The Malcolm Saville Society

Richard Walker announced it. He did a broadcast on Radio Shropshire in 1993 called Witchend Once More. It being fifty years since the publication of Mystery at Witchend.
Behind the scenes were a few characters whose enthusiasm to share their love of Malcolm Saville's books and the locations in Shropshire was to result in the Society being formed.
These are, in no particular order, Roy Thomas, Bernard Meade, Steven Handy and Mark O'Hanlon.
At that time - back in the early 1990s there was a bookfair held at Kinver every month. It was here that these few met and recognised a shared enthusiasm for the books which led to Roy contacting Richard Walker with a view to a memorial gathering in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first Lone Pine book.
A good response resulted in a gathering of enthusiasts in February 1994, at the Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury. Some twenty strangers, including three of the four originals, gathered to spend Saturday exploring the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones on an old bus and to have a feast in the evening.
Richard and Robin by bus. Click to enlarge (File size=30KB)
Richard Walker (left) and Robin Saville
We were joined by Robin Saville, Malcolm Saville's elder son, and by Lesley Hadcroft, the literary agent for Malcolm Saville's books.

A friend of Richard, Chris Eldon-Lee came along to make a tape of the events for a programme for Kaleidoscope on BBC Radio 4. How Dickie would have loved that.

One of the original Kinver Four was to become vital to the Society's formation. This is Mark O'Hanlon. He is a tall, self-effacing youth who appears, as here, in blue jeans at the edge of the group. Another of the Four is Bernard Meade who stands in the middle, smiling at the camera.

the group. Click to enlarge (File size=50KB)
the group are organised by Richard
In the above photograph, Mark can be seen facing my camera to the right of Richard as the latter fills us in about the day's activities.
Other members of the group might be recognised by clicking on the picture for the enlarged section.

at Ingles Farm. Click to enlarge (File size=35KB)
At Ingles Farm
We journeyed around the Mynd, stopping to explore Ingles Farm actually named Hamperley just off the road up into the Mynd.

Here we met Mrs Foulkes, who remembered Malcolm Saville well, and chuckled as she told us that her husband's name was Tom, so there was still a Tom at 'Ingles'.

The picture was taken as Chris recorded her comments for the radio programme. When broadcast, later that year, its title was Witchend Once More.

Mrs Foulkes at Hamperley Farm. Click to enlarge (File size=47KB)
Mrs Foulkes and grandson with Chris Eldon Lee and Robin Saville
at Hamperley Farm

Prior's Holt. Click to enlarge (File size=30KB)
Prior's Holt
prototype for
We walked further on up the valley, with the stream bubbling along under the hedge, until we came to the house that we'd all imagined for so long, Witchend.

Prior's Holt is its real name, and the building is not as described in the books. But the setting is. Even in the dull, misty February morning some of the warmth of adventure and young laughter seemed to echo around the buildings as they nestled against the side of the little valley.

From there we travelled to the Stiperstones but the bus was stumbling, its engine stuttering on the hills. We got out and walked up, then got back in to ride down again. Damp and cold, but not copletely dispirited we moaned our way towards the Devil's Chair. We had been planned to visit it. But it was shrouded in mist. I'm not normally superstitious, but there was no way I was going up there !

The bus expired before we reached Shrewsbury which should have spoiled the day but didn't.
I look back on that weekend with a great deal of pleasure.

The Society sort of coalesced that evening, following a Feast for which I still have the menu. It included 'Dickie and Mary's Shropshire Broth', followed by 'Chicken Petronella' and other light-hearted Lone Pine references.
Richard and Mark got together and with enthusiastic assistance from the author's eldest son, Robin, laid the foundation of a friendly group which has already lasted for almost eighteen years and has grown to over five hundred members.
A 'gathering' is held each year, in a place associated with Saville's writings. If you are lucky enough to get to one, you may welll see people who are on my photograph of the first group (above).

Sadly, Richard Walker died in 1999. It was his enthusiasm for the Lone Pine Books and Shropshire that had been so crucial in the formation of the Society, and he ran its magazine for the first two years, before stepping back and letting others carry on. He was a wonderful, enthusiastic, man and we all miss him.

Robin Saville died in January 2012. He was a lovely man and I, like the others with whom he spent time at Society events, will miss him. I remember his kindness and joie-de-vivre with great affection.

I shall add more about the Society when I get time, and photographs as well . . .

For more information about the Society, see its website, which is listed under 'Links' above.

This page is part of the Malcolm Saville Centenary Website. To enter this site by the front door, click here.
all photographs copyright John Allsup
Text copyright John Allsup
Last updated 25th January 2012