Those that were born here… those that died here… those that are buried here… We explore the esteemed literary heritage of Bournemouth and Poole and the names there associated…
I used to complain when I was younger that no one famous seemed to come from my home town of Poole and its neighbour Bournemouth. But as I grew up, not least through running a magazine based around my local area, I discovered that is far from the case. Even more relevant in my capacity as a writer, it turned out that several names associated with the two towns are pretty big in the literary world. So, it turns out I share a connection with these members of writing royalty…
JOHN LE CARRÉ – BORN IN POOLE
The great spymaster John le Carré. Responsible for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Night Manager, and Smiley’s People, among others. A man who we sadly lost at the age of 89 last year. He was born David Cornwell in Poole, same place as me, to Nicholas Cornwell, a known associate of the Kray twins. However, his grandfather held more of an esteemed local presence. Namely, that he served as Mayor of Poole in 1929. Le Carré is not quite as much of a symbol of my hometown as local smugglers and pirates (true story). But it’s still very proud-making to share such a connection with the king of the spy novel.
THE DURRELL FAMILY – LIVED IN BOURNEMOUTH
As most recently dramatised on TV in the series The Durrells, the Durrell family, including authors Gerald and Lawrence Durrell, lived in Bournemouth prior to their famed move to Corfu in the 1930s. They re-settled in and around the town after their return from the Greek island at the onset of World War II. Louisa Durrell, the matriarch, died in Charminster in 1964, and Margaret (Margo) Durrell kept a boarding house down here. She even based her own book, Whatever Happened to Margo?, on her experiences as Bournemouth landlady during the 1940s.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON – LIVED IN WESTBOURNE, BOURNEMOUTH
While famed for tales of adventure and suspense, some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s later life was spent down in Bournemouth. More specifically, a house called Skerryvore Garden, in the town of Westbourne. It was here that the novelist conceived his dark, thrilling novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
J.R.R. TOLKIEN – DIED IN BOURNEMOUTH
Bournemouth became something of a favourite holiday home for arguably the greatest name in epic fantasy writing, J.R.R. Tolkien. His work requires no introduction, of course. But did you know that the hotel where he spent his visits still stands to this day (The Hotel Miramar, to name it). There is a blue plaque there in his honour. His wife Edith died in 1971 and Tolkien followed her two years later, passing away in Bournemouth. Now, the town celebrates their link to the great man, with some of his greatest lines adorning the high street.
MARY SHELLEY – BURIED IN BOURNEMOUTH
Of all the great literary symbols of Bournemouth, Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley is perhaps the most ironic, as she herself never actually lived or died there. The town is, however, her final resting place. Her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, himself resident in nearby Boscombe, brought her remains to be buried in St. Peter’s Church in the town centre. He also had the graves of her parents exhumed and buried with her.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments section below. For more author news and views, my Facebook and Instagram pages are here. And drop a subscription to my YouTube channel to remain informed of the latest, plus some exclusives. Furthermore, my fortnightly podcast, The Dale Hurst Writing Show, is available to listen to here on Spotify.