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Mark Rickman Memorial Page
Remembering author and Earlyworks Press Club member Mark Rickman,
who passed away in March 2011
Mark Rickman first came to the notice of Circaidy Gregory Press after his hilarious story Chicken Run came third in the Earlyworks Press Gender Genre competition. At the time, he said of himself: "On the subject of gender and pen names, I’ve been writing short stories and articles for more than twenty years and have been published by Woman’s Own, Woman and Home, Family Circle, Raconteur, and many other weekly and monthly magazines. My book ‘Sarah Fowkes’ was short listed for the Harry Bowling prize for novels about London. My short story titled ‘Alec’s Dog’ (about a man with severe learning difficulties), came joint second in the 2003 Allianz Cornhill competition, held at the Guildford Book Festival. My play, ‘The Day The Fish Walked’ won a third in the 2003 Sussex Playwrights one act play competition, and another play ‘Soliloquies’ had a short season at the Blue Elephant theatre in Camberwell..."
Editor Kay Green writes:
...and the list of accolades he began above goes on and on. His motto clearly was 'keep going till you stop'. He regularly gave the Earlyworks Press writers a run for their money in the club monthly challenges and in the early months of this year received commendations from Cazart Magazine and Leaf Books. We thought he was an excellent writer and sharp wit when he first joined us and we thought he was going from strength to strength. The world has lost a lively mind and an excellent writer.
Mark (centre front) with some of the Earlyworks Press writers at the South Bank in London
Photo courtesy of Pam Eaves
Historian Victoria Seymour writes:
I met Mark Rickman in the forum of Earlyworks press, impressed with his poetry. I came to know him better after reading his book
Crazy Bear and exchanging emails with him. Although Mark would not have considered himself anything other than an adult when he joined the army there is no doubt that WWII had a huge effect on his young life. I invited him to contribute to my book Victory’s Children and the piece below is for the main part his own words. In common with most ex-servicemen, he was unwilling to go into detail about the more harrowing aspects of his wartime experiences. But in two of his poems, which appear at the end of this extract, he reveals something of the horrors of war. Mark joined the army in 1943 when he was 18 years old.
“My first regiment was the Sherwood Foresters, where new recruits were told that when challenged with 'Are you Robin Hood?’ we had to admit to being Robbing Bastards. I said I'd bear it in mind. Because I was taught to climb a rope using hands and feet at school, I became a physical training instructor. I know it sounds daft but I was the only one who could carry equipment up a rope without falling off. I volunteered for the paras, did my jumps at Ringway, Manchester, was sent to India, put in gliders in the Army Air Corps and because there weren’t enough of them, became a section sergeant as part of the PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry.)
“I left India on Independence Day, Aug 15th 1947, the day Pakistan came into existence and another war started over a line drawn across a map; all right, when it comes to borders I admit I have attitude. I got home to find I didn’t have one. My parents were divorced and remarried and fully occupied with their new relationships. I took my kit to the Waterloo Club, an army club near Westminster Bridge, listened to Big Ben, put on my grey demob suit and, knowing the area, found lodgings in Seven Sisters Road. There were lots of jobs about and because I didn’t care what I did to earn a crust, I found a job as a salesman in the Times Furnishing Company. By chance we loaned some furniture to the Finsbury Park Empire who were rehearsing a costume drama that included period uniforms. I had a word with the designer and began working on theatrical costumes. I had become interested in military history and uniforms during my period of service in South East Asia Command. This led to work on costumes and equipment for films and TV productions such as Beckett, A Man for All Seasons, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Camelot, Elizabeth R and Doctor Who. I worked hard because I refused to look back. Not at my parents, not at the war in the Far East. Not at the fact I never got the chance to kill Germans. Not at the dent in my head and not at the mess inside my head. What a time to get married! But I did and when I had too much to drink and began to rant, my wife, Dinah, threatened me with a bucket of water. Years later, she said I always asked if it was going to be cold or hot water and that saved our marriage. Thanks to her, I became reconciled with my parents and got rid of some of the angst I still carry but can switch off. Dinah died far too young but I had her long enough to restore my sanity; thankfully our two boys take after her.”
Retiring in his fifties, Mark Rickman wrote short stories and articles for family and writers’ magazines as well as plays, going on to be short listed and winning prizes in a number of literary competitions and gaining recognition abroad. He says of his poem “Wound Stripes”, later re-titled “Delirium” that he has re-written it a number of times. Mark explained that wound stripes were small, gold colour metal strips attached to the sleeve of the uniform tunic, concluding, with typical candour, “Big deal.”
Mark says that “Sniper” was based on what the men were told while on patrol in Burma;
he imagined the event depicted in the poem.
John Benn writes: