What happened to the Famous Five?

The truth about Enid Blyton's most famous characters plus some tips for Lord Saville...

Ever since he started talking about ending selection in Northern Ireland’s schools Martin McGuinness has been popular with the British left. That’s not so surprising. It has always been more exercised by the 11 plus than terrorism.

So everyone listens when Jonathan Powell says McGuinness told him Lord Saville’s Bloody Sunday inquiry was unnecessary. Particularly as that inquiry has so far taken eight years, cost over £180m and there is still no sign of a report.

It happens that Lord Saville is the nephew of my favourite author when I was a boy. For three decades after the Second World War Malcolm Saville wrote the sort of books in which nicely behaved, bare-limbed children foiled criminal gangs and found buried treasure.

They were rather like Enid Blyton stories, but without the protofascist subtext.

Best of all, his books were set in real places you could explore for yourself. Notable amongst them were the Shropshire hills, which is one of the reasons I find myself living here on the Stiperstones. Though I have found the region does not offer the prospects to a would be criminal mastermind that he led me to believe.

Lord Saville would do well to study his uncle’s methods. Take 1950. In that year Malcolm published The Adventure of the Life-Boat Service - a tribute to “this wonderful and typical British institution”.

He also published The Master of Maryknoll - an exciting tale of a stolen violin set in the hills above Ludlow. He published The Flying Fish Adventure, which was set in Marazion in Cornwall. And he published The Sign of the Alpine Rose, set in the Austrian Tyrol.

If Lord Saville has shown anything like that industry he would have produced his report years ago and we could have spent the £180m on ginger beer.


Talking of Enid Blyton, I see the Famous Five are returning to our screens. A new cartoon series on the Disney Channel will feature the offspring of the original characters.

One of the new faces, says the BBC, is the “12-year-old Anglo-Indian Jo, short for Jyoti - a Hindu world meaning light - who, like her mother George, is a tomboy and the group's team leader”.

And a spokeswoman for the company that owns the rights to Blyton's books told the Press Association: “We tried to imagine where the original Famous Five would go in their lives. Because George was such an intrepid explorer in the original novels we thought it would be only natural that she travelled to India, to the Himalayas, where she fell in love with Ravvi.”

Hold on a minute.

I am quite prepared to believe that George reached the Himalayas, but if she did so it was in the company of a blonde Swedish gym instructress. George, I fear, was simply not the marrying kind.

But there remains the question of what became of the other four.

Anne married a stockbroker and is steadily drinking herself to death in a large house in Surrey.

Dick lost his life through a useless act of bravery in some late colonial war.

Julian was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP and became a prominent Thatcherite minister before he was forced to flee the country after one of the more entertaining scandals of the Major years.

And Timmy?

Timmy was stuffed after he died and can now languishes in a forgotten stockroom in a provincial museum. If you work in that sector, you might have a look for him.

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England