On this day in history : 8th October 1908 – Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s book ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is published – and has never been out of print since….
Kenneth started work at the Bank of England in 1879 – from a junior position he worked his way up through the ranks, eventually to become Secretary of the Bank….
In 1899 he married Elspeth Thomson and they had one son, Alistair – a sickly child, born premature, blind in one eye and suffering ill-health all his life…. His parents gave him the affectionate nickname of ‘Mouse’….
When the boy was around 4-years-old his father began to tell him bedtime stories, about four animal friends – Toad, Badger, Ratty and Mole…. When Kenneth was away from home, (often on the boating holidays he enjoyed so much), he would write home to Alistair – his letters full of more tales of the four friends…. The child was quite a headstrong and wayward boy – and Kenneth based the character of Toad on him…. Ratty was based on a good friend of his – fellow writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch….
In 1908 Kenneth retired early from the Bank due to ill-health…. The family moved to Crookham in Berkshire – the area where Kenneth had spent much of his childhood…. In his retirement he spent much of his time by the banks of the River Thames…. Having decided to develop his tales of Toad, Badger, Ratty and Mole he no doubt drew much of his inspiration from the river….and giving us the children’s book ‘The Wind in the Willows’ that we all grew up with and loved so much….
Sadly Alistair, who was an under-graduate at Oxford University at the time, committed suicide on a railway track five days before his 20th birthday….