Saturday, September 28, 2019

Vaughan Wilkins' grave in Farnsfield churchyard

There is nothing quite as forgotten as a forgotten writer. Yet as I once blogged:
The historical novelist Vaughan Wilkins must have had a huge following in the 1950s. At one time every secondhand bookshop in the country had a copy of the World Books edition of Fanfare for a Witch. 
For that reason, almost as a joke in fact, I started collecting his other books. Now I even have a couple of signed first editions.
I could have added that one of his books was filmed as Dangerous Exile in 1957 and that everyone wanted to film his first one, And So -Victoria, after its huge success on publication in 1937.

But that idea met with resistance from the Royal Family as it dealt with sex and violence among Queen Victoria's wicked uncles as they battled for the succession to the throne of England.

There is not much detail in Vaughan Wilkins' Wikipedia entry, but I recall reading in a reference book years ago is that he was editing a minor Fleet Street newspaper when he was still in his twenties.

One thing that does make Wikipedia is his place of burial: Farnsfield in Nottinghamshire. And finding that there was a bus there from Southwell yesterday, I knew what I had to do.

Farnsfield is a large and prosperous village - large and prosperous enough to support a range of shops - but its church turned out to have been wholly rebuilt by the Victorians.

Knowing more or less when Wilkins died, I looked for graves from around that date and soon found his.

It gave his place of residence (not his place of birth as Wikipedia wrongly has it) as Duxmere, Ross-on-Wye - Dennis Potter was to move there a few years later.

Anyone who has read Wilkins' books knows that he strongly identified with Wales and the Border. One of those first editions I own is inscribed by Wilkins himself:
'From a frequenter of Tenby to another.'
However, two Wilkins held the living at Farnsfield in the 19th century and there are other connections with the family in the church and on a page about its history.

Perhaps the pull of family was too strong or perhaps, being dead, he did not get much say in the matter.

One other point: if you have two first names and a surname that each have seven letters, it does make for a neat inscription.

Later. I must have been very focused on Wilkins when I wrote this: it looks a fine church.

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