Roald Dahl 1916-1990
Roald Dahl, best selling author of 25 books for both children and adults was born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander.
In 1920, when Dahl was three years old, his seven-year-old sister, Astri, died from appendicitis. Weeks later, his father died of pneumonia at the age of 57. With the option of returning to Norway to live with relatives, Dahl’s mother decided to remain in Wales. Her husband Harald had wanted their children to be educated in British schools, which he considered the world’s best.
Roald Dahl first attended the Cathedral School, Llandaff. At the age of eight, he and four of his friends (one named Thwaites) were caned by the headmaster after putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers at the local sweet shop, which was owned by a “mean and loathsome” old woman called Mrs Pratchett.[The five boys named their prank the “Great Mouse Plot of 1924”. Gobstoppers were a favourite sweet among British schoolboys between the two World Wars, and Dahl would refer to them in his creation, Everlasting Gobstopper, which was featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Dahl transferred to a boarding school in England: St Peter’s in Weston-super-Mare. His parents had wanted him to be educated at an English public school and, because of the regular ferry link across the Bristol Channel, this proved to be the nearest. Dahl’s time at St Peter’s was unpleasant; he was very homesick and wrote to his mother every week but never revealed his unhappiness to her. After her death in 1967, he learned that she had saved every one of his letters, in small bundles held together with green tape. In 2016, to mark the centenary of Dahl’s birth, his letters to his mother were abridged and broadcast as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Dahl wrote about his time at St Peter’s in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood.
He was remembered by his schoolmates as a tall, soft faced boy, not especially popular but very close to the few boys who became his friends.
He and his actress wife Patricia Neal had 5 children and he attributed his success as a writer of childrens books to them.
His works included The Gremlins, 1943; James and the Giant Peach, 1961; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964; The Magic Finger, 1966 and Fantastic Mr.Fox, 1970. He wrote some of his best works during the last seven years of his life, The BFG, The Witches and Matilda.
He died in Oxford, in 1990.