“Jo went leaping down the stairs…” An unusual HVM connection
Dear Fellow Mortonites,
This week I am sending out an unusual Morton connection I’ve had, along with several others, on the back-burner for quite a while now, waiting for the right moment. It always surprises me, the number of links there are to HVM out there, often from places you would least expect. It’s a real thrill for me when I come across them so I thought I’d share a few over the next few months.
Before I start though, a quick update on the Wolseley Register’s attempt to recreate Morton’s journies in Britain. I am pleased to say the response from the HVM Society has been most enthusiastic. Elisabeth Bibbings has kindly scanned all the photographs from the books and sent them to Clive Button, in charge of the project. A newsletter has been circulated by Clive to Register members advising them of the project and containing maps and itineraries to guide Wolseley owners on their travels.
David Long supplied a contact name and email for a national newspaper to get more coverage for the project, Deni Hemsley reminded us of Mortonite Rick Blake’s trip a few years ago around Scotland in Morton’s footsteps and David Forest has generously offered to donate some of his sketches to the project. We have also had suggestions and offers of help from Alan Kahn, Roger Moreton and John Holloway, while Lyn Funnell has very kindly given the whole project a publicity boost by posting our original bulletin on the subject on her B-C-ing-U! website (https://b-c-ing-u.com/?p=3229).
I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone for their efforts.
Now, on to that connection:
A considerable time ago I received an email from someone who described themselves as “a middle-aged Welshwoman living in the English Midlands” who went by the name of Molly. She had spotted the HV Morton website (http://www.hvmorton.co.uk/) and made contact.
Molly wrote, “I came to Morton initially because I was on a quest to read all the books referenced in the Chalet School series, where a character is reading ‘In the Steps of St Paul‘. So I read this, loved it, told my 86 year old father, and it turned out that Morton had been a great favourite of his family in the thirties. Further, I found a cache of books on his shelves… I continued with ‘In the Steps of the Master‘, ‘In Search of England’ (which I found just a little self-conscious at times) and am now thoroughly enjoying ‘In Search of Wales‘.”
Chalet School is a series of 60 books set in a girls’ school, written by Elinor Brent-Dyer between 1925 and 1970. According to wikipedia the original school was located in Austria then, following the rise of Naziism, relocated (rather rashly, with hindsight, even for a fictional establishment) to the Channel Islands before moving to the British mainland and then finally back to the continent, this time to Switzerland. Although modern-day reprints are available they are often heavily revised and altered (presumably in the name of “political correctness“) and, as a result, many of the original editions are highly sought after and change hands for considerable sums of money.
As one would expect these days, these books have an internet presence including the polished and informative “Friends of the Chalet School” (http://www.chaletschool.org.uk/) and “insanity sandwich” (now no longer updated) which has a web page listing every one of the books & plays mentioned in the Chalet School series (http://csj.insanitysandwich.com/misc/novels.html) – there is an enormous number of them, Molly certainly has her work cut out.
Molly informed me the passage in question was from “The Highland Twins at the Chalet School“. To give a little context, Jo (the ongoing heroine of the CS) has gone off to collect the eponymous highland twins from the station. She is going to look after them because the Admiralty have commandeered their Scottish Island for the duration. (it’s set in 1940). Robin, who is roughly 17 years of age and ridiculously angelic – she is later to enter a convent – is reading Morton. The excerpt is as follows:
“Jo went leaping down the stairs, and Robin, left to herself, glanced at her wristwatch which was lying on the bedside table. ‘Twenty to six. Jo will have to buck up if she means to be at Armiford station by half-past six. Not that I think it will do any good. Well, I’ll just have another chapter or so of ‘In the Steps of St Paul‘, and then I’d better get out. But it’s not worth while going to sleep again.’ She pushed up her pillows, pulled a woolly round her shoulders, for her nightgown was sleeveless, and the morning air coming through the wide-open window was sharp, with just a touch of frost, and settled down to a half-hour of enjoyment.”
As to why Brent-Dyer chose to have one of her characters reading “In the Steps of St Paul“, Molly has a theory: “My guess is that she hadn’t actually read it herself, and thought it was more – shall I say – religious and less political/travel-ly/generally contemporary than it is…“. Seen that way, Morton’s work would be ideal reading material for the “ridiculously angelic” Robin, seeking a literal path to enlightenment by following in the steps of one of Jesus’s disciples.
I hope this has been of some interest to Morton completists such as myself. I will put an expanded version of this bulletin on the blog (http://hvmorton.wordpress.com/) in the next few days. In the meantime, if anyone enjoys this sort of thing you might be interested in a previous article (http://hvmorton.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/a-few-morton-connections/) listing a few more quirky links, including the wonderful “Hackney Podcast”.
Right, I’m off to load my twelve-bore and go out on the trail to bag myself a brace of plump Haggis for our Burn’s Night feast this evening.
Slainte Mhath – to everyone, Scots or not and even if they have run out of Talisker!
Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England
25 January 2014