Bury vicar’s daughter Richmal Crompton was always a little confused about her hugely successful Just William stories.
She couldn’t understand why likeable scamp William was so popular when her adult fiction books, which she considered equally good, mostly stayed on the shelves.
But whatever her reservations, Crompton’s Just William novels became international blockbusters, selling more than 12 million copies in the UK alone.
The stories have been turned into numerous films, stage-plays and TV series over the years. Perhaps the most memorable was the 1977 ITV version starring Bonnie Langford as Violet Elizabeth Bott.
Author Richmal Crompton Lamburn was born in Bury in November 1890. She was the second child of the Rev. Edward John Sewell Lamburn, a classics teacher at Bury Grammar School, and his wife Clara (nee Crompton).
Her brother, John Battersby Crompton Lamburn, was also a writer. In 1931, he published the fantasy novel The Kingdom That Was under the name of John Lambourne.
Richman Crompton attended St Elphin’s Boarding School for daughters of the clergy in Warrington before winning a scholarship to Royal Holloway College.
After graduating with a degree in Classics in 1914, Crompton returned to St Elphin’s as a teacher. She then taught at Bromley High School.
Crompton gave up teaching to concentrate on writing after contracting polio in 1923. She lost the use of her right leg and was confined to a wheelchair.
In spite of her disabilities, she volunteered for the Fire Service during World War II.
Crompton started work on the William novels in 1917. The first story, the Outlaws, failed to find a publisher. But it introduced the mischievous 11-year-old schoolboy and his band of friends called the Outlaws to the world.
The first William story in print was Rice Mould Pudding in 1918. The first collection of William stories was published under the title Just William in 1922.
The ITV series Just William ran for two years from 1977 to 1978. Child actor Adrian Dannatt played William, while the role of Violet Elisabeth Bott was brilliantly portrayed by Bonnie Langford.
Also in the cast were established TV and film actors Diana Dors as Mrs Bott and John Stratton as Mr Bott.
Stacy Dorning, who had previously starred as Jenny Gordon in the children’s TV series The Adventures of Black Beauty, played Ethel Brown.
Although she wrote 40 William books, Crompton’s first literary love was adult fiction. Her first novel, The Innermost Room, was published in 1923 – and 40 more followed.
She also published nine collections of short stories.
Critics claim her novels were too narrowly focused on the intrigues of village life in the Home Counties and failed to appeal to a wider market after World War II.
Crompton tried to adapt the William stories to new audiences. The 1929 novel, Enter – Patricia, was aimed at girls while Jimmy, published in 1949, was written for younger children. Two further Jimmy books followed.
Although she never married, Crompton was very family-minded and enjoyed the company of her nieces and nephews. The success of the William stories enabled her to buy a house where she lived with her mother.
Crompton died in January 1969 in Farnborough Hospital, Kent. She was 78.