Recalling the day the real BFG thrilled young pupils at a Spalding school

Roald Dahl ANL-160426-102120001
Roald Dahl ANL-160426-102120001
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Its 100 years since Roald Dahl – one of the world’s greatest storytellers – was born, and former Spalding pupils who were lucky enough to meet him have been reliving their memories.

Dahl (1916 – 1990) – best known for books including The Twits, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and George’s Marvellous Medicine – visited Spalding Parish Church of England Day School sometime in the mid 1980s.

Former student David Day (now 38) remembers the afternoon well, when pupils were gathered to sit in the juniors’ hall.

“We all sat on the floor, and an older gentleman was introduced to us as the writer Roald Dahl. He sat on a chair at the front and talked to us about writing books and the enjoyment he got from it, and how he did it,” says David, a firefighter who now lives in Corby.

“He told us he had a granddaughter called Sophie, who was about our age, and that he had written a book with her as the main character – the BFG.

“Mr Dahl read a chapter or so of one of his books. Later when we read the BFG in class, and I noticed the cover, I remember thinking that the BFG was just like him! Not just in looks – he was very tall, 6’5”, and I was only eight or nine – but also in a kind caring way, even though we were just a class of children he didn’t know.”

David, whose favourite Dahl books are The BFG and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, described the author as just like a normal grandfather – funny and very good with children.

“It was an enjoyable afternoon,” he added. “I’m glad I got to meet him.

“His visit to our school introduced me to his books, of which I have now read many. I now realise how well they were written and can see how much enjoyment they have given to many children over the years, myself included.”

Another former pupil, Chris Woodrow, also recalled how Dahl happily signed books for pupils and added that the visit encouraged him to read more of the author’s stories.

As well as writing, Dahl, who was born in Wales to Norwegian parents, served in the RAF during the Second World War, where he became a flying ace and intelligence officer.

His writing for adults and children rose to prominence during the 1940s and he is regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest storytellers.

A series of festivals and events have been planned worldwide to mark the 100th year of the author’s birth on September 13. Visit www.roalddahl.com to find out more, while a new film version of the BFG is also due to be released this summer.

Sadly little more is known about Dahl’s visit to Spalding – and there is no mention in the Spalding Guardian or Lincolnshire Free Press archives.

• If you were a pupil or teacher at Spalding Parish Church of England Day and have photos from the day, we’d love to hear from you. Email jeremy.ransome@jpress.co.uk