Arran author Alison dies

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Tributes have been paid to Arran author and artist Alison Prince who has died. She was 88.

Alison, who lived in Whiting Bay, died on Saturday October 12 and there was a large turnout at her funeral held last Friday in Whiting Bay Church followed by a private burial in Lamlash Cemetery. She had been ill for a number of years, including undergoing major heart surgery.

She lived in the same house at the entrance to Glenashdale Falls since she arrived on Arran in the early 1980s, by which time she was already a well-established children’s writer with a string of book and TV credits to her name, including the iconic pre-school series Trumpton.

Born in Beckenham, Kent, Alison grew up in South London. She went to a girls’ grammar school, where she enjoyed grammar and Latin, but not maths. Her parents were from Scotland and Yorkshire. Her father was a keen pianist, and Alison herself played the clarinet. As a child she enjoyed visiting Scottish relatives in Glasgow.

After completing a degree course at the Slade School of Art she later took a postgraduate teaching diploma at Goldsmith’s College, then taught art at the Elliott Comprehensive School, in Putney. She married a fellow teacher there, had three children, which interrupted her teaching career, and turned instead to occasional journalism. After the marriage ended, she ran a small farm in Suffolk for eight years.

Alison later moved into writing for children’s television, achieving fame with  Trumpton, first screened in 1967. Her first book was Joe and a Horse and other stories about Joe from ‘Watch with Mother’, with Joan Hickson (not the actress), a 1968 spin-off from the BBC pre-school programme Watch with Mother.

In the late 1970s, she turned to writing books for children, some based on historical characters, which she continued after she moved to Arran in the early 1980s.  They included My Royal Story about Catherine of Aragon, which was re-released in 2010. How’s Business (1987), set in World War II, made the shortlist for the Nestle Smarties Book Prize.

The Sherwood Hero (1995) is a modern-day Robin Hood story for young adults, about a girl stealing a credit card from her father’s client, drawing £100, attempting to hand it out to the poor in the streets of Glasgow, and then coping with the guilt. For this Alison was a joint winner (with Philip Pullman) of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers. Her thriller Oranges and Murder was the Scottish Arts Council Children’s Book of the Year in 2002. Translations of her books have been published in several languages, including Danish, German, Japanese, and Welsh.

Mainly for adults, Alison wrote well-received biographies of Kenneth Grahame (1994, reissued 2009) and Hans Christian Andersen (1998), a collection of essays on formative thinking, two booklets of poetry, and two volumes of pieces that had originally appeared in the Arran Voice newspaper, of which she was a founding member. She had previously written the column ‘On the Green’ for the Banner.

In 2005 she received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Leicester for services to children’s books.

Her final works Forbidden Soldier, a children’s book about the second phase of the English Civil War, appeared in 2014, as did The Lost King: Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, a biography of Richard III, whose remains were dug up in 2013 in a Leicester car park.


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