Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Raymond Sheppard and Seal Morning - Part Four

SEAL MORNING - Background

Rowena Farre, or Lois Parr(e) but actually Daphne Lois Macready

The British Library lists three books under the name Rowena Farre with the interesting note
 Rowena FARRE pseud. [i.e. Daphne Lois Macready.]  
They are:
* A time from the world. London: Hutchinson, 1962
* The beckoning land. London : Gollancz, 1969.
and of course
* Seal morning

In the mid-1990s I found this entry on Abebooks and couldn't afford to buy the collection:

Rowena Farr ie Lois Parre: …7 typed letters signed, 1 autograph letter signed, from 15 December 1954 to 29 April 1959 relating to the development and publication of her first book Seal Morning (1957, decorations by Raymond Sheppard). Also related correspondence (typed letters) from various editors at Hutchinson and Co., her publishers, including those to the author and those to the editor of the Daily Mail in relation to a controversy surrounding the authenticity of details in this proclaimed "true story". This chronology of correspondence provides an interesting insight into the development of a book, in this case, from the publisher's initial interest in an article by Farre to the publication of her book that was selected by the Secondary Education Board as one ….
Boy, do I wish I'd bought them! If you do know who's got them, I'd love to make contact - email me at

Fortunately someone very dedicated, has created a Wikipeida entry which has superb references which can be followed, telling the fascinating story of Rowena, Daphne or Lois! I won't bother repeating it here, except to say that in Mark Andresen and Colin Wilson's Field of Vision: The Broadcast Life of Kenneth Allsop the story is told of how Allsop tried to discover Farre's whereabouts. The whole thing started thus: "one or two of the reporters got wind of some little thing she'd slipped up on and they started looking into it"  and of course the phenomenal sales ("30,000 copies, serialization rights in both the UK and America and an absent prescence.", p. 331) meant there were royalties to pay but she couldn't be found, until some reports mentioned she had made all her own clothes. This brought her out of the woodwork in anger but she soon disappeared again. We know she went to India and also Australia. It's interesting to note that she donated her royalties for any overseas TV productions to Literature Board of the Australian Council of the Arts (see Irene Stevens, A short history of the Literature Board 1986-2000). And this was before any had happened
It appears that we really don't know much about the woman, let alone whether Seal Morning is true. As one article has said this could be seen as 'autobiographical fiction' rather than autobiography. As most agree the story reads beautifully and is a brilliant observation of nature and the seasons and I remember reading to my family during a Welsh holiday and it worked as a read-aloud book

The only instance of "Lois Parr(e)" I can find is in The Countryman (Vol 50 No 2 Winter 1954) where Lois writes about a musical seal!

In 1986 David Cobham directed the story for a children's TV series (by London Weekend Television)  where the action was moved from the wilds of Scotland to the flat landscape of Norfolk - which was a it more logical as the East coast has breeding colonies of seal!

David Cobham's own showreel on YouTube

NEXT TIME: Comments on Seal Morning artwork

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