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Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859-1930) as a young child listened to his mother's stories of chivalrous knights and deeds, which captured his imagination and encouraged him to become a writer. His first novel, Micah Clark(1889) set in the 17th century was about political and religious turmoil of the time. In the same year he heard a lecture on medieval times and researched the 14th century. The White Company (1891) was a historical adventure and one of the characters that appear in the novel was Bernard Brocas who was patron (1369-1394) of Peper Harow Church.

Sir Nigel (1906), written while living at Undershaw, near Hindhead, mentioned Surrey places, Waverley Abbey, Shalford, Godalming, Tilford and the Cosford area. Shalford was mentioned in a chapter on 'How Nigel Fought the Twisted Man of Shalford'. Perhaps Shalford was singled out after Doyle's motoring offence on the 20th May 1905 when his new car from the Dennis Company in Guildford was stopped for speeding in Shalford doing 30 mph in a 20 mph area.

Arthur Conan Doyle was to be the inspiration for the Scout Movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell. In Baden-Powell's Aids to Scouting for NCOs and Men (1901) it mentioned the observation skills of Doyle's characters in his books. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Joseph Bell in Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys (1908) were to recommend Doyle's novels, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893), for tracking and woodwork skills. The White Company by Doyle was recommended for its approach to chivalry.

Doyle's daughter, Mary Louise Doyle, a boarder at Prior's Field School (1902-1907) was there when her mother, Louise (nee Hawkins) died of tuberculosis in 1906, and her father became engaged the following year to Miss Jean Leckie.

Doyle was to be affected by the sinking of Titanic in 1912 when he lost an old friend, W T Stead, and wrote a poem for a charity concert 'Ragtime' in tribute to the band which played on;

 

Ragtime! Ragtime! Keep it going still!
Let them hear the ragtime! Play it with a will....
There's glowing hell beneath us where the shattered boilers roar,
The ship is listing and awash, the boats will hold no more....
Don't forget the time, boys! Eyes upon the score!
Never heed the wavelets sobbing the floor!

 

Stead was a spiritualist as Doyle was, and had boarded the Titanic after writing From the Old World to the New, about an iceberg-caused shipwreck and two lovers-at-sight named Rose and Jack, the names used in the 1998 film. Doyle's interest in spiritualism came after writing Sherlock Holmes, a strange paradox. He believed spiritualism was a science. Doyle and Bernard Shaw were to have an exchange of letters in the Daily Mail on the Titanic, Shaw questioning the integrity of the crew and Doyle seeing the anguish of the loss and terror. They were both Irish and had met in 1898 when Shaw visited Doyle in Hindhead.


Godalming Museum © 2007

 

 

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