If you have ever wondered what it is about Liverpool that has bred so many actors, entertainers and popular music bands, then spare a thought for the extraordinarily rich heritage of women and men-of-the-pen associated either by birth or adoption with a town much further south.
That town is Weymouth, Dorset’s mid-coastal port-cum-resort, with its spacious marina and harbour. And while the Lancastrian port can lay claim to the Beatles, the Scaffold, Ken Dodd and others, Weymouth can boast at least twenty-two authors and journalists who have left their marks in the great litany of letters handed down to our time. While some of these writers were quite prolific, others were one-title authors or newspaper columnists who have not left behind a name to be remembered by anyone other than lifelong Weymouth residents.
As to what in their environment inspired these writers to put pen – or typewriter – to paper, we can make some fairly educated guesses. Likely it was simply the boundless open sea before them, or the busy harbour. Even those not blessed with a spectacular view of the Chesil from a window at home would have been in easy reach of a viewpoint of the great shingle spit. Then of course there is the chequered history of the town and coast to lend substance to the visual aspects.
Of the earliest of these writers in comparatively modern time, i.e. from the mid-19th century onwards, the name John Falkner (1858-1932) ranks first. Under the better-known name of J. Meade Falkner he penned the smuggling adventure ‘Moonfleet,’ one of the most famous novels ever to be inspired by and written in Dorset. Though born in neighbouring Wiltshire, Falkner wasn’t yet nine-years old when he walked from Dorchester to Weymouth to visit three aunts who lived in a house in the town’s Brunswick Buildings, while the rest of the family travelled by train. When John was twelve his father, an Anglican curate, accepted the living at the Rectory