My grandfather’s books: A gentle tribute to a gentle man

My (maternal) grandfather died when I was 2. I called him Bampin. He was a gentle man, apparently. My grandmother was…. assertive. When things got bad, Bampin would say to my mother: “Never mind, dear. When we do something right, we’ll go to Canada.”

DSCF0587Nevertheless, he went off to World War I, under age; he was gassed. He had a stroke and died in his late 50s. Sadly I have no memories of him, apart from what others have told me. In my grandmother’s house there was however a small collection of his books. This gentle tribute is just a look at the titles I remember. Some of them were sadly lost when my grandmother died.

Castle Dangerous of Canada This was one of those nicely bound Victorian tales of derring-do, full of ice, snow and peril. The copy would probably worth a penny or two now. (I’ve just looked it up: it was by Sir Walter Scott.)

DSCF0583Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe) An abridged edition. I still have it, and it’s rather special, as it was given to my grandfather as a school prize for ‘good work and conduct’ in 1910.

Fabian of the Yard (Robert Fabian) An account of the cases of a Detective Superintendent. It was quite violent for the time, and mentioned floggings as a judicial punishment. Again, lost. I have just looked it up and found it was made into a TV series, which I am sure my grandfather cannot have seen.

DSCF0586Stolen Journey (Oliver Philpot)  This and the next book are accounts of the ‘wooden horse’ escape by POWs in World War II. Philpot was one of the escapees. I love it…. great period detail. A treasured possession.

DSCF0585The Wooden Horse (Henry Williamson) A partly fictionalised account of the same escape. The word ‘mucking’ is used a lot. It was only years after I first read it that I realised what it was a replacement for.

The Nights of London (HV Morton) Each chapter takes a different aspect of London at night. Fascinating.

DSCF0581In the Footsteps of St Paul (HV Morton) A present from my mother. I haven’t yet read it, though I mean to… and I’m not sure Bampin read it.

Montgomery’s Orders of the Day I’m not sure of the exact title. Stirring stuff from el Alamein and Europe. I think my mother gave it to him. It did kindle an interest in Montgomery. Lost (unless my brother has it.)

DSCF0584Most Secret (Nevile Shute) I must have read this book more than any other. It’s a wartime story; typically excellent Nevile Shute plotting, with great characters. This put me onto reading Shute, a lifetime pleasure. It’s a basic, war economy edition but a dearly treasured possession.

The Saint (Leslie Charteris) Again, I’m not sure of the exact title. I have just looked this up, and found that Charteris wrote loads. Perhaps I should read some more. Lost.

Looking back over the collection, it strikes me as quite violent. I would consider myself generally to be a gentle man, but I also enjoy certain strands of crime and war stories. This list certainly puts a little more detail on my second hand memories of Bampin. It also makes me remember how precious ‘real’ books can be, with their accumulation of memories and associations.

(Footnote: I have just found, to my huge pleasure, that my copy of Nevile Shute’s ‘Round the Bend’ was a gift from my parents to my grandfather.)


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