Thomas R. Flintoff wrote his memoir when he was much older reflecting back upon his memories of being a youngster. As an established political writer whilst writing the memoir he refers to some texts that may have influenced his writing but I was surprised by how rarely he recalls texts that he read.
Flintoff’s first mention of his reading experience comes when he states ‘In the winter months, reading was the principal occupation, Gem, Magnet and Sexton Blake being the popular books until I learned to appreciate more serious literature, the Children’s Newspaper being one of my favourites.’ Flintoff indicates how reading was for him an individual activity, something which he did when unable to socialise with his friends. The books he refers to were all popular fictional novels during the twentieth century. Sexton Blake being a fictional detective similar to Sherlock Holmes who we can relate to today. The fictional character appeared in many novels during the twentieth century but became overshadowed by the like of Sherlock Holmes.
The Children’s Newspaper that Flintoff refers to was one of the most successful weekly pre-teenage magazines that ran for an astonishing forty six years. Over 2000 issues of the educational magazine were produced at a time of great social upheaval: the Great War, Britain’s emerge from the austerity of the post war years and the social advances of the 1920’s and 1930’s. For half of its lifetime the newspaper was edited by Arthur Mee and reflected his religious faith, patriotism and his aim to educate the large mass of children. As a very religious child himself, being brought up with a strong Christian family, I can see why the Children’s Newspaper appealed to Flintoff.
Flintoff clearly enjoyed reading as a hobby but also for educational purposes at such a young age. Having no choice but to turn to full time employment at the earliest opportunity, Flintoff turned to reading as form of self education that he so sorely missed. Flintoff had a strong passion for learning and realised the importance of education in order to gain a successful career. As he got older and found himself employed at the local cotton mill, reading became a form of relaxation rather than a social and educational activity. ‘Working full-time in a cotton mill at the age of 14 was very tiring, and having to get up by five-o-clock meant that I went to by nine-o-clock each night, but as there were no wireless or television, after reading for a few hours you were ready to retire.’ (Flintoff, p.17)
Despite Flintoff’s heavy involvement in politics we are never informed of any political reading he enjoyed which sparked his passion and enthusiasm. Instead I believe it was his involvement with the Junior Conservative Association that influenced his later writings rather than the reading he did as a child.