Malcolm Saville remembered


2022 marks the 40th anniversary of writer Malcolm Saville’s death and Elaine Luke gave a very engaging talk about his life and works at St Mary’s Centre.

His books once rivalled Enid Blyton’s in their popularity but now he is not as widely known. He lived in Winchelsea for part of his life and loved the area of Rye and the marshes. Elaine told us that she has enjoyed and admired his books and that she is saddened that his fame has diminished over time. He instilled in countless children the lifelong love of reading and many of them, now adults, were sitting in the room listening. It was not surprising that the audience was warm and responsive, and many of the extracts that Elaine read clearly took them back to their childhood.

Malcolm Saville book

He was the author of over ninety books which were popular not only in Britain, but in mainland Europe and Australia, Canada and USA. Malcolm is probably best known to most readers as the author of the Lone Pine series: twenty books which he set in a variety of locations. His first book Mystery at Witchend was broadcast as a serial on BBC Radio children’s hour. Within three years he had six books published, one of which was made into a film in 1946 starring a thirteen-year-old Petula Clark.

His Coronation Gift Book, written to celebrate the late Queen’s coronation, is a vivid description of the history, tradition and meaning of that ceremony. He also wrote a revised story of the history of Winchelsea Church.

He published a Portrait of Rye in 1976, which he describes as the consummation of a long love affair. As Elaine observed: “It certainly reads like a love letter to the town and surrounding villages which he loved so much.”

Malcolm Saville’s daughter-in-law, who lives in Rye, Philippa Saville, was in the audience and has said that she will be willing to give an interview in the near future. We may well hear some interesting anecdotes.

There is a Malcolm Saville Society which was formed in 1994 after a group of enthusiasts met to visit Long Mynd, the setting for three of the Lone Pine books.

This talk will be repeated at the Fairlight History Group meeting at Fairlight Village Hall on Wednesday 19 October at 2.30pm. Visitors are welcome and the cost is £3

Image Credits: Kt bruce , Haydon Luke .

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  1. Not long ago I bought one of Malcolm Saville’s book which is set locally only to find that it was set in my village. I found the house that was the focus of the story. It’s fun to see from an adult perspective how the factually impossible was engaging to a child. The aurora of simple independence. For example, the children cycled backwards and forwards from Rye in their search to find the truth. It took them no time at all! It takes 15 minutes by car! The Lone Pine Club was riveting. It was thanks to my local library that I found it, and all the books that I could lay my hands on. RIP local libraries.

  2. I agree that the Lone Pine Club was riveting, Anna, and I share your feelings about the sad disappearance of so many local libraries. Please would you reply to this comment and tell me the name of your village, as it surprises me that you think Malcolm Saville wrote something “factually impossible” about distances from Rye. That’s because he was meticulous about the accuracy of his descriptions of our locality, just as he was about all the locations in which his books were set. In “The Elusive Grasshopper”, when Arlette is keen to cycle from Rye to Hythe, Jon shows her a map and says “That’s too far on bikes. We’ll go there one day but it’s too far today.”
    When he suggests Dungeness instead, Penny protests at the idea of cycling that far: “Could we go by train?” Penny asked hopefully. When told they’d have to cycle, she reluctantly agrees, but when it’s time to return she says: “Let’s find a cup of tea before we face the torture of going back.” That seems pretty factually accurate to me!


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