Clarissa Cridland, Co-Owner and Publisher
I am a priest in the Church of England, and I serve as Priest in Charge for the parishes of Holy Trinity, Coleford and St Andrew’s, Holcombe in Somerset, and also as Assistant Area Dean for the Midsomer Norton Deanery.
In addition, I am Publisher for Girls Gone By Publishers. My days are spent divided between the parish and other church work and publishing.
I started working in publishing in November 1976, for J M Dent in the Children’s Department (alas, not enough of Our Type of book, although we did publish Noel Streatfeild, Edward Ardizonne and Arthur Catherall, all of whom I met. We also had published Mabel Esther Allan and after I left there was another Viola Bayley, primarily because I had sold some of her earlier books into a foreign language. In January 1982 I moved to Somerset to work for Purnell (Noddy, Disney and other character books). This was owned by Robert Maxwell and in 1985 he merged the division for which I worked with Macdonald Children’s Books and for me it was a case of moving back to London (with Noddy) or redundancy. I chose to move, but only during the week, coming back to Coleford every weekend. In November 1987 I moved to Macmillan Children’s Books as Rights and Contracts Manager, which involved spending Fridays in Basingstoke (half way home). This department was merged with Pan Children’s Books in about 1990, and so I became Rights and Contracts Director of Pan Macmillan Children’s Books – and found Lorna Hill’s ballet books on the Pan list. But publishing changes, and in early 1994 it was a case of becoming Contracts Director for the whole trade list (adult and children’s), or redundancy. I chose the latter, and spent some years at home working freelance for various publishers doing their contracts, as well as initially selling rights. It was in 2001 that Ann Mackie-Hunter and I decided to set up Girls Gone By, and my previous publishing experience has been very useful!
My mother used to read to me every night, but she became very tired of my favourite book, How The Mole Got His Car, and so at an early age introduced me to The Ponies of Bunts, Moorland Mousie, Silver Snaffles and other pony stories. She was horrified when my father brought home an Enid Blyton he had picked up in a jumble sale (The Mystery of the Strange Messages), which actually rather scared me, although I read it avidly. And in fact it wasn’t the first Enid Blyton I read; that was Five Go Off to Camp which an eight year old friend had shared with me, and which scared me even more. But I digress. It was my mother who introduced me to more Blyton, and then a host of other authors including Elinor Brent-Dyer, as she went each week to Basingstoke Library, borrowing a mass of books to keep my reading going. But aged 13 things changed, and I became a teenager overnight, and persuaded Mummy to sell my Blytons so that I could buy a fantastic teenage outfit. Luckily, she put some of them in the attic, and so when a few years later I started to read Our Type of book again she was able to dig them out. And so I had a nucleus with which to start – some Blytons, four Chalets, a few Monica Edwards and four Williams, and a few others. By this time I was living in London and haunted every jumble sale I could find. I did not find many Chalets, but I did acquire some Lorna Hill, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Biggles and a host of others. When I moved down to Somerset in 1982, I was able to build my collection more, and then I went to Hay on Wye… A few years later, I discovered book fairs, and catalogues, The Abbey Chronicle and Friends of the Chalet School, all leading me on my journey to GGBP.
And what do I read now? Well still Our Type of book, tending to read through various authors at a time. I also read a lot of theological books (and of course the Bible), and in my lighter moments am very hot on clerical biographies. I also enjoy Miss Read, Dick Francis and a few who-dun-its.
For GGBP I am responsible for all the contracts, and for organising the publishing programme, including typesetting most books myself, and for dealing with our printers. I also answer all the e-mails, and maintain the website. As well, I like looking after our stock room (in the garage), and opening the post!.
Ann Mackie-Hunter, Co-Owner and Manager
I grew up in Scotland outside Glasgow but moved to Australia in 1967 when I was 16. I have always loved reading and my parents told me I began to read aged three when my father taught me as he grew tired of reading Noddy to me every day. In Australia, we initially lived in the outback but unfortunately I could not acclimatise to the heat. However, the local library was air conditioned, and I spent hours in the children’s book department, reading everything they had. To my joy they had some Brent-Dyers I had never read. That is where I met many of the authors we publish now. I spent most of my career as a teacher, but took early retirement for reasons of health when I moved back to the UK in 1994.
It was when I lived in Sydney in 1987 and read an advert in the Australian Woman’s Weekly for the Abbey Girls of Australia (Elsie Oxenham) that I first encountered the wider world of collecting. It really was a life changing moment for from that eventually came Friends of the Chalet School and Girls Gone By. Before then I thought I was the only one who still enjoyed the books of my early years and then I was able to meet and share my enthusiasm with other like minded people and to discover books I never knew existed by my favourite authors and to add to my collection. I will never forget the thrill of those early months.
I taught English Literature and have read and studied widely in that field but since my retirement from teaching my great love, reading wise, is adult fantasy and some types of science fiction. I love such authors as Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, and David Weber’s Honorverse series. And I re-read Lord of the Rings most years. I also love some Regency romantic fiction, Miss Read, Doreen Tovey etc. I’m an Ardmann fan, Wallace and Gromit Shaun the Sheep and I even admit to enjoying Timmy Time. I have loved the Chalet Books for nearly 60 years, and I have taken great satisfaction in introducing some of my favourite authors, including Gwendoline Courtney, to a wider audience. I have always read the daily paper and a number of magazines, weekly and monthly, so am a bit of a printaholic.
I am involved with Holy Trinity, our village church and on a weekly basis I do the sacristan’s work, which involves setting up for services, cleaning the communion plate and vessels and washing and ironing the linen. I also do the flowers and help with fund raising.
My garden is one of my great loves and the Vicarage garden is now lovely. We are lucky to have help in it, and I enjoy pottering around in it, though am not so keen on all the watering which needs to be done in the summer. We have masses of roses, and I am particularly keen on David Austin roses. I enjoy visiting stately homes, and have visited all the properties nearby. I am a National Trust member and enjoy going to the beautiful gardens at Stourhead. I also like looking around old churches.
Naturally I like bookfairs and have fond memories of those of ten years ago when books were more plentiful. I collect the Girls Own Papers from the 20s to the 40s for their lovely covers – I also collect the annuals. As well, I collect Nina K Brisley, Margaret Tarrant, both her books, and her religious postcards and Cicely May Barker’s Blackie Story Books such as The Daffodil Story Book where the covers have been illustrated by her, and all CMB’s postcards, which sadly are very hard to find. I also collect some school and guide stories of the 1920s and ’30s if they have attractive wrappers. I have all of DC Thompson’s Broons and Our Wullie annuals for the last 60 years including the specials and look forward to receiving the new ones each Christmas.
For GGBP, I send out the day-to-day orders, and enjoy seeing the different books which people order. I am also responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of our database, entering on all those who pre-order titles which are not yet published. And I also do such things as order all the stationery, and the couriers (a very time consuming task!). It is also my joy (?) to pay all the bills, and I also answer any letters.
Jack and Jill
We are now five years old. We love living at the Vicarage, and we enjoy activities in our garden, and also in our other gardens (which they say are not ours). Jack also enjoys helping in church a lot, so long as no one else is there. We are rather fond of catching mice, and luckily our collars with bells on don’t stop us. We usually bring them in alive … We also sleep a lot, and play a lot inside.