Alison Prince (1931-2019)
Author and artist Alison Prince was born in 1931 in Beckenham, Kent, to a Scottish-born mother and father from Yorkshire, and grew up in Bromley, South London. “I’d always thought I was going to be an artist, due largely to the fact that the Art Room in my very formal Girls’ Grammar School was the only place where any self- expression was permitted.” She won a scholarship to Slade School of Art - its influence never left her and she regarded herself as much an artist as a writer. After graduating, she trained to be a teacher at Goldsmith’s College and became Head of Art at a school in Putney, London. There she married a fellow teacher but interrupted her teaching career after the birth of their three children and turned to occasional journalism.
She wrote art reviews and features, then in the 1960s got into television scriptwriting for children when she joined forces with another young mother, the illustrator Joan Hickson, to write and design a story which became the Watch with Mother series Joe. Its success led to the writing and presenting of stories for Jackanory, and the much-loved BBC children’s stop-motion animated television series Trumpton (1967).
By this time her marriage had broken down and Alison Prince had moved with her children to a small farm in Suffolk. “I used to do the farm work in the morning, get the children up, go out and do supply teaching, come back, do more farm work, feed the kids and write in the evenings,” she recalled. She loved the countryside and had a lifelong interest in green living and recycling, which she put into effect when running the small farm in Suffolk for eight years.
In 1984 Alison Prince moved to Arran, where she had enjoyed holidays as a child and where she became involved in island life as a councillor, jazz band clarinettist, campaigner against plans to build a power station, participant in poetry readings, editor of a local newspaper and organiser of the island’s bottle collection scheme.
She published more than 70 books for adults and children, many of which she illustrated herself. She won the Literary Review’s Grand Poetry Prize twice and her story How’s Business (1987), set during the Second World War, made the shortlist for the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.
She won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award for her 1995 novel The Sherwood Hero, a modern-day Robin Hood story for young adults. In 2001 and 2002 she won Scottish Arts Council prizes for Second Chance, and Oranges and Murder, a gripping story set in Dickensian London.
Alison Prince also wrote for adults, and as well as a novel, The Witching Tree (1996), and the poetry collections Having Been in the City (1994) and The Whifflet Train (2003), wrote a book of essays - The Necessary Goat (1992) and a collection of pieces entitled On Arran (1994), written originally for the local Arran Voice newspaper, which she edited.
She was also the author of two literary biographies: Kenneth Grahame: An Innocent in the Wild Wood(1994); and Hans Christian Andersen: The Fan Dancer (1998).
In 2005 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by the University of Leicester and Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln, for services to children's literature. Her final books include No Ordinary Love Song (2011), The Lost King (2014), and Forbidden Soldier (2014).
Alison died in October 2019.