The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
The Kirrin family
© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001
Enid Blyton is occasionally accused of inconsistency in her account of the relationship between the various members of the Kirrin family, yet everything she says is true. What she does not do is give background information about the family which would have clarified these realationships.
In book 1, Five on a treasure island, in which Julian, Dick and Anne meet their cousin George for the first time, she says clearly and precisely "Uncle Quentin was Daddy's brother." Clearly then, all members of the family should have shared the same surname, which she gives as Kirrin, yet Kirrin Cottage and Kirrin farm belong to Aunt Fanny's family, which once owned all the land around Kirrin village.
In fact Aunt Fanny belonged to the senior branch of the family, and that branch had once been wealthy landowners before falling on hard times. The loss of Henry John Kirrin's treasure, which the children found on Kirrin Island in their first adventure together, had been a considerable blow.
Quentin Kirrin was also a descendent of Henry John Kirrin, but from a junior branch of the family.
In Five get into a fix the mother of Julian, Dick and Anne is called Mrs Barnard. This was admittedly a slip of Enid Blyton's pen, for she had no wish to complicate her stories by detailing the complexities of the Kirrin family. Respect for her memory, however, obliges us to reveal some of their past history.
George Albert Kirrin, the father of Gavin and Quentin Kirrin was killed at the Battle of Mons in 1914, leaving a widow and two sons aged 14 and 12. Mrs Kirrin married Andrew Barnard, a family friend, later that same year. He adopted the two boys, who took his surname, then returned to the front where he suffered a mustard gas attack that left his lungs severely weakened. He was an invalid for the rest of his life and died in 1924. The younger of his stepsons, Quentin, who had always been a difficult and argumentative boy, and who by then was twenty and reading science at Cambridge, insisted on reverting to his original surname of Kirrin. It was lucky he did so, for it was this unusual surname that drew to him the attention of Miss Fanny Kirrin, whose father, Henry, had also been killed in battle in 1916.
Grandma Barnard was upset over what she saw as the ingratitude of her younger son towards her late husband, though Quentin did not see it like that at all. For him reversion to his father's name was simply a recognition of the scientific fact of his descent. There was a period of coolness between Gavin and Quentin, which meant that during their early years the cousins did not get to know each other. This, however passed, and, soon after the death of Grandma Barnard, Gavin decided to change his name back to Kirrin. By then Julian, Dick and Anne were acquainted not only with George but the full family history, and they were delighted to become proper Kirrins.
One final detail needs clarification: on one occasion Uncle Quentin says irritably to Aunt Fanny that he cannot be expected to remember whether the children are to stay with them or with her sister. Enid Blyton, as always, meticulously notes his actual words without explanation, and some commentators have taken this to mean that Aunt Fanny was Julian's mother's sister, which would have meant that the two Kirrin brothers had married two sisters who were also called Kirrin. If that had been so it would have been so unusual an arrangement that Enid Blyton would have commented on it.
In fact the two women were not related except by mariage. Uncle Quentin, in his usual state of irritation over trivia that interrupted his important scientific work, regarded family matters as female matters, and, wishing to underline that all this was beneath his notice, intended to refer to his brother's wife as "your sister-in-law" but inadvertently just called her "your sister".
Appendix II: Geography
Back to Chapter 5 at the point where note 7 refers you to this appendix
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