Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Henry Rawle

Henry Rawle was an obscure British writer of short horror stories whose fame, if any, rests on the fact that it was once believed that Rawle was the pen-name of prolific British pulpt writer John Russell Fearn.

Many years ago I managed to establish that Rawle was a real person, a member of the South London Writers' Circle in around 1947 and a contributor to their journal, Streete Corner, edited by Alan M. Streete, who was living at 13 Longton Avenue, Sydenham, S.E.26 in 1947/58 before disappearing from the London phone book.

It was this Writers' Circle that eventually led to finding Rawle. In August 1948, the Sydenham meeting was attended by Frank Tilsley, whose Champion Road  had just been published. Tilsley's talk on how he came to write the novel was accompanied by reading of manuscripts by members, amongst them Henry Rawle's MS "Bright is the Morning". A brief newspaper report of the event mentioned that Rawle was an "accomplished fiction writer ... of Forest Hill."

Armed with this clue, it was possible to identify our author as Harry Walter Rawle, born in Greenwich, London, in 1915, the son of Francis William Rawle (1869-1929) and his wife, Mary Abigail Rawle (1869-1946). Shortly before Harry's birth, the 1911 census records his parents as living in Treherbert Rhondda, Glamorganshire, where his father worked as a colliery labourer (above ground) at the mines.

Francis had previously served in the Royal Horse Artillery before joining the Kent Artillery Reserve in 1898, serving abroad as a gunner in 1899-1902. He then worked as a labourer on the London docks. In 1914, he again joined up as a gunner in the Royal Horse & Field Artillery but was discharged after only 101 days in January 1915 on medical grounds.

He was married to Mary Abigail Scott in Pontypridd, Glamorganshire, in 1914, although they had been living together since possibly the late 1880s (claiming to have been married for 14 years [i.e. c.1897] in the 1911 census), and had two daughters: Nellie, born 4 August 1889, and Ethel, born in 1893. Both daughters emigrated, Nellie to Canada (where she died in 1928) and Ethel to Australia (where she died in 1981).

Two sons, Francis William George Arthur Rawle and James Rawle were born in Kennington, Kent, 8 October 1904 and Norwich, Norfolk, c.1905 respectively.

The family were almost certainly badly off, with James admitted to the Poor Law Hospital in 1916, at the age of 11, although why and whether he survived is unknown.

Harry, born in 1915, was living with his incapacitated mother, at 123 Keedonwood Road, Downham, Lewisham, in n 1937-39. He married in 1940 to Dorothy Susan Weaver and the two lived at 65 St. German's Road, Forest Hill, from at least 1945. Dorothy was born on 9 March 1917 and, in 1939, was living with her mother, Ada M. Weaver (1883-1966), and sister Ena D. Weaver (1913- ; later Reeves).

Harry and Dorothy lived together at the same address until 1953 when Rawle, describing his occupation as "engineer", left England for New Zealand, via Melbourne, Australia, aboard the R.M.S. Orion. He then lived in New Zealand, working variously as an engineer, fitter and toolmaker at No.3 Camp, Mangakino [1954], 4 Waione Road, Atiamuri [1957], 50 Union Street, Waihi [1963/81].

Harry Walter Rawles died on 26 August 1995 and was cremated at Hamilton Park Cemetery, Waikato. He was predeceased by Dorothy Susan Rawle, who died on 15 May 1987.

Rawle's stories continued to appear in the UK after his departure for New Zealand, although later appearances were almost certainly sold to Gerald Swan in the late 1940s/early 1950s, as he tended to build up stocks of stories. It is also worth noting that the odd pen-name Henry Retlaw is derived from Harry's middle name spelled backwards.

There are still one or two things that need tidying up about Harry's family tree (for instance, why was his mother's maiden name given as Roffey?), but for now, we'll just say that, for the most part, the mystery is solved.

Short Stories
Revanoff's Fantasia (Tales of Ghosts and Haunted Houses [Master Thriller 32], Dec 1939)
The Chained Terror (as by Henry Retlaw; Weird Story Magazine 1, Aug 1940)
In Alien Valleys (Weird Shorts, 1944)
The Bride of Yum-Chac (Occult, Sep 1945)
Flashback (Occult Shorts 2, Feb 1946)
Gruenaldo (as by Harry Rawle; Weird Story Magazine 1, 1946)
The Intruder (Weird & Occult Miscellany, Apr 1949)
Fiorello (New Acorn 1, Jun/Jul 1949)
Dr Gabrielle's Chair (Space Fact & Fiction 2, Apr 1954)
The Voice of Amalzzar (Weird & Occult Library 2, Sum 1960)
Silvester's Oasis (Weird & Occult Library 3, Aut 1960)

No comments:

Post a Comment


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books