Thursday, January 13, 2011

G H R Young

G. H. R. Young was the author of a single collection of short stories, the British Library containing no further information, not even a full name. The book, The Talking Skull, is subtitled "And Other Selected Short stories--Grave & Gay" and contains 19 stories in 128 pages, a mixture of mystery, drama, satire and humour, the tales often having a sting in the tail.

The author was George Henry Robert Young, and I was fortunate enough to find a family tree with some details about his career. Young, born on 5 March 1904, was the son of Joseph Chamberlain Young, a New Zealand businessman and entrepreneur, and his wife Teresa (nee Fair). George attended Victoria University College, Wellington, but appears not to have completed his education as his name does not appear in lists of graduates from the university. In 1926, his play Just as you say, Dear, was performed at the Wellington Grand Opera House instead of the usual annual Students' Association Extravaganza to generally positive reviews.

George brought the play to England, arriving in January 1927 (his occupation described on passenger records as "copy-writer") and it debuted at the 'Q' Theatre in Kew on 24 January 1928, although so many changes were made to put it on that George washed his hands of it.

Another play, Dangerous Women; or The Green Geraniums. A farce in 3 acts by George H. R. Young, was registered for copyright in the USA on 22 September 1933 by a Fred Duprez of London (presumably an agent). And a report in the (New Zealand) Evening Post for 30 May 1940, reveals that another play, The Lady from Aberdeen, was shortly to be produced in London. A review of yet another play, Atmosphere for Murder, performed at the Chepstow Theatre Club, appeared in The Times (27 April 1950). The complex plot would appear to revolve around a prostitute, "a good girl gone wrong", who pines for something better. But by the end she has been exposed, her husband appalled, the villain of the piece killed, the heroine cast out by her parents, her husband then killed in error by the heroine and the heroine dead by her own hand. "It is one of those pictures of vice in which every stroke betrays the hand of innocence ... If it was not exactly life, it was a good deal more amusing," says the reviewer.

Although it's an odd combination of initials, there appear to be two further George Henry R. Youngs... a second George was born in Bristol in 1893, the son of George J. Young, who was married to Ada M. Weaver in 1914 and subsequently to a Hetty Lane in 1919. He died in 1974 in Tiverton, Devon. Then there's George Henry R. Young, born in 1916 who died in Portsmouth in 1987 who, I suspect, is the George H. R. Young who married Lee O. Thompson in Portsmouth in 1967.

If we exclude these from the frame, there's a further marriage of a George H. R. Young, to Gladys I. Brown in Marylebone, London, in 1930. I may be stretching to believe that this is our playwright. However, it does appear that George most likely returned to New Zealand in the 1930s as I can find no further trace of him in the UK.


  1. Young's "grave and gay" (probably a unique description!) stories were rather like Roald Dahl's short stories - his tales of the unexpected which were darkly amusing, macabre, menacing but never totally chilling & horrific.
    Simon Clark is probably the nearest contemporary writer when he compiles a set of short tales.

  2. In researching family history, I came across a reference to George Young in the Daily Express of 24 April 1953. He was a friend of Grace "Babs" Darrington, who was murdered on 21 April, some hours after he had met her for drinks. The paper makes much of his writing "Atmosphere for Murder" and headlines the article "Playwright tells about Babs".

  3. No sign of his death in the New Zealand death register.

  4. No sign of his death in the New Zealand death register.



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