Sunday, 2 March 2014

Raymond Sheppard and Uncle Mac and Children's Hour

The Children's Hour Annual 1936

Which is Raymond Sheppard's earliest published work? I don't tend to keep my records for him in chronological order but - if we eliminate any published mention of him - I suspect the following may qualify.

The British Library lists The Children's Hour annual edited by “Uncle Mac” of the B.B.C. (Derek McCulloch) as starting in 1935.

From Children's Hour Annual 1936
The BBC states that Children's Hour ran on BBC Radio from 1922 to 1964, [...] Derek McCulloch took charge of Children's Hour in 1933, and as 'Uncle Mac' presided over the show on air, giving it its famous sign off 'Goodnight children, everywhere'* lists McCulloch's full name as Derek Ivor Breashur [performing name Uncle Mac] (1897–1967). You can read more about him and the variants of the annuals and storybooks on my other blog so rather than repeat myself let's look at the Sheppard illustrations.

Kimpie plays for Tillingfold is written by Hugh de Sélincourt who it states was born in 1878 (- 1951) and was asked to read one of his stories on the radio when he submitted his book "Young 'Un" to Children's Hour. It led to this story of cricket, about which de Sélincourt was knowledgeable, enjoying village cricket for years and "scored his first century at the age of 50". Interestingly the National Portrait Gallery lists a photographic portrait of him by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd) as a "half-plate nitrate negative, 9 January 1928 Given by Pinewood Studios via Victoria and Albert Museum, 1989" I also found an article called "Hugh de Selincourt, a Forgotten Anti-War Novelist" in Cambridge Quarterly (2012) 41 (4): 476-491.

Page 41 Boy oils and wipes his cricket bat while sitting on chair

Page 44 Cricketer leans forward whilst umpire watches with cricket club in background

Page 47 Behind a bench of people watching cricket, boy straps on cricket pads

Page 48 Man and woman in car turn to look at boy in striped blazer in rear seat

Memories of Mooweem written by H. Mortimer Batten is the second story in this annual that Sheppard illustrates. "H.M.B." "has been writing [nature stories] for the Children's Hour since 1925". The story is sub-titled "A bear cub whom I knew and loved: A true story from the pen of the famous naturalist" Even a cursory glance through a list of his books on Amazon shows this naturalist was prolific. You can read his Habits and characters of various wild animals ([1921]) on the Internet Archive. It appears that Harry Mortimer Batten lived from 1888-1958.

Page 59 Two men, one holds plate away from bear cub
as it climbs his lap – man spills drink – tent in background
Page 62 Man in chequered shirt leans over campfire
where other man cooks on fire and bear looks on
Page 65 Bear cub tips bottle into mouth, bird on plate, log cabin behind
If this is Sheppard's earliest work, he shows a great maturity, in my opinion, for someone who was  just 23 years old. Sheppard also had work in the 1937 annual but that's for another day!

* Jeff Walden, ‘McCulloch, Derek Ivor Breashur [Uncle Mac] (1897–1967)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 23 Feb 2014]

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