Growing Up With Just William

Margaret Lamburn Disher


Just William:Boy anarchist?

Tommy William

The well-known image on the right is the icon of 20th century boyhood, dreamer of dreams, righter of wrongs, revolutionary and child-anarch, leader of the 'Outlaw' gang of middle-class boys. The unknown image on the left is Richmal Crompton's nephew, Tommy, the original 'William'.

How did a Classics scholar, early crippled and a lifelong spinster, write with such insight into the boy-mind? Margaret Disher, Richmal's Crompton's niece and 'William's' sister, will tell you. You will learn how the inflexible logic of 'William/Tommy's mind led him to challenge the most sacred and time-encrusted tenets of the adult mind.

You will not be surprised to read that, grown into adulthood, he was no success as a bank clerk, but hugely enjoyed the cameraderie of his 'gang' which guarded the bullion van of the Westminster Bank. 'Outlaw' turned gold-keeper.

Book Cover


When Richmal Crompton - my mother's sister - dedicated William in Trouble (1927) and William - The Gangster (1934) to me, she could not have guessed that I would eventually recount the inside story of the Just William books, from the time she wrote the very first story The hero of this inside account is the prototype for William - my brother Tommy whose independent eccentric character Aunt Richmal studied closely throughout those formative years. This book chronicles Just Tommy's progress through life, often amusing and accident-prone. As he grew older his character mellowed but never really changed. Yet the inside story is not entirely humorous, for there were continuing family dramas and even tragedies. Richmal was surrounded by unusual and adventurous characters, all of whom had an influence on her writing. Her own brother spent many years in Africa and China; her cousin looked after an African leper colony, and her brother-in-law (my father) roamed the world, setting up one business enterprise after another and conducting world tours. Both sides of our family were larger than life, and Aunt Richmal introduced into William's village many of the family characters, their friends and associates ... well disguised, of course. Some of the family history has already appeared in print, but the story seen from the inside has never before been revealed. Now in 1990, the Centenary of Aunt Richmal's birth, I have put on record this family account, which is frequently funny and sometimes quite ironic. It has been written for the grown-up William fans who remember him with affection.

A Psychologist's View of William as Anarchist

ISBN 978 0 9516261 0 8 Paperback, 213 pp
Available by mail order, post free, @ £6.00 from:
The Outlaw's Press
Distributed by The Mellstock Press,
9, St. Laurence's Gardens, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1HH
or order from Amazon

Copyright Bryn Purdy 2004 Web design Jed Bland 04.04.07 amended 09.06.09