Friday, November 03, 2006

O. M. Rookwood

O. M. Rookwood has been something of a mystery. The only reference to Rookwood's work I've seen is in The Encyclopaedia of Boys' School Stories by Robert J. Kirkpatrick, from which you might presume that Rookwood was male.

Not so. O. M. was Olive Marjorie Rookwood, born in Leytonstone, Essex, in 1886, the daughter of Joseph (a building surveyor) and Mary Rookwood. She grew up in West and East Ham and took her first steps into teaching (following in the footsteps of her elder sister, Kathleen) at an elementary infants' school in 1901, qualifying in 1909, and, in 1917, joined the staff of the Dover County School to replace teachers who had been called up to do their military service. Her arrival was noted in the school magazine, The Pharos which revealed in its July 1917 issue that Miss Rookwood "comes to us from a large Boys' School in London, holds the Government Teacher's Certificate with Honours in English and the Diploma in Literature of London University."

She remained at the school for many years, seeing the school relocated to Ebbw Vale in 1940 (an error in communication meant that the Billeting Committee in Wales was expecting a school of junior girls rather than the boys who stepped off the trian, and no provision had been made for housing staff at Rassau where Miss Rookwood was to stay); returning to Kent in the autumn of 1944, they discovered that the Navy, who had requisitioned the school, were unwilling to leave, and the boys were spread over three buildings until the school was returned in June 1945.

Miss Rookwood recalled in The Pharos (#134, 1965-66), "My health up to the time of evacuation had been amazingly good but the climate at Ebbw Vale and the discomfort of billets and the constant rain when we returned to Dover undermined my constitution. I had two spells in hospotal with severe rheumatism and, fearing a third, I decided to retire at the end of the school year in 1946."

Her constitution obviously recovered as she remained active for many years, corresponding with her old pupils and presenting the Rookwood annual prize for drama. She lived in Millmead, Cliftonville, Kent, but was later forced to move to hospital in Thanet. She died on 28 June 1978

Her writing career seems to have been an occasional sideline. The novel, The Three Desmonds, concerned two brothers being introduced to public school life (the third Desmond of the title is their sister). Her contribution to Swift Annual was an anonymous contribution to no.3 (1956).

The Three Desmonds. A school story. London, Pilgrim Press, 1929.

Tales for the Six-Year-Olds. London, Oxford University Press, 1929.
The Magic Shop Stories. Leeds, E. J. Arnold, 6 vols., 1957.

A Play Reader for Little Ones. London, Oxford University Press, 1935.

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