and strawberry-picking Kentish countryside) and my mother, who was born in 1915 (so was only two years younger than Raymond) went to school in Bromley.  This would explain my uncle's interest in the picture (apart from its beauty).  From 1946 onwards my uncle worked as a printer for Thanet Press in Margate.  I know they took work from all over the country and I'm wondering whether Thanet Press ever printed, or reprinted books containing Raymond Sheppard's illustrations, as this might explain where Uncle got it.

I'd be really interested to hear from you, if you have the time and inclination.

Best wishes
Cilla Hawkley
I've never thought of cataloguing the printers of Sheppard's work so can't immediately help there, but it's a very strong possibility Thanet Press printed the images below. I checked a few books around the time and ones I've written about already and none were printed (or more accurately credited to).

So I went exploring Ruxley, but before I got what I wanted Cilla wrote back with more information. 

St Botolph’s Church, also known as Ruxley Old Church, was built adjacent to Ruxley Manor in about 1300. It served as the parish church of Ruxley until 1557, by which time it was in a ruinous state. Cardinal Pole de-consecrated the church and relocated the  congregation to the parish of St James’ Church in North Cray. It was subsequently converted into a barn, which was known as Church Barn in the 18th century. A cylindrical stock brick oast house was built at the north-east corner in the early 19th century. The church was latterly used as a donkey-mill, chicken house, stable and machine shop before it was restored in the late 20th century.
I found the following tweet on Twitter from Bexley Archives (@BexleyArchives, November 6, 2018) 

Incredibly both Sheppard and Bexley Archives show the same farmer and horses. So it looks as if Sheppard added the photo characters to his version of the church and oast house!

Sadly times have changed. The church is now right next door to Ruxley Manor Garden Centre.

Arrow shows church on edge of car park!

And this is an image captured from Google Streetview shows its current sad state:

Ruxley collapsed oast house and church

If you want to know more about the conservation work head to the PDF format newsletter (June 2018) of the Society of St. Botolph, where you can read several pages and see inside...and there's mention of the "oast kiln" too. Thanks to Cilla for setting me off on another exploration of places illustrated by Raymond Sheppard.

Last year I received two images by Raymond Sheppard. An eBayer (buydi1953) is also selling them at the moment and kindly confirmed the information written on the rear of both pictures which again saved me a lot of work!

The ebayer kindly replied:
The two R S prints had these inscriptions on when bought in 1974 and sold as ‘ Kent’ with Chilham Square Canterbury and Eynsford Bridge, Kent 1930. I looked up pictures of the latter and it looks as if that is so. However the Chilham Square site I took it ‘as written’ as I am not familiar with Kent .
The strange thing is that in doing the research on Chilham, trying to match views with Google, I remembered a view and realised my wife and I have been to Chilham Square, as it's called!
Chilham in Kent
Looking down Taylor's Hill from The Square, Chilham in Kent

Here's where I think this comes from - as shown on Google Streetview - although I can't replicate the exact angle!

The Square, Chilham, Kent

The second image I purchased is also presented in the pair being offered by the eBayer which makes me think they were sold as a pair when first sold (perhaps 1930 according to the above information)

Eynsford Bridge in Kent.jpg
Eynsford Bridge in Kent

The River Darent at Eynsford photo by Jerry Clarke on Google Maps shows a very close match to Sheppard's position but Google's Streetview van couldn't get up the narrow road. Maybe one day I'll visit the area and update the photos myself! The ford next to the bridge still exists - and can be seen via the tyre tracks in the first image below.

Eynsford Bridge from the High Street

Closer view of the cottages

The view from the cottages on Riverside


Finally I want to share some images that Christine Sheppard owns which may or may not relate to the above but are certainly in the same style.

Mock-up cover of Cambridgeshire by Olive Cook
The image is a print of a farmer sweeping straw on the floor of an enormous barn and the picture is glued to a hand-written title and author. It's possible that this was a mock-up by Sheppard himself (a sort of portfolio piece) and it's mounted (most likely by Sheppard's wife) on construction paper along with these images below.

The British Library has a record for a Blackie publication of 1953 "Cambridgeshire: aspects of a county" with 112 pages and illustrations. One reference I've found to the book shows photographs apart from the drawn windmill on the title page (not Sheppard) and credits for photographers. [UPDATE: I now own a copy and this is definitely a photo-illustrated book] "Janus", the Cambridge University cross-archive catalogue, has an entry on Cook and her papers.  Cook married Edwin Smith, the photographer famous for many British scenes including Wells Cathedral steps leading to the Chapter House and together they eventually moved to Saffron Walden. Cook was a native of Cambridgeshire and with her husband produced many books on British (and Italian) architecture.

The two other images are below and are described by me. If anyone has any ideas where these might be Christine Sheppard and I would be most grateful to know. meanwhile enjoy the artwork - sorry for the poor photos.

Cobbled floor, archway and tower

Monk walking from under an archway

Monday, 15 June 2020

Raymond Sheppard and The Island of Birds by Olivia FitzRoy

The Island of Birds - Cover
I've written about Olivia FitzRoy before so shall avoid repeating myself. During this lockdown in Britain, many people apparently are having trouble sleeping, and I took advantage of joining that number, the other night, by reading The Island of Birds by Olivia Fitzroy (London: Jonathan Cape, 1954).

The dustjacket tells us:
Jamie and Jean Stewart are convalescing after measles at Carrick on the west coast of Scotland. Their housekeeper, Maggie, is looking after them, but they are depressed because their family and friends are away and they can find nothing interesting to do. But one day a friend. Fergus, does arrive, and persuades Maggie to let him take them to his island in his fishing boat, the Wandering Star. They are delighted to learn that they are to act as crew for the voyage, and that Fergus's Island of Birds is forty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. They enjoy exploring the island with its deserted village, keeping house in the cottage Fergus has rebuilt for himself, fishing and watching birds, including a pair of rare sea-eagles which have nested on the cliffs. An unexpected interruption of their happiness is the arrival of two shady characters who pretend to Jean, whom they find alone in the cottage, that they are friends of Fergus's. Inadvertently she gives away the secret of the sea-eagles' nest. From then on Fergus and the children are defenders in a battle to protect the valuable eggs from the two would-be thieves. The Island of Birds proves to be an even more exciting place than Jean and James had bargained for.
Here is a desert island with a difference and a 'treasure' with a difference. What better setting could there be for a story about the protection of rare birds than the Western Isles, beyond which lies the well-known sanctuary of St. Kilda?’.

I enjoyed the book - maybe because I should have been asleep and felt sort of childish again, reading 'under the covers' so to speak! But the story was fun - exploring the island and the life away from the mainland with the two children and their temporary guardian. The mystery around Fergus is never divulged but he is never 'familiar' and we wonder what will happen on the island.

Olivia Fitzroy's The Island of Birds takes us excitingly to a western isle beyond the Outer Hebrides. For the growing army of young bird-watchers it has special interest, but it will also hold the attention of those for whom birds are little more than a noise in the morning. Raymond Sheppard's beautiful illustrations are some of the best I have seen in a children's book for a long time ~ The Catholic Herald, 3 December 1954, p.8
By the way, there was a BBC children's programme in the late 50s and early 60s with the same title but that was based on a French programme where Jacky and Hermine explore old wrecks and other things scattered along the shore

Anyway, rather than tell you the story - I'll warn you the images below might contain spoilers, so look away now, if you don't want the story spoiled for you!

List of illustrations
I found this list interesting as there a lot more illustrations than those listed. Do you remember when colour illustrations were 'tipped in", i.e. separately published and bound / glued into the main book? Well, I guess this is a hang over from those days as the illos they refer to here are all full page illos.

The other interesting thing is I own a proof copy - this is where a publisher issues a printed rough (normally paperback) to get newspapers to review them and use that 'blurb' on covers and advance materials and also to check what's set up is accurate in terms of spellings and labels on images. Here is where I noticed not only does the proof copy have lighter printing of the images but also skips some of them! And the proof copy has a contents page which is omitted from the hardback I have!

p.13 Jean and Jamie looking bored

p.20 not in the proof

p.21 Maggie hangs out washing

p.29 Fergus arrives  - not in the proof

p.30 Fergus' boat, the "Wandering Star"

p. 43 Jean, Jamie and Fergus eat

p. 45 Basking shark

p. 55 not in the proof

p. 56 Fergus' house

p. 65 not in the proof

p.66 Lobster pots

p.76 Jamie was the first to get a bite

p. 85 Puffins swimming

p. 95 To see the great sea eagle soar out from it

p. 97 not in the proof

p. 98 Fergus plays the accordion

p. 109 Fergus was standing in the boat, laughing

p. 127 not in the proof

p. 128Jim and Willy ("Wye")

p. 134 "What's that?" asked Jim

p. 146 not in the proof

p. 147 Sea Eagle

p. 155 A school of bottled-nose whales

Interestingly the picture of the bottle-nosed whales, is listed in the illustrations as if a full page. But perhaps it's one of those with a caption - despite appearing in the middle of text on page 155.
p. 161 not in the proof

p. 173 not in the proof

p. 174 Jamie waving his hankerchief

p. 186 Suddenly as they talked there was a rush of wings

p. 189 The three of them peer over the cliff edge

p. 198 - similar to p.155 in that it is captioned and listed

p. 203 Jean sits up in bed startled

p. 209 similar to p.155 and 198 in that it is captioned and listed

p. 212 Jamie stuck in the hold

p. 224 He crept up the ladder and for a moment looked back on the scene

p. 226 Jamie swims away from the boat

p. 234 not in the proof

p. 244 Heights had no terror for Wye

p. 253 not in the proof