The Margery Allingham Society was represented at the annual weekend gathering of the Alliance of Literary Societies, hosted by the George Eliot Foundation in Nuneaton.
In the rather splendid surroundings of the Council Chamber of Nuneaton Town Hall, we heard a lecture by Kathryn Hughes on George Eliot’s early experience as a milkmaid on her father’s tenant farm, which, she proudly told friends, gave her a more muscular right hand than her left owing to the hours churning butter. But when her glove was produced at the climax of the talk it proved to be a size 6 1/2 – the second smallest size produced commercially for Victorian women. Several ingenious solutions to this mysterious conundrum were proposed by members of the audience. Clearly there is here the basis for a plot to puzzle even Albert Campion!
The Society provided a copy of The Case of The Late Pig as one of the prizes in the fundraising raffle and we succeeded in recruiting a new member during the day who joined online through the website while talking with our representatives at the gathering.
The final day of the Convention began with a presentation by Catherine Cooke on Post-War Domestic Economy – or how to live on 1/6 a week, a subject close to Margery’s heart as she managed her household during and after the Second World War.
PostWar Domestic Econony
Mike Ripley, author of (amongst many other works) the Campion continuation novels, then gave an entertaining talk on Pirates, Gunmen, Puzzlers and Stout Fellows: Margery Allingham’s attitude to the thriller. Indeed, Margery herself blurred her own categorisations in many of the Campion novels mixing the puzzle element with the thriller in several novels.
The final session of the convention, Prequel and Sequel was presented by Julia Jones who has published a biography of Margery’s father Herbert Allingham – the prequel element – and Margery’s final non-fiction work, not published in her lifetime, The Relay – the sequel element. Julia covered the Allingham family story from the Victorian generations through to the end of Margery’s life.
Prequel & Sequel
The morning session featured three lectures.
Dr Jennifer Palmer discussed Margery’s women through the decades from 1928 to 1968 considering fashions in both dress and hairstyle in the context of the social developments that took place across Margery’s career.
PPPieces of Eight (edit)
The special guest speaker was Helen Dorey, MBE, FSA, Deputy Director of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Her talk included fascinating insights into the attempted armed robbery of the museum which she related with both tension, as the plot came to light, and humour as she described how burly policemen squeezed into the museum porters’ overalls to guard the museum incognito.
MARGERY ALLINGHAM SOCIETY April 2019 FINAL VERSION
The morning concluded with Mark Green giving a comparison of the demands that Margery placed on her readers measured using the Gunning Fog Index and comparing her with the other queens of crime. Margery was found to be the most challenging author to read, though Dorothy Sayers ran her a close second.
The afternoon was devoted to a trip to Tolleshunt D’Arcy where Margery lived and worked for most of her career. The trip included a rare opportunity of a guided tour of D’Arcy House, Margery’s home, and gardens, which are now in private hands. The tour was followed by a traditional afternoon tea in the village hall, described by Margery in her non-fiction work about her wartime experiences, The Oaken Heart.
The day concluded, after dinner, with a screening of the 1956 film version of Margery’s thriller, The Tiger in the Smoke, starring Donald Sinden.
The first day of the Society’s 2019 Convention featured a visit to the University of Essex Albert Sloman Library which includes in its private collections the Margery Allingham Archive on loan from the Society.
Delegates were able to view amongst other items the prop Virgin and Child “Sainte-Odile Treasure” from the film of The Tiger in the Smoke, a certificate of recognition, signed by both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for Margery’s war-work (documented in her non-fiction book The Oaken Heart) and a prize from the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for her mystery fiction.
After dinner, Barry Pike concluded the first evening with an illustrated talk comparing the first edition covers of Margery’s novels in the UK and the USA. The general consensus of the delegates was that Pip Youngman Carter’s designs for the UK editions were more evocative of the spirit of Margery’s writing.
Barry Pike Conference talk
Margery spent the greater part of her writing career living in and around the Essex village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy. She was a leading figure in village social life and, were she still alive, would no doubt be deeply involved in the current efforts of the villagers to raise funds to rebuild the Village Hall, which is sadly “past its sell by date”. The link below gives more information about the project and the efforts being made to raise funds for its completion.
Village Hall Press Release
The Margery Allingham Society is a group member of the Alliance of Literary Societies which serves as a hub for the exchange of ideas and discussion of topics of interest for members of the many literary societies in the UK (including some with truly global reach amongst their members). The Alliance publishes regular newsletters and the latest Spring edition has just been released.
The current edition includes a variety of interesting articles subjects plus details of the annual gathering of the Alliance – a wonderful event, hosted this year by the George Eliot Fellowship to mark the bicentenary of her birth – which individual members of the participating Societies in the Alliance may attend.
You can access a copy of the Newsletter here:
Alliance of Literary Societies Newsletter Spring 2019
BBC Radio Essex featured Margery Allingham and her book The Oaken Heart written about life in the village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy where Margery lived during the Second World War. The BBC Essex Quest included a clue which took the team to Margery’s house in the village where they met Julia Jones, author of the biography of Margery, The Adventures of Margery Allingham, and Francis Ponder (pictured below) who grew up in the village and knew Margery from his time there as a boy.
Click on the link below to listen to the programme. The Quest team meet Julia and Francis at approximately 1:28:30 into the programme. Their conversation lasts a little over ten minutes.
BBC Essex Quest
Julia will be speaking at the forthcoming Allingham Convention in April. For more information about the Convention and to book your place see the Events Page:
For those who are interesting in reading Julia’s biography of Margery, it can be obtained from Amazon through the link below:
Sarah Demelo, Curator of the University Collections at the University of Essex, will be talking about Margery Allingham and the archive, which is long-term loan to the University from the Margery Allingham Society, as part of a one-day event on 9th March. The festival, Snapping the Stiletto, is an Essex-wide women’s history project, led by Essex County Council.
For further information about the event generally and the Allingham talk in particular – and to book tickets, go to:
You can also find out about the event, and book tickets, on Facebook at:
The Margery Allingham Society is holding a Convention on the weekend of 12-14 April 2019.
There are still places available for the Convention to be held at the Holiday Inn in Colchester from 12-14 April 2019. The total cost for the Convention is £300. If you would like to book or have any questions, please contact Susan Cooper at: email@example.com
The cost of £300 for the weekend includes:
– Dinner, bed and breakfast at the Holiday Inn, Colchester on Friday, 12th and Saturday 13th April
– Sandwich lunch on Saturday, 13th and Sunday 14th April
– Programme of talks, film etc from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon
– Visit on Saturday afternoon – we hope this will be to Tolleshunt Darcy but this is not yet confirmed
We are also organising an optional visit to the archive at the University in Colchester, holding Margery’s papers, during the afternoon of Friday, 12th April. There will be no charge for this visit but we do need to know numbers attending in advance. Again, contact Susan Cooper to secure your place: firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the Society enjoy a convivial lunch by the canal close to the Grand Union junction at Paddington.