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Biography

Frank Richard's autobiography must have been one of the most unrevealing biographies ever. He omitted most of his early life with the first sentence in the book being "Frank Richards, at 17 was at a loose end". Naveed has scanned the book so you can judge for yourself here.

Several other biographies have appeared in print over the decades, the last being the long awaited biography from his niece Una Hamilton Wright in 2006.

One of my favourites is "The World of Frank Richards" compiled by W.O.G. Lofts and D.J. Adley in 1975. You can read the book here.

Maurice Hall added to the Bio collection in 1990 with his book "I Say, You Fellows". Thanks to Naveed you can read the book here.

Steve Holland wrote an excellent article on Hamilton's life 'After the Magnet'. You can read it here.


Letters

Frank Richards was always a prolific letter writer but his output increased after the war when legions of fans started writing to him. Eric Fayne published a booklet with a selection of Hamilton letters from around 1940 until just a few months before his death on Christmas Eve 1961. You can read the booklet here.

Occasionally original letters turn up for sale. The following letters were bought by Michael Bailey and he has kindly shared them.

FR Letter to Ben Whiter 16th Dec 1949            FR Letter to Geoffrey Cook 13th April 1951

The following letters were kindly shared by Naveed Haque-

FR letter to Derek Smith 20th December 1950        FR letter to Mr Cawley 3rd December 1958        FR letter to Mr Norman 13th May 1949       FR letter to Derek Smith 12th May 1952

And the following are kindly shared by John of http://www.collectingbooksandmagazines.com who recently discovered them tucked between story papers from the collection of the late Tom Ebbage-

FR letter to John Stokes 5th November 1947   FR letter to John Stokes 18th November 1947.pdf    FR letter to John Stokes 6th October 1951.pdf

Maurice McLoughlin was the author of the Billy Bunter Christmas stage plays produced in London between 1958 and 1963. His daughter kindly scanned a few letters sent from Hamilton to her Father. You can view them here.


Birth, death, marriage certificates and census returns

Michael and Daniel have kindly supplied the following certificates. Have a look, they provide a fascinating insight into Hamilton's family.

Hamilton parents Marriage certificate          Charles Hamilton birth certificate            Charles Hamilton Death Certificate

Charles Hamilton 1841 Census Entry              Charles Hamilton 1851 Census Entry          Charles Hamilton 1861 Census Entry

Charles Hamilton 1871 Census Entry (P1)       Charles Hamilton 1871 Census Entry (P2)    Charles Hamilton 1881 Census Entry

Charles Hamilton 1891 Census Entry             Charles Hamilton 1901 Census Entry   

Charles Hamilton Army discharge paper        Frank Richards autograph


Christ Church Parish Magazine 1948

Hamilton wrote an article "Thoughts of a Boys Writer"  for the Christ Church (Ramsgate) Parish Magazine in 1948. You can read the article here.


Hamilton's Typewriter

Naveed Haque recently acquired the main typewriter used by Charles Hamilton. You can see a clip of Hamilton using it here.    

You can watch a short video description of the camera and typewriter by Naveed here.

Naveed comments-

"The photos, taken in June 2009, are those of Frank Richards' principal typewriter. It is a "Remington Standard 10 typewriter". From the serial number I have confirmed that it was manufactured in January 1922, so the author must have acquired it that very month or any subsequent date during that particular year.
    I am very fortunate in obtaining possession of this typewriter---indeed as I am somewhat of a Hamilton aficionado, absolutely 'thrilled' would be a better description! This is truly a unique and worth-while link with the literary life of Frank Richards. The typewriter was owned and utilized by him from 1922 to December of 1961, when he passed away. It was truly almost a daily companion, so to speak.
    Following the authors passing, it continued to be located in his study at his home in Kent ('Rose Lawn'), under the care of his house-keeper Ms. Edith Hood. In 1979, Edith Hood was concerned about the provenance of certain items owned by the author (including this typewriter) , after she had to contemplate retiring to a rest home.
    Consequently she passed it into the care of the late, well-known hobby enthusiast Bob Acraman, who displayed it for a time in a museum-like setting at his own house in Ruislip.
    Over the ensuing years, and a move to another home, he was only too willing to show it to people who were interested. In the early years of our present century, the typewriter spent a short duration at the Broadstairs museum, and then was relegated in storage to a back-room in the offices of the Broadstairs Council, until Mr Acraman's family regained possession.
    The typewriter is now proudly owned by Naveed Haque in Canada, together with two spools of ribbons (with the distinctive purple colour), that were also the property of Frank Richards.
    An interesting aspect is the wearing down of the black enamel on the right-hand side of the space-bar. This was due to constant use by Frank Richards over the years! I find the typewriter in ancient, but fairly good condition. Very stable. Everything works, and the keys are quite clear and non-faded.
Frank Richards owned an earlier typewriter, which now seems to be lost to posterity. This had been a Remington Standard no 7 (a 'blind', by which I mean that the typist could not view the print on the page while typing). As opposed to this later Remington Standard no 10, where the typist could view the page. There is some brief mention of both these typewriters of Frank's on pg 151 of his auto-biography. Mary Cadogan in her biography of Frank Richards also mentions the typewriters, refer pg 24/25.
    The No 7 model initially came out for sale in 1898 (with quotas in subsequent years), and I believe the prevailing notion is that Frank Richards purchased a slightly later manufactured model, and retained it from perhaps 1901 to 1922. Further information on his earlier Remington typewriter may be found on pg 168 of the autobiography.


Hamilton's Cine Camera.

Naveed Haque recently acquired Hamilton's cine camera from the late Betty Acreman.

Naveed comments-

"The attached photos are those of Charles Hamilton's personal cine-camera. It was acquired by (Naveed Haque) in 2010 from Betty Acraman (the widow of the late collector Bob Acraman).
The cine-camera was sent to me with an authenticity certificate which confirmed that "this Ensign Auto-Cine Cam Sixteen, Type B, Number 1376, and the accompanying leather case were the personal property of Charles Hamilton (aka Frank Richards)". Also that the camera was acquired by Bob Acraman from Hamiltons house-keeper Edith Hood in 1979.

From the model I believe the cine-camera itself to date from 1930, and I am assured that it was originally bought by Charles Hamilton himself, and of course was subsequently principally housed in his home Rose Lawn, in Kingsgate, Kent."

You can watch a short video description of the camera and typewriter by Naveed here.


The Hamilton Museum

When Hamilton passed away his will instructed "Now I direct that my trustees shall permit my said housekeeper Edith Elsie Hood to have the exclusive use and enjoyment of my freehold Rose Lawn Kingsgate aforesaid during her life she paying all rates taxes fire insurance and other outgoings in respect thereof.."

Edith stayed in Rose Lawn until early 1980 before deciding it was time to move into a nursing home. In all the years she had stayed in the house since Hamilton's death his study remained unchanged. As the house had to be cleared she sought advice from Bob Acraman about what she should do with the contents of the study. Bob agreed to look after the contents by setting up a Hamilton museum in his own home in Ruislip for the benefit of all Hamilton aficionados. The museum was officially opened by Edith Hood 16th December 1979. At each Friars meeting Bob opened the museum and any donations received were sent to Edith.

Roger Acraman videoed some of the items in the museum, you can see them here.

Additional items belonging to Charles Hamilton can be viewed in the  The Charles Hamilton Museum Illustrated created for the London branch of the Old Boys Book Club by the Museum Press.


The Greyfriars Suite

Thomas Arnold Johnson composed "Suite Greyfriars" in 1948 and dedicated the music to Frank Richards. The works encompassed music to be played by piano, and dealt with some characters at Greyfriars (including Billy Bunter). Hamilton and Johnson exchanged a few letters in 1947 and Eric Fayne included a selection of them in his publication  'The Letters of Frank Richards'. In April 1948 Johnstone visited Frank Richards at Rose Lawn and wrote of his visit in the June issue of the Collectors Digest. You can read the article on page 146 here.
The Museum press publication of the book honouring Roger Jenkins:  "Do you Remember: Reflections on the Writings of Charles Hamilton"  has a photo of Mr Jenkins playing the suite at a piano in Rose Lawn circa 1974. The original copy of the manuscript is in the possession of Naveed Haque. You can download a scan of the manuscript here.

In early 2012 Nigel Deacon, a friend of the late Tom Johnson was browsing the internet looking for references to Tom's work and was amazed to find a scan of the long lost manuscript for the Greyfriars suite here on Friardale. Nigel recorded the six pieces and has kindly shared them. They can be downloaded from his website here or directly from the links at the bottom of this section.

Nigel provided the following information on Tom Johnson and the Greyfriars Suite-

Many amateur pianists will be familiar with the name Thomas Arnold Johnson, whom I knew for a period of about seven years at the end of his life. He was a composer of considerable ability and produced a lot of music for learners including piano duets, solos, sight reading and two-piano works, though he is probably best-known for his arrangements.
He was something of a musical prodigy; Tom's first piano pieces were published whilst he was still a schoolboy. Whilst at school (aged 15) he had an unusual part-timejob; he began accompanying films at the local cinema, providing the musical sound track on the piano, until the talkies arrived. He used Metzler's Cinema Music, and pieces by Darewski, Ewing, Haines and Ketelbey, as well as his own improvisations. He had a love of early films and had a comprehensive collection of film stills in his music room at Neston, where he spent many hours each day, surrounded by enormous quantities of sheet music and a venerable work-table.
He would sit at the Bechstein in his green bobble-hat (it was cold in that room in the winter), exploring some new two-piano piece, sight reading at a tremendous pace; his perspiring partner trying to keep up, and occasionally exclaiming 'slow down'!
Up to the age of 20 he was self-taught, but he subsequently studied in Manchester at the Royal College of Music and obtained his teaching and performing diplomas. He made many radio broadcasts in the 30s, and gave recitals, including the first broadcast of the Joachim Raff piano concerto. He also gave regular talks on music on the wireless. Later on he taught the piano to private pupils, and wrote large amounts of piano music; most of it was eagerly snapped up by publishers. Rejected stuff was put onto a pile on the piano, and re-worked and re-submitted until someone bought it.
He collected sheet music and had a very large amount of material from the 1800s, including the complete published works of many minor composers: Raff, Jensen, Hiller, Fibich, Chaminade, Godard, Moszkowski, the Scharwenkas, and so on. With the help of the Associated Board he produced modern versions of favourite pieces by minor composers. His starting point for a piece would often be a badly edited Victorian edition, long out of print, but the only version available.
He had to be pressed to speak about his compositions. To quote C.S.Lewis: 'You forget all propietorship in your own works. You enjoy them as if they were someone else's, without pride and without modesty'.
This brings us to the Greyfriars Suite. Tom told me about this in 1988. It's based on characters from the 'Billy Bunter' stories, which were set in a fictional public school called Greyfriars, and he had a lifelong affection for these stories, which were written by Charles Hamilton (pen name Frank Richards). Tom said ruefully that he had lost his manuscript years ago, and that the pieces were never published.
In early 2012, nearly 25 years later, I was browsing on the internet to see if any new Youtube performances of Tom's piano arrangements had been posted. To my surprise I noticed a reference to 'The Greyfriars Suite', and when I clicked on it (the 'Friardale' website, www.friardale.co.uk), up came the title page of the manuscript. I clicked again - and there was a copy, indistinct but complete, of the whole suite! Incredible. I contacted the webmaster, who was most helpful.
He referred me to the owner of the manuscript, a person living in Canada. The story goes like this; apparently the manuscript had been given by Tom to Charles Hamilton, whom he had visited in 1947, and it was in Hamilton's possession for many years.
Hamilton died in 1961, and the house passed into the possession of his housekeeper for about 20 years before she moved into a nursing home. When the house was sold, a well-known Hamilton fan rescued the contents of Hamilton's study, and moved them into his own house. When he died, his widow sold some of the stuff, and this was when the present owner of the manuscript acquired it.
The Greyfriars Suite is actually six pieces. No 1 is 'Greyfriars', setting the scene, and the sort of piece one might play as the children gather for 'school assembly'.
No 2 is 'Quelchy' - Horace Samuel Quelch; the ms is inscribed "with ashplant". Quelch was Bunter's form master; an essentially kindly man who occasionally found it necessary to whack his pupils with a cane (originally a flexible piece of ash) if they could not or would not learn, or if they misbehaved. One can actually hear the swish of the cane in the music; a clever piece of writing. It is a difficult piece to play.
No 3 is an amiable, pleasant piece, 'Bob Cherry', which reflects the character portrayed; steady, honest and reliable.
No 4 is a definite highlight; William Samuel Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove. You can hear his vast bulk rolling into the quad in the opening bars, and his silly giggle as he plays a joke on his friends - or steals a cake ...
No 5 is another highlight; Alonzo Todd, Poet and Dreamer, and the other-worldly music fits perfectly, dying away gently at the end.
No 6 is Harry Wharton and the Famous Five (Bunter's close friends), which brings the suite to a quiet conclusion, in a similar style to the 'Bob Cherry' piece.
The inscription to Charles Hamilton covers half of the last page, and reads as follows:
"Greyfriars School, A Suite by Thomas A Johnson: To Frank Richards, in appreciation of many happy hours spent with his dream children."
I recorded these pieces during the summer of 2012. I am no virtuoso, but hope you enjoy them. Tom would be delighted that this music is now in circulation once more.
If you wish to read more about Tom Johnson or hear more of his music, please click here.
Meanwhile, here are the Greyfriars pieces:

1.Greyfriars
2.Quelchy (with ashplant)
3.Bob Cherry
4.W.G.Bunter
5.Alonzo Todd, Poet and Dreamer
6.Harry Wharton and the Famous Five


Nigel Deacon, England, 31 July 2012


Edith Hood

Edith Hood was Frank Richard's housekeeper and confidant, and resided at Rose Lawn (his home in Kingsgate, Kent) permanently from the early 1930's to beyond 1961 after the author had passed away. 

Rose Lawn was in fact made out by the author to be her home for the continuity of her life-time.

Frank Richards met Edith Hood back in the year 1914, after coming from abroad.  It was war-time on the continent.  He told the taxi driver to take him to a quiet place, and ended up at the village of Hawkinge in Kent.

Frank stayed over the post-office in that village where he rented rooms, and the young daughter of the post-mistress had an equally young nine year old Edith as play-mate and friend.  In this way he became acquainted with her.  As a teenager she was to later care for his niece Una.

When Ms. Beveridge, Frank Richards regular house-keeper found Rose Lawn for him in later years (the purchase of the home was finalized in December of 1925), this elderly lady carried on as house-keeper for a year or so--but ill-health led to her eventual retirement.  It was then that Frank took on Edith Hood (whom he had already occasionally been utilising as an occasional  helper) as his regular house-keeper.   She was a close platonic friend, and looked after all his domestic wants and gave him good company.

Sometimes a Magnet or Gem story plot was inspired by her relating events that had occurred or that she had heard mention about in her daily routine. 

This was in fact a person who was very close to the author in his later years.  In 1980, many years after Hamilton's passing, ill-health forced her to leave Rose Lawn, and she passed away in a nursing home in Broadstairs in the year 1989.  

A quiet, orderly, modest lady she remains an important personage in the personal history of the author's life.

The letters in this collection mostly deal with mundane affairs and were responses to Ben Whiter (the late brother of Bob Whiter, another ardent enthusiast of Frank Richards).  Ben Whiter was at the time of the letters, the secretary of the London Old Boys Book Club, and obviously he kept in touch with Edith Hood enabling members of the Club to visit Frank Richards former house, and welcoming her in turn to Club luncheons.

There are 15 letters, some of them with letterheads in the style of "Rose Lawn", and all are hand-written in Ms.  Hood's neat orthography hand (which I should observe are hardly in the more illegible scrawl of a Bunter or Horace Coker of Greyfriars!).

All letters are signed by her, and they span the year 1964 to 1971. 

All the originals are currently in the collection of Naveed Haque, who thought it a good idea to share them. 

Naveed Comments "What personally strikes me is that Edith Hood seemed very courteous and even welcomed members of the OBBC to visit Rose Lawn itself, and as shown through her concern for an Indian enthusiast of Bunter in one or two of the letters---she was definitely not averse to propagating the works or legacy of her former friend and famed author Frank Richards/Hamilton."

Introduction and letters kindly supplied by Naveed Haque. You can read the letters here.


Music

Hamilton, his sister Dolly and her Husband Percy published several songs with Dolly and Percy Harrison providing the music and Hamilton the words.  Nigel Deacon kindly played and recorded the music on piano. (Nigel also played the Suite Greyfriars - see above).

You can download the sheet music and the MP3 files from the links below-

On The Ball! Sheet Music  On The Ball! Music 
Tell Me, what is Love Sheet Music Tell Me, what is Love Music
The Land of the Far Away Sheet Music The Land of the Far Away Music

The Land of the Far Away Music (With Accompaniment)


Broadstairs Celebrity Connections

This was the Frank Richards 'conference' held in Broadstairs, Kent in October 1999.  There were other famous celebrities of the past who were on the event list, but Charles Hamilton was one of the subjects  for that year with speakers Mary Cadogan, Una Wright (Frank Richards niece) and others in attendance.

Naveed Haque has kindly scanned the booklet and you can read it here. Naveed comments

"Unfortunately I could not attend, but the Festival administrator sent me a letter (included at the end of the scan), in which she included a brief summary of what would be on display in regards to the Hamilton collection on show in Port Regis.

This letter is very interesting to myself , as some of the items on show, once owned by Frank Richards are now in my own possession--but that was not to be for some years until 2007 or so.....such as his typewriter, chess board, cine-camera, books and others varied articles.

However I was fortunate enough to view some of them, and other items later at the Broadstairs museum in 2003 prior to my possession of them.

At the time of the celebrity connections in question, these items were all under the care of Bob Acraman, who I believe also attended this event.

On the whole I am very disappointed not to have attended this 'conference' on Frank Richards, but I am sure there are others who were more fortunate.

In any case, the few scans here will rekindle memories for some, and place for posterity this interesting past event related to our favourite author."


Drawings and Doodles

Hamilton enjoyed drawing and proved himself a competent artist by having one of his drawings appear in the Gem issue 176. The drawing shows D'Arcy looking for his 'fivah' and is supposedly by Harry Manners. Only the observant would notice the 'CH' initials on the bottom RH corner.

Charles Hamilton was also fond of 'doodling' and a number of his doodles have appeared  in various publications.  Naveed has recently bought some original doodles and has kindly provided scans for Friardale.

Naveed comments "The depicted drawings, or what I allude to as 'doodles' are authentic by Charles Hamilton (Frank Richards), and were for a time in the possession of the late Bob Acraman. He got the permission of Frank Richard's housekeeper Edith Hood in 1979 to make them available for potential viewing, in addition to some other Hamilton items, in a museum setting at Ruislip, England. The amateur 'museum' was officially opened by Edith Hood herself in a ceremony. The first doodle was published in the late Maurice Hall's biography.
Subsequently in later years the drawings ended up with the Broadstairs museum for a duration, but were not publicly shown in a display.
The originals of these Frank Richard drawings, in addition to a further three original pages of Hamilton doodles/drawings, are presently in the collection of Naveed Haque".