The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001
Where is Kirrin?
Various commentators have suggested villages in Dorset and elsewhere as the models for Kirrin village, which is all very well but does not answer the geographical question: where is Kirrin? A German who calls herself Georgina Kirrin and who has compiled a website on the works of Enid Blyton, thinks it lies somewhere on the south coast of England, but cannot get closer. If, however, we follow the directions given in the books we can be much more accurate, for Enid Blyton gives all the information that is needed to pinpoint the village. In Five on a Treasure Island Julian, Dick and Anne begin their journey in London and drive for several hours. Eventually they see the sea on their right, and a little later they enter Kirrin village. Kirrin Bay faces due west. Kirrin Island is in the centre of the entrance to the bay, and boats can only land on it by going round to the seaward, or western, side and picking their way through the rocks. The coastline is rocky and dominated by high cliffs. For several miles above Kirrin (and above can only mean north of Kirrin) it is uninhabited. "Desolate" is the word Enid Blyton uses in Five fall into adventure.
If we take all these clues into account it is obvious that Kirrin is situated on the west-facing coast of either Devon or North Cornwall. Enid Blyton, however, tells us that it was not in Cornwall, for in Five go down to the sea the porter at Kirrin Station says to them, "You going off to Cornwall, I see?" The Kirrin porter has the Cornish name of Polpenny, and his uncle lives near Tremannon, which is their destination. In those days working class people did not move far from home, so Kirrin is clearly situated on the west coast of Devon quite close to the Cornish county boundary.
Where did Julian, Dick and Anne live and go to school?
In the first book, Five on a Treasure Island, Enid Blyton describes the family's first journey to Kirrin as starting from London. "Along the crowded London streets they went, slowly at first, then, as they left the town behind, more quickly. Soon they were right into the open country and the car sped along fast." Yet in Five go off in a caravan, the fifth book, which begins with all five lying in Julian's parents' garden, she says: "The garden sloped up a hillside ... it was a country district."
In Five on Kirrin Island again, the sixth book, Enid Blyton describes the girls and Timmy journeying into London by train from their school (Gaylands having obviously discontinued the buses used to bring the girls into London in an earlier book), and meeting the boys, whose train had arrived at the same station a few minutes earlier. Then all five travelled across London together to another station, presumably Paddington, to catch a train for Kirrin.
In the seventh story, Five go off to camp, it is clear that the boys school is quite close to where Julian, Dick and Anne live, as one of their schoolmasters, Mr Luffy, "lived not far away and often came over to play bridge with their father and mother". In Five on a hike together, the tenth book, the boys and the girls meet to hike on the moor between their two schools, and, as this moor has a prison on it, it is likely to be Dartmoor.
So Julian Dick and Anne live in London or on a hill in a country district, and the children go to schools which are north, east or south of London but not west, or perhaps in Devon. It sounds inconsistent but it isn't.
Enid Blyton was concerned with the adventures of the Famous Five, not with their everyday life and schooling. Obviously the boys would have moved from a prep school to a public school at about age thirteen or fourteen. Enid Blyton does not bother to mention it because all middle-class boys at boarding school made the change, and we all know they do. We might perhaps have expected her to mention that the family had moved house, but as the move happened during the school term and not during one of the Five's adventurous holidays, she leaves it aside, as she does also the change of name from Barnard back to Kirrin (see Appendix I). Some of Enid Blyton's omissions are even more surprising: although she does not mention it anywhere, the Five's first few adventures took place during the Second World War.
The explanation for the apparent inconsistencies is that Julian's parents grew tired of life in London and decided to move back to their home area, North Devon when Julian was about thirteen. Julian had had quite a lot of illnesses and may have remained an extra year in prep school, but it is also possible that his prep school was attached to a public school and that he did his first senior-school year there while his parents arranged places for him and Dick closer to their new home. They would, of course, also want to have Anne closer to home, so she and George stayed at Gaylands until they were thirteen to fourteen and then transferred to a school in Devon.
Results of close textual examination
As a result of our close examination of Enid Blyton's texts we can exonerate her of the charges of geographical inconsistency brought by some critics.
Kirrin village and Kirrin Bay lie between Bude and Hartland Point on the west coast of Devon. Julian and Dick went to prep school in the home counties and then transferred to a public school near Okehampton on the northern edge of Dartmoor. One year earlier their parents had moved from London to a country district near Holsworthy, and Mr Luffy lived somewhere between Okehampton and Holsworthy. The following year George and Anne moved from Gaylands School near Beaconsfield to a school on the south side of Dartmoor, which, luckily, also accepted pets.
Appendix I: The Kirrin family
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