Dorothy Clewes

Children's writer
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The Independent Online

Dorothy Mary Parkin, writer: born Nottingham 6 July 1907; married 1932 Winston Clewes (died 1957); died Seaford, East Sussex 8 February 2003.

Dorothy Clewes was a prolific writer, for children and for teenagers, whose books enjoyed wide popularity in Britain and America for over half a century. Her three Willie books illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, Upsidedown Willie (1968), Special Branch Willie (1969) and Fire-Brigade Willie (1970) were reissued with new illustrations by Caroline Crossland as The Adventures of Willie in 1991, when the author was 84.

She was born and educated in Nottingham, and, worked until her marriage as a secretary and a physician's dispenser. Her first novel, The Rivals of Maidenhurst, was published when she was 18, in 1925. (Her father, the architect Frank Parkin, was astonished when she received an advance of £100 from Nelson's.) It was while she was on a Mediterranean cruise from Tangier to Tilbury that she met her future husband, Winston Clewes. She had her portable typewriter; also on deck was another writer with his, and in 1932 they married, setting up in Beckenham, Kent.

I remember loads of plaster everywhere after a landmine in 1943, but life had to go on, said Aunt Dorothy. She was a wonderful guide to painting, literature and music. It was she who first introduced me to Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Percy Westerman and Charles Dickens. It was she who produced Mozart and Beethoven for me on HMV 78s and took me regularly to the National Gallery to look at Augustus John's portrait of Madame Suggia playing the cello, and to see Dame Myra Hess play the Mozart A minor piano concerto with the RAF Orchestra, Boyd Neel conducting to the accompaniment of the air-raid siren.

That same year she produced her second book, an adult novel, She Married a Doctor. It was her version of the Nottingham family doctor, Dr Ironside.

After the Second World War her husband worked as a director of the food company Crosse and Blackwell. The author of 11 novels himself (his better-known brother Howard wrote the novels filmed as Green Grow the Rushes, starring Richard Burton, 1951, and The Long Memory, with John Mills, 1952), he died in 1957, at the age of 51.

Dorothy, by then an established author, made Alfriston in Sussex her home. Writing took over – more children's stories of smuggling, wild ponies, summer-holiday detection and a blind man's dog. Her titles include The Cottage in the Wild Wood (1945), The Stream in the Wild Wood (1946), The Treasure in the Wild Wood (1947) and The Fair in the Wild Wood (1949); Henry Hare's Boxing Match (1950), Henry Hare's Earthquake (1950), Henry Hare, Painter and Decorator (1951) and Henry Hare and the Kidnapping of Selina Squirrel (1951); The Adventure of the Scarlet Daffodil (1952), The Mystery of the Blue Admiral (1954), Operation Smuggle (1964), Ginny's Boy (1973) and Nothing to Declare (1976).

Her books for teenagers are thought by some to be the more successful, notably Storm over Innish (1972).

Dorothy Clewes wrote over 70 books in more than 50 years and to the last loved going to Silletts, her favourite Sussex "cottage restaurant".

Michael Parkin

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