Did you know . . .

  • . . . Dick and his family went to Tenby in West Wales for their summer holidays – the same town in which fellow children’s author, Roald Dahl, spent his childhood Easters.

  • . . . Dick’s favourite pig, Monty, was very tame and loved being scratched along his flanks. When this happened, he would sink to the ground in ecstasy.

  • . . .The School Mouse was set in the classroom where Dick used to teach the infants at Farmborough Primary School.

  • . . . after he’d become a successful writer, Dick enjoyed going on cruises with his wife, Myrle. Once they even saw a humpback whale, so close they could have dropped something down either of its blowholes!

  • . . . Dick always had a few small dogs, terriers and dachshunds, and a large dog, either a German Shepherd or a Great Dane.

  • . . . Dick’s brother, Tony, once had a pet badger called Wilhelmina.

  • . . . one of Dick and Myrle’s cats, a tortoiseshell-and-white called Dulcie Maude, had a hundred-and-four kittens in her lifetime, with one litter being born and reared in an old doll’s pram.

  • . . . Dick was a demon at The Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword.

  • . . . Dick didn’t like: flying, pineapple, nuts and turnips; and of towns he once said, ‘I would probably die immediately if I was forced to live in one.’

  • . . . Dick was once kicked over by a cow called Midnight and landed on his bottom in a dung-channel full of cow wee! And to make matters worse, shortly afterwards another cow, Martha, coughed and pooed simultaneously as Dick was walking behind her, covering him in poo!

  • . . . thanks to his Great-Uncle Oswald’s researches, Dick was delighted to discover that he was an eighth-great-grandson of King Charles II.

  • . . . Babe, the star of The Sheep-Pig, is a Large White pig.

  • . . . Dick once had a discussion with Princess Anne about the relative intelligence of dogs and pigs. She favoured dogs, he pigs, so they had to agree to disagree!

  • . . . Dick always lived within a couple of miles of where he was born.

  • . . . Dick was a serial nicknamer. His elder daughter, Juliet, was Cuddle and Bundle as a baby, which became Bud or Buddy; she also answered to Pimble or Pim. His son, Giles, was referred to as Pecos Bill (Pec or Pike) after an American cowboy. And daughter no.2, Elizabeth, was called Betsy, until she was 14, when she announced that Betsy was a cow’s name or that of a vintage car. She insisted she was now to be known as Liz. Because of her red hair, she was also lumbered with Ginge or Wing Commander Whizz Bang Wilson of the Red Hair Force, abbreviated to Whizz and Whizzer. Other whacky nicknames Dick used for each of his three children were, Owl’s Breath (Juliet), Egg’s Froth (Betsy) and Pigeon’s Spit (Giles).

  • . . . Babe, the film adaptation of The Sheep-Pig, was actually filmed in Australia, even though the book was set in the English countryside.

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Dick King-Smith site illustration