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'When he depicts Arthur's search for some sort of moral framework within the anarchy of modern society, he speaks for all of us, poetically and passionately, as truly now as he did almost half-a-century ago.' (From the foreword by Alan Plater)
Sid Chaplin's powerful novel of disaffection in 1960s Newcastle, The Day of the Sardine charts a young man's uneasy passage into adulthood. Harsh and at times comic, Arthur Haggerston's story takes place against the background of a young workforce absorbed into tedious, repressive employment where the only outlets come through street violence and gang warfare. Arthur's battle through this reality provides a striking contrast to his internal struggle, outlined in his involvement with two very different women: one experienced and older, the other an idealistic Christian of his own age. Although set in a physical environment that has in many ways been lost to the past, the essence of Sid Chaplin's novel is easily recognisable in the urban tensions of Britain today.
'Chaplin's prose is wonderfully alive, and his novel is itself an overlooked
but untarnished gem'
'This is a welcome return to print for the early-60s chronicle of Geordie man-child Arthur Haggerston as he negotiates the the void between a failed education system and a stagnant labour market.
Chaplin's other novel set in Newcastle, The Watchers and the Watched, has also been republished by Flambard. Both were reviewed enthusiastically by DJ Taylor in The Guardian.
To buy this book:
The Day of the Sardine costs £8.99 and was published in October 2004.
Sid Chaplin was born on 20 September 1916 in Shildon, Co. Durham. In 1930 he commenced work in a bakery, but by 1931 was working at the Dean and Chapter Colliery in Ferryhill and became an apprentice to a colliery blacksmith in 1932.
In 1939 Sid won a scholarship to the Fircroft Working Men's College, Birmingham, but with the commencement of the Second World War, he returned to mining, working down the pit as a miner at the coal face. He married in 1941 to Irene Rutherford, living in Co. Durham until Sid was offered a post as feature writer on the National Coal Board's publication Coal, when they moved to Essex. In 1957 he was offered a new post as Public Relations Officer for the Coal Board, based in Newcastle upon Tyne where he lived until his death, having retired in 1972 to concentrate on his writing career. In 1975 he had a heart by-pass operation at Shotley Bridge Hospital, Co. Durham from which he recovered sufficiently to resume his writing and produced two more published volumes of short stories before his untimely death in January 1986.
Initially Sid Chaplin wrote between mining shifts and would often write through the night to create the perfect piece of writing. By May 1941 this had paid off with the publication of A Widow Wept in Penguin New Writing, edited by John Lehmann. More poems and stories were published in contemporary literary magazines, leading to a compilation of short stories, The Leaping Lad (1946), published by Phoenix House, which won the Atlantic Award in Literature in 1946. Novels, short stories and articles followed and he was a contributor to local and national newspapers and other publications throughout his life.
He received an Honorary Master of Arts from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1978, an Honorary Fellowship from Sunderland Polytechnic (now Sunderland University), 1977 and an OBE in 1977 for his services to the arts and especially for his work at Northern Arts.
Sid Chaplin (1916-86) influenced a generation of writers including David Storey, Stan Barstow and Keith Waterhouse, and his novels and stories enjoyed a popular readership in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on his working-class upbringing and employment in the North-East of England, Chaplin's social observation, humane characters, evocative writing style and authentic dialogue are as fresh and relevant today as when he was alive.
The text of D.T. Taylor's lecture on
Writing from the margins: the English regional novel from Sid Chaplin to Julia Darling, which was given at Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society on 28th October 2004, is now on their website.
Largely based on information on the Newcastle University website and used with permission and thanks.
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Page last updated on 26th September 2012.
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