British Authors

Biography Anthony Buckeridge



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Anthony Buckeridge was a British schoolmaster who became a successful children's writer authoring the beloved Jennings series of novels. Jennings was a high spirited prep schoolboy constantly getting into hot water. Buckeridge based the stories on his own experiences and Jennings himself was inspired by fellow schoolmate Diarmid Jennings who later became a marine engineer in New Zealand. The writer enjoyed a long career including a successful revival of Jennings late in life. His works were never hailed as great literature but achieved enduring popularity in the U.K.

He was born Anthony Malcolm Buckeridge June 20, 1912 in London. His father was a bank clerk and poet who was killed during World War I in 1917. He died within 30 minutes of arriving at the front in Arras and the incident would color Buckeridge's outlook on life. His mother and he lived the remainder of the war with his grandparents in Ross-On-Wye then returned to London. His mother also worked as a bank clerk and a scholarship from the Bank Clerks' Orphanage enabled him to be sent off to Seaford College boarding school in Sussex. Buckeridge disliked it and complained he often went hungry.

After his grandfather died, they moved to the London suburb of Welwyn Garden City. He found employment at his father's bank in 1930 but hated the experience and quit after two years. Acting and writing always interested him and he did some performing in repertory theater for a time. Buckeridge married Sylvia Brown in 1936 and they had a son and daughter.

Needing to support a family, Buckeridge required steady employment and enrolled at University College London. He became what he despised: a teacher representing the establishment. While attending university, he became an active anit-war Socialist as he had always held the establishment responsible for his father's death. Like other objectors, he avoided military service during World War II by being drafted into the National Fire Service from 1940 to 1945.

Following the war, Buckeridge was a schoolmaster at St. Lawrence College at Ramsgate. He had been writing adult plays and submitted his first Jennings script to the BBC radio series "Children's Hour." "Jennings Learns the Ropes" debuted on the air October 16, 1948 and was a hit. Buckeridge would write 66 more episodes broadcast over the years until 1962. He gave up teaching with the 1950 publication of first novel "Jennings Goes to School." There would be 22 Jennings volumes.

The Jennings tales derived from stories Buckeridge related to his students. Comic hero Jennings attends Linbury Court Preparatory School presided over by headmaster Mr. Pemberton-Oakes. Jennings' partner-in-crime is dim-witted bespectacled Darbishire and they often run afoul of no-nonsense math master Mr. Wilkins. Humor is central to the series which at its cores represents children as innocence and purity and adults as distrustful agents of the establishment.

Buckeridge also wrote the four volume "Rex Milligan" series published between 1953 and 1961. Rex is a London grammar schoolboy based on a comic strip Buckeridge did for the Eagle. In all, Buckeridge wrote over 100 radio plays for adults with the 1953 family fare  "A Funny Thing Happened" perhaps the best known.

In 1977, his publisher Collins dropped the Jennings series citing them hopelessly outdated. Buckeridge had kept the stories in a 1920s time warp with old fashioned vernacular. He next wrote a stage musical titled "Jennings Abounding." The Jennings books were re-issued in the mid-1980s finding a new audience and the revival spurred Buckeridge to write two new entries in 1991 and 1994. He reluctantly updated the language.

He married a second time to teacher Eileen Selby in 1963 and they had son Corin. They lived in Lewes, Sussex where he was active in local theater. His autobiography "While I Remember" appeared in 1999. The writer received an O.B.E. in 2003. Anthony Buckeridge died June 28, 2004 at age 92.

 

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