This Time Next Week by Barbara
Kelland, Epona, £19.95 hardback.
ISBN 0 9543099 2 8.
Masons are proud of their charities, not
least the Royal Masonic School for Girls,
but rarely does a book appear written
by someone who was a beneficiary of
This is a heart-warming tale of a little girl
who lost her father between the two World
Wars, whose mother was unemployed in the
days before the welfare state, but who was
educated by the generosity of Freemasons.
Barbara Kelland’s story is not only a
tribute to the Royal Masonic Institution
for Girls (RMIG) – both the junior school
at Weybridge and the senior one at
Rickmansworth – but is an intimate story
of socio-economic conditions of the time.
At seven she began writing a weekly
letter home, and her book is based on 11
years of such correspondence, all kept by
her mother. This is a story of an educational
world with an accent on discipline, learning
and high standards. But it is also a tale of
how girls will be girls, of midnight feasts,
snowball fights and other pranks.
Her mother faced unemployment both
at the beginning and end of the war, but
stoically did her utmost for her daughter,
in that quiet but determined way that was
typical of women of that time.
Such was the influence of this upbringing
that the author became a teacher herself.
Now retired, she wanted to thank
Freemasons in some tangible form. This
excellent and moving tale is her thanks.
In addition, a portion of the royalties
will go to the RMIG Endowment Trust.
The book is on sale at Letchworths shop
at Freemasons Hall, London and an audio
version is available at eponamedia.com.
AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER –
RICHARD VAN EMDEN
How do you track down and chronicle the
veterans and their stories for your books?
There are now just three British men
left who served on the Western Front.
However, when I started interviewing
veterans 20 years ago, there were
between 50,000 and 100,000 survivors
and finding them was easy. At first,
I simply knocked on the doors of
residential homes, but as numbers
declined, I placed advertisements
Latterly, with the publicity surrounding
the French award of the Legion of Honour
to all surviving veterans, a last list of 300
survivors was put together and I was
lucky enough to see it.
In all, I have been privileged to
interview over 270 veterans of the war.
When I interviewed the first few, I simply
took notes. I quickly realised, however,
that notes could never do justice to the
stories they were telling me so, in the
late 1980s, I switched to a tape recorder.
I have continued to record and
photograph as many veterans as
possible and many of their best stories
were used in my recent publication,
Britain’s Last Tommies.
What first prompted your interest in
oral history and the First World War?
My interest began in 1984 when a
programme on television about the
Great War stirred my enthusiasm.
When, at Christmas, my parents asked
what presents I might like, I asked for
a soldier’s biography of the Great War.
They bought me Robert Graves’
Goodbye to all that. I was 19 years old
then, about the same age as Graves
had been when he fought at the Front.
I was hooked by his stories and decided
I must meet the men who had served. I
nominally set myself a target of talking
to 250 veterans, never for one moment
really believing I would meet so many.
Following your success with Britain’s
Last Tommies, have you planned your
Yes, I tend to find that one book leads to
another. After hearing so many stories
of the soldiers who died in the 1914–
1918 war, I had the idea of talking to
the children or siblings of those who had
lost their lives, and the effects on their
family. For this reason, I am currently
on the look-out for anyone aged 90
or over who lost a close relative.
When writing a book, do you have a
preferred place of work and a favoured
First and foremost I am a researcher.
As well as interviewing veterans, I like
nothing better than burrowing away
in an archive somewhere, finding
extraordinary details about life at the
front, or remarkable stories that no
one has heard before. I am constantly
amazed at incidents, such as the
exchange of newspapers across no
man’s land, which periodically occurred
on the Western Front.
I’m glad to say my daily commute
is from the bedroom to my study, ten
yards, which means I am fresh and
ready to work every morning. In the
past I was able to work until the small
hours of the morning, but nowadays
I am much more effective writing in
the morning. As I love my subject, and
work fairly consistently, I tend not to
let too many distractions get in the
way, international cricket being the
exception. Last year’s Ashes series
greatly interrupted work!
Who is your favourite author?
Ever since school, I have particularly
loved Joseph Conrad’s books.
Which book are you reading at present?
The Liar by Stephen Fry, and Copse 125
by Ernst Jünger
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