Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Carr was born in Yorkshire, into a family of Wesleyan Methodists. His father Joseph was the eleventh son of a farmer, who rejected farming as a career and went to work for the railways, eventually becoming a station master for the North Eastern Railway Co. Carr's early life was shaped by failure. Having attended the village school, he failed the Eleven plus exam, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college.
He worked for a year as an unqualified teacher--one of the lowest of the low in English education--at South Milford Primary School, where he became involved in a local amateur football team which was startlingly successful that year. He then successfully applied to a teacher training college in Dudley. In 1938 he took a year out from his teaching career to work as an exchange teacher in the Great Plains of South Dakota. Much of the year was a struggle to survive in what was a strangely different culture to him, in which his British salary converted into dollars was pitifully inadequate to meet American costs of living.
At the end of the year Carr continued his journey westward, and found himself travelling through the Middle East and the Mediterranean as the Second World War loomed. He arrived in France in September 1939 and reached England where he volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force. He was trained as an RAF photographer and stationed in West Africa, later serving in Britain as an intelligence officer.
At the end of the War he married Sally (Hilda Gladys Sexton) and returned to teaching. He was appointed headmaster of Highfields School in Kettering, a post he filled from 1952 to 1967 in a typically idiosyncratic way which earned the devotion of staff and pupils alike.
In 1967, having written two novels, he retired from teaching to devote himself to writing. In order to gain some income he began to work as a publisher, producing first a series of maps of English counties, which were designed to be read, rather than to provide navigational information. He also produced a series of 'small books' designed to fit into a pocket: some of them selections from English poets, others brief monographs about historical events, or works of reference. When larger publishers rejected or remaindered his own novels, he also published them himself. In 1980, he finally won critical acclaim for his novel, A Month in the Country.
He also carried on a single-handed campaign to preserve and restore the parish church of St Faith at Newton in the Willows, which had been vandalised and was threatened with redundancy. Carr, who appointed himself its guardian, came into conflict with the vicar of the benefice, and higher church authorities, in his attempts to save the church. The building was saved, but his crusade was also a failure in that redundancy was not averted and the building is now a scientific study centre.
Carr wrote eight short novels, which contain elements of comedy and fantasy, as well as darker passages, based on his varied experiences of life as teacher, traveller, cricketer, footballer, publisher and restorer of English heritage. All eight were published by different publishers, apart from the last two, which he published himself. Though many of the characters and incidents, and even much of the dialogue, are drawn from life, he always takes them just a little further into the comic. He is widely regarded as a master of the novella form, and his masterpiece A Month in the Country was nominated for the Booker prize.
Carr also wrote several non-fiction works which he published himself, including a dictionary of cricketers and a summary of the English monarchy. He also published his own hand-drawn illustrated maps.
- 1964 A Day in Summer
- 1967 A Season in Sinji
- 1972 The Harpole Report
- 1975 How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup
- 1980 A Month in the Country
- 1985 The Battle of Pollocks Crossing
- 1988 What Hetty Did
- 1992 Harpole and Foxberrow, General Publishers
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