Anthony Buckeridge : biography
Anthony Malcolm Buckeridge OBE (20 June 1912 – 28 June 2004) was an English author, best known for his Jennings and Rex Milligan series of children’s books. He also wrote the 1953 children’s book A Funny Thing Happened which was serialised more than once on Children’s Hour.
He was awarded the OBE in 2003.
The "Jennings" series is a collection of humorous novels of children’s literature. There are 25 in total. The first, Jennings Goes to School (ISBN 0-333-65523-0), appeared in 1950 and new titles were published regularly until the mid-1970s (the last for fourteen years was Jennings at Large in 1977, the only book to feature Jennings during the school holidays), with two more in the 1990s (Jennings Again in 1991 and That’s Jennings in 1994). When published in France the name of "Jennings" was changed to Bennett while in Norway he is known as Stompa.
The novels usually followed a format of three major subplots per 16-chapter novel, the early books being derived from the popular BBC radio series on Children’s Hour. All 62 of the original radio play scripts have been published in 10 volumes by David Schutte: Jennings Sounds the Alarm 1999; Jennings Breaks the Record 2000; Jennings Joins the Search Party 2001; Jennings to the Rescue 2002; Jennings and the Tricky Predicament 2003; Jennings and the Organised Outing 2004; Jennings and the Christmas Spirit 2004; Jennings and the Key to the Mystery 2004; and Jennings and the Unconsidered Trifles 2004.
Buckeridge made no small contribution to postwar British humour, a fact acknowledged by such comedians as Stephen Fry. The deftly worded farce and delightful understatement of his narratives has been compared to the work of P. G. Wodehouse, Ben Hecht and Ben Travers.
Buckeridge was born in London but following the death of his banker father in World War I he moved with his mother to Ross-on-Wye to live with his grandparents. Following the end of the war they returned to London where the young Buckeridge developed a taste for theatre and writing. A scholarship from the Bank Clerks’ Orphanage fund permitted his mother to send him to Seaford College boarding school in Sussex. His experiences as a schoolboy there were instrumental in his later work.
Following the death of Buckeridge’s grandfather, the family moved to Welwyn Garden City where his mother worked in promoting the new suburban utopia to Londoners. In 1930 Buckeridge began work at his late father’s bank but soon tired of it. Instead he took to acting including an uncredited part in Anthony Asquith’s 1931 film Tell England.
After marrying his first wife, Sylvia Brown, he enrolled at University College London where he involved himself in Socialist and anti-war groups (he later became an active member of CND) but did not take a degree after failing Latin. With a young family to support, Buckeridge found himself teaching in Suffolk and Northamptonshire which provided further experiences to inform his later work. During World War II Buckeridge was called up as a fireman and wrote several plays for the stage before returning to teaching in Ramsgate.
He used to tell his pupils stories about the fictional Jennings (based however on an old schoolfellow Diarmid Jennings), a prep schoolboy boarding at Linbury Court Preparatory School, under headmaster Mr Pemberton-Oakes.
In 1962 he met his second wife, Eileen Selby. They settled near Lewes where Buckeridge continued to write and also appeared in small (non-singing) roles at Glyndebourne.
Buckeridge died on 28 June 2004 after a spell of ill health. He is survived by his second wife Eileen and three children, two from his first marriage.
After World War II Buckeridge wrote a series of radio plays for the BBC’s Children’s Hour chronicling the exploits of Jennings and his rather more staid friend, Darbishire; the first, Jennings Learns the Ropes, was first broadcast on 16 October 1948. In 1950, the first of more than twenty novels, Jennings Goes to School, appeared. The tales make liberal use of Buckeridge’s inventive schoolboy slang ("fossilised fish hooks!", "crystallised cheesecakes!", and others). These books, as well known as Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter books in their day, were translated into a number of other languages. The stories of middle class English schoolboys were especially popular in Norway where several were filmed.