Day 130: The Pennymans Hand on the Torch

The facts

“Lunies,” said Ginger, contemptuously, “I bet they’ve escaped from somewhere.”
“They’re fun to watch anyway,” said William. “We can always come an’ watch ’em when we’ve nothing else
to do.”
Heartened by the thought of this addition to their resources, they went home to bed.

  • Number: 11.10
  • Published: 1930 (1929 in magazine form, originally titled William and the New Neighbours)
  • Book: William the Bad
  • Synopsis: A couple of eccentric anti-modernity campaigners arrive in the village.


William seems to be more or less of an afterthought in this story, in which Richmal Crompton focuses on and robustly satirises the Pennymans, who must surely be based on somebody she met in real life.

William entered the drawing-room and greeted the guest with the expression of intense ferocity that he always assumed when he intended to be especially polite.

The Pennymans are, as Ginger so astutely spotted, “lunies”. We still have “lunies” like them today, except we say that they follow the paleo diet.

The Pennymans basically follow the paleo diet. They are militant vegetarians, in addition to which they dress in flowing robes (“the clothes that nature intended us to wear”) and make their own entertainment to simulate that which would have been available to them at “the morning of the world”.

They have made it their mission to convert the world to their principles; and they have chosen William’s village to start with. Finding William’s village rather resistant to change – through no fault of William’s, on this occasion – they set their ambitions rather lower, and seek first to introduce a spirit of rustic “Merrie England”, as a preliminary stage to reintroducing the morning of the world.

All very odd, but they stick at it until William has a fight with their nephew Pelleas, while both William and Pelleas are inside the Pennymans’ “Merrie England” dragon costume…