It seems clear that from an early age J.L. Carr wanted to write and be read. Here I have listed all the evidence I can find for things written by Carr before he moved to Kettering in 1951. This is an arbitrary date but it precedes his return to Huron and The Old Timers (1957), the Northamptonshire County Cricket League Yearbooks (1956-1961), his editorship of The Northants Campaigner (1962-1970) and, of course, his novels (1963-1993).
Castleford Secondary School, 1925-1930
J.L. Carr started to write while at Castleford Secondary School. According to Rogers (2003) Carr started a form magazine which he called
The Torch and wrote most of the contents himself. There was a single copy which he charged boys a halfpenny to read; members of staff were charged 3 pence (which is equivalent to about 75 pence in 2019).
It is likely that JLC wrote for the school magazine of Castleford Secondary School, which was called
The Legiolian. There are copies of this magazine in the West Yorkshire Archive in Wakefield, but sadly no issues between 1910 and 1930 are present. If anyone has copies of
The Legiolian from the period 1925 to 1930, I would love to see them. Please contact me.
During his last year at Castleford Secondary School JLC wrote an essay which was submitted to a national competition organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It was reported in the
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer:
Under the scheme promoted by the Institute for interesting school children in architecture, the prize for sketches and scale drawings was won by H.I. Gordon, a student of Hymers College, Hull. Another Yorkshire success is that of J.L. Carr, of Castleford Secondary School, whose essay on Sherburn-in-Elmet Parish Church has been highly commended.
Dudley Training College for Teachers, 1931-1933
While he was studying at Dudley Training College for Teachers, JLC was editor of
The Eagle, the students' magazine. Only the issue of Christmas 1932 has been seen in which the only signed material by Carr was an editorial.
Southampton, 1933-1936, Birmingham, 1936-1938, and Birmingham, 1939-40
There are several indications that Carr published short stories in the period 1933-1940.
First, the local newspaper in Huron, South Dakota,
The Evening Huronite, reported on 23rd June 1938 that the local teacher was due to be replaced by Mr J.L. Carr of Birmingham who besides being an English teacher, is a Shakespearian actor and short story writer. Carr had appeared as Bottom in a production of
A Midsummer Night's Dream while at Castleford Secondary School, which was reported by the
The Yorkshire Post, and he was Secretary of the Dramatic Society at Dudley Training College.
Second, when JLC was living in Handsworth Road in Birmingham, probably after he had returned from teaching in Huron, he wrote in a letter to his parents:
I'm glad you liked "Archdeacon Street" [possibly not recorded correctly]– it was rather good. The cheque came addressed to Mrs J.L.Carr . . . Mind you it was much exaggerated and not too like Beaufort Road. Still the thoughts of returning to Beaufort Road after home were quite as depressing as the description!! I now feel I have had some little revenge on boarding houses.
This seems to be about payment for a short story based on his experiences in lodgings in Edgbaston in about 1935, before he travelled to Huron. He was working on other stories, too:
Well on Thursday night I made my final draught of ‘Refuge in Strength’. Wrote 3000 odd words at one sitting & on Friday morning sent it off to Dorchester to be typed. Somehow I don’t like it so much now. Perhaps that’s because I have fogged it with too much cleaning, perhaps it isn’t so good as I first thought. Anyhow it will go into the firing line half way through next week. I shall try it on
The Recorder first,
Sunday Circle and if no luck will try
B’ham Weekly Post’. Will ask Dad to have a look at
Yorkshire Weekly Post if there is such a paper to see if they publish short stories.
The 'Recorder' was the
Methodist Recorder, chosen, according to Carr, because of the story's Methodist contents. He thought that the story would be suitable for the
Sunday Circle because of its moral contents; for the
Manchester Guardian, for its literary content; and for a Yorkshire paper, for its Yorkshire contents. He was selecting the market for his stories. Another story was called
The Junction. None of these stories has been found yet.
Huron, South Dakota and circumnavigation of the world, 1938-1939
Carr was not well paid when he was living in Huron (see Rogers, 2002). According to a letter to his sister he was paid his normal salary of £18.12s a month while teaching in Huron but after he had paid his lodgings and bought food, there was little left over for other expenses. He reported that he had tried to make some extra money by writing for the local newspaper, but nothing with his by-line has been found in
The Evening Huronite (unless he used a pseudonym) until they published the letters that he sent to the editor during his journey back to England, which are described here. Perhaps he was writing for other Dakota newspapers or working as a private tutor? In The Battle of Pollocks Crossing, Dr Swatt offered to pay George Gidner for private tuition for his son, Bosey. So Carr must have made enough money or had enough savings to fund his 3½-month journey back to England via Asia, India and the Middle East.
He was certainly having his work published, but probably not for payment. There is mention in an undated letter to his mother, sent when he was in the R.A.F, of a poem published in
the Dakota poetry journal. Carr had two poems published in volume 13 of
Pasque Petals, the journal of the South Dakota State Poetry Society, founded in 1927. The poems were entitled:
As I went down to Woonsocket
[I thank Jennifer Littlefield of Huron Public Library for pointing me towards the Sixty Year Comprehensive Index of
Pasque Petals, 1926-1986, on the South Dakota Digital Archive. Sadly the Digital Archive only has volumes 1 to 9 (1934) and then starts again at volume 64 (1990).]
England and West Africa, 1940-1946
I haven't come across anything that Carr wrote during this period, but we know from his map of England and Wales that he designed it in 1943 while serving in the R.A.F at stations in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Gambia.
Birmingham, 1946 - 1951
I suspect that Carr had little time to write when he was a newly married man with a young son. His contributions to the Midlands Club Cricket Conference Yearbooks are known, but Carr also reported in an undated letter to his publisher Alan Ross about gaining publicity in local newspapers for his novel
Mention to the 'Birmingham Post' that I worked and lived many years in Birmingham and (I astonish myself) used to illustrate the weekly story for their 'Birmingham Weekly Post', now dead, and for their 'Sports Mail' used to do a weekly drawing, a sort of cricket believe it or not. Practically worked for them you see! These were hard times in the Carr menage.
I can't find copies of a Birmingham 'Sports Mail' in any U.K. library, but there are four references to it in an internet search, so it probably existed. I suspect that it was different from the 'Sports Argus' a weekly sports newspaper also published in Birmingham. I shall have to go to the British Library to see the 'Sports Mail'.
Kettering, 1951 - 1994, including Huron, South Dakota, 1957-58
All of Carr's novels and many other writings are reported in these pages.