J. L. Carr

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J. L. Carr
BornJoseph Lloyd Carr
(1912-05-20)20 May 1912
Carlton Miniott, UK
Died26 February 1994(1994-02-26) (aged 81)
Kettering, UK
Notable workA Month in the Country
SpouseSally Sexton

Joseph Lloyd Carr (20 May 1912 – 26 February 1994), who called himself "Jim" or "James", was an English novelist, publisher, teacher and eccentric.


A literary map of Yorkshire by Carr

Carr was born in Thirsk Junction, Carlton Miniott, Yorkshire, into a Wesleyan Methodist family. His father Joseph, the eleventh son of a farmer, went to work for the railways, eventually becoming a station master for the North Eastern Railway.[1] Carr was given the same Christian name as his father and the middle name Lloyd, after David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer.[2] He adopted the names Jim and James in adulthood. His brother Raymond, who was also a station master, called him Lloyd.[3]

Carr's early life was shaped by failure. He attended the village school at Carlton Miniott. He failed the scholarship exam, which denied him a grammar school education, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college. Interviewed at Goldsmiths' College, London, he was asked why he wanted to be a teacher. Carr answered: "Because it leaves so much time for other pursuits." He was not accepted. Over forty years later, after his novel The Harpole Report had become a critical and popular success, he was invited to give a talk at Goldsmiths'. He replied that the college had had its chance of being addressed by him.[1]

He worked for a year as an unqualified teacher at South Milford Primary School, where he became involved in a local amateur football team that was startlingly successful that year. He developed this experience into a basis for his novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup.[4] He then successfully applied to a teacher training college in Dudley. In 1938 he took a year out from his teaching career to work as an exchange teacher in Huron, South Dakota, in the Great Plains. Much of the year was a struggle to survive in a strangely different culture; his British salary converted into dollars was pitifully inadequate to meet the American cost of living.[1] This experience gave rise to his novel The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.

After his year in the United States Carr travelled through the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. He arrived in France in September 1939 and then reached England, where he volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force.[1] He was trained as an aerial photographer and was stationed in West Africa. He later served in Britain as an intelligence officer, an experience he translated into fiction in A Season in Sinji.

At the end of the war he married Sally (Hilda Gladys Sexton) and returned to teaching. He was appointed headmaster of Highfields Primary School in Kettering, Northamptonshire, a post he filled from 1952 to 1967.[1] He returned to Huron, South Dakota, in 1957 to teach again on an exchange visit, and wrote and published himself a social history of The Old Timers of Beadle County.

In 1967, having written two novels, he retired from teaching to devote himself to writing.[1] He produced and published from his own Quince Tree Press a series of small books designed to fit into a pocket. Some of them were selections from the works of English poets, while others were brief monographs about historical events or works of reference. To encourage children to read each of these small books was given two prices, the lower of which applied only to children. As a result, Carr received several letters from adults using childish writing in an attempt to secure the discount.[1]

He also carried on a single-handed campaign to preserve and restore the parish church of St Faith at Newton in the Willows, which had been vandalised and was threatened with redundancy. Carr came into conflict with the vicar of the benefice and the higher church authorities in his campaign. The building was saved, but redundancy was not averted and the building is now a scientific study centre.[1]

In 1986 Carr was interviewed by Vogue magazine and, as a writer of dictionaries, was asked for a dictionary definition of himself. He answered: "James Lloyd Carr, a back-bedroom publisher of large maps and small books who, in old age, unexpectedly wrote six novels, which, although highly thought of by a small band of literary supporters and by himself, were properly disregarded by the Literary World".[2]

Carr died of leukaemia in Kettering on 26 February 1994, aged 81.[1]


The house in Kettering where J. L. Carr established the Quince Tree Press

When Carr gave up teaching in 1967 his aim was to try to make his living by publishing small books and a series of maps of English counties to be read and discussed, rather than to provide navigational information. These he published himself under the imprint The Quince Tree Press,[5] The original printing plates from several of his maps were mounted on sheets of plywood and used by Carr as stepping stones in his garden. The garden also contained statues he had carved himself, many of which had mirrors set into the stone at such angles that the sun shone through the windows on his birthday.[1]

Carr wrote eight short novels that contain elements of comedy and fantasy, as well as darker passages, based on his varied experiences of life as teacher, traveller, cricketer, footballer, publisher and restorer of English heritage. Six of the eight were published by different publishers, but he published the last two himself through the Quince Tree Press. Many of the characters and incidents, and even much of the dialogue, are drawn from life.

His novel A Month in the Country was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1980, when it won the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 1985 he was shortlisted again for the Booker Prize for The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.

Two of his novels have been filmed: A Month in the Country (1987) and A Day in Summer (1989).

Carr wrote several non-fiction works and published them at his Quince Tree Press. They include a dictionary of cricketers, a dictionary of parsons, and dictionaries of English kings and queens. He also provided the text for several school textbooks published by Macmillan Publishers and Longman, and designed to develop children's English language skills.


  • A Day in Summer (1963). London: Barrie and Rockliff.
  • A Season in Sinji (1967). London: Alan Ross.
  • The Harpole Report (1972). London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-08610-7
  • How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup (1975). London: London Magazine Editions. ISBN 0-904388-02-6
  • A Month in the Country (1980). Brighton, Sussex: The Harvester Press. ISBN 0-85527-328-3
  • The Battle of Pollocks Crossing (1985). London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-80559-9
  • What Hetty Did (1988). Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. ISBN 0-900847-91-3
  • Harpole & Foxberrow General Publishers (1992). Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. ISBN 0-900847-93-X

Social history[edit]

  • The Old Timers: A Social History of the Homesteading Pioneers in the Prairie States During the First Few Years of Settlement, as Shown by a Typical Community, the "Old-Timers" of Beadle County in South Dakota (1957). Huron, South Dakota: privately printed.

Children's language books[edit]

  • (1970). The Red Windcheater, Nippers series. Illustrated by George Adamson. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-01789-7
  • (1972). The Garage Mechanic, What Do They Do? series. Illustrated by Chris Mayger. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-12064-7
  • (1972). The Dustman, What Do They Do? series. Illustrated by Michael Shoebridge. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-12276-3
  • (1974). The Old Farm Cart, Language in Action series, Level 3. Illustrated by Richard Butler. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16601-9
  • (1974). Red Foal's Coat, Language in Action series, Level 2. Illustrated by Susan Richards. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16595-0
  • (1976). An Ear-ring for Anna Beer, Language in Action series, Level 3. Illustrated by Trevor Ridley. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-19954-5
  • (1976). The Green Children of the Woods, Whizz Bang series. Illustrated by Bill Sanderson. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-19326-5
  • (1980). Gone with the Whirlwind, Language in Action series, Level 4. Illustrated by Ken Evans. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-28389-9


  • (1977). Carr's Dictionary of Extra-ordinary English Cricketers. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1977). Carr's Dictionary of English Queens, Kings' Wives, Celebrated Paramours, Handfast Spouses and Royal Changelings. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1979?). Carr's Dictionary of English Kings, Consorts, Pretenders, Usurpers, Unnatural Claimants and Royal Athelings. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (198?). Welbourn's Dictionary of Prelates, Parsons, Vergers, Wardens, Sidesmen and Preachers, Sunday-school teachers, Hermits, Ecclesiastical Flower-arrangers, Fifth Monarchy Men and False Prophets. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1983). Carr's Illustrated Dictionary of Extra-ordinary Cricketers. London: Quartet Books.
  • (1985?). A Dictionary of Extraordinary English Cricketers Volume Two. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1985). Gidner's Brief Lives of the Frontier. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.

Other writings[edit]

  • (1981). The Poor Man's Guide to the Revolution of 1381. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1981?) Forefathers. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1982). "Justice Silence, now blind, wits wandering a little and very old, is visited by Sir John Falstaff's page, now a man, and asked for news of Francis Feeble, the woman's tailor, once unfairly conscripted for the army during rebellion." In Shakespeare Stories, ed. Giles Gordon. London: Hamish Hamilton, pages 82–90. ISBN 0-241-10879-9.
  • (1987). An Inventory and History of The Quince Tree Press to Mark Its 21st Year and the Sale of Its 500,000th Small Book. August 1987. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  • (1990). "The First Saturday in May". In Fine Glances. A Connoisseur's Cricket Anthology, eds Tom Graveney, Mike Seabrook. London: Simon and Schuster, pages 21–25. ISBN 0-671-71025-7
  • (1990). "Looking for Lord". In My Lord's. A Celebration of the World's Greatest Cricket Ground, ed. Tim Heald. London: Willow Books, Harper Collins, pages 15–19. ISBN 0-00-218363-3.
  • (1990). Redundant Churches Fund. Churches in Retirement. A Gazetteer. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Foreword, pages ix–x. ISBN 0-11-701452-4
  • (1993). "Cricket Books, 1992." In Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1993, ed Matthew Engel. Guildford, Surrey: John Wisden, pages 1295 – 1306. ISBN 0-947766-20-0.
  • (1994). Some Early Poems and Recent Drawings by J. L. Carr 1912–1994. Bury St Edmunds: The Quince Tree Press.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rogers, Byron (2003) The Last Englishman: The Life of J. L. Carr. London: Aurum Press
  2. ^ a b Simpson, Helen (1986) The Mysterious J. L. Carr. A twenty-first anniversary portrait. Vogue May 1986, Vol. 143, No. 2268, pp. 84–88
  3. ^ R. W. Carr (2007). Visions Afar. The Journal of RW Carr 1905–2005. Compiled by J. D. Bramley and A. R. Gamble. Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds: Home Farm Productions.
  4. ^ J. D. Bramley (2003). In them days. A scrapbook of friends and happenings and . . an alternative enterprise. Home Farm, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds.
  5. ^ Carr, J. L. (1987) An Inventory and a History of the Quince Tree Press to Mark Its 21st Year and the Sale of Its 500,000th Small Book. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press

External links[edit]