9th July 1911

Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast books, was born in China in 1911, where his father was a medical missionary. Although remembered primarily as a writer, he was also an accomplished painter.

Peake’s family returned to London and Peake himself settled there in the 1920s and early 1930s before he moved to Sark. His former teacher was already living on the island and had set up an artists’ colony there. According to one report by the BBC, Peake was rumoured to paint naked on the headlands, aside from a sombrero.

He returned to London after four years, but that wasn’t to be the end of his association with the island.

He came back to Sark at the end of the Second World War, living there with his family from 1946 until the early 1950s. By then, the first of his Gormenghast books had been published.

Gormenghast and Sark

Although not explicitly set on Sark, many Sark placenames appear in the Gormenghast series. The Coupee, Silvermines and Little Sark itself all turn up in its pages. Gormenghast castle is described as being like a rocky island with sheer cliffs, which is a fairly accurate description of Sark.

The Gormenghast series was planned to have at least six instalments. The existing Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone, plus the novella Boy in Darkness, would have been joined by Titus Awakes and Gormenghast Revisited. However, Peake developed dementia and possibly Parkinsons disease in the late 1950s and died in a care home 1968. He left the last two books incomplete.

Titus Awakes was later completed by his widow, Maeve Gilmore, and released in 2009.

Mervyn Peake was also the author of the short novel, Mr Pye, which was published in 1953. While Gormenghast merely hinted at its Sark connections, Mr Pye was explicitly set on the island. It was filmed and broadcast by Channel 4 in March 1986 with Derek Jacobi in the title role.


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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st