Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s childhood inspiration

Watching BBC’s Antiques Road Trip last night (yes I know, but there was nothing else on) I was surprised when a segment about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle popped up.

There I was, TV dinner on my lap, brain going into it’s usual early evening stupor, when my attention was unexpectedly caught by some rather informative stuff.

For those who don’t watch the programme (i.e. sensible people) it involves two celebrities teaming up with two antiques experts and travelling around in old cars buying general tat from bric-a-brac shops. They then have to sell the items at an auction and see who can make the most profit. It’s gripping stuff let me tell you.

Anyway, last night one of the teams visited Sir Arthur’s old boarding school – Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe, Lancashire. It turned out to be a fascinating little segment and very revealing.

Doyle attended Stonyhurst from the age of 9 in 1868. He started in the prep school and the log still exists where he signed his name on arrival. He signed his full name including the ‘Conan’ but never used it again and was known for the rest of his time there as simply Arthur Doyle.

At the bottom of this list was a boy named Patrick Sherlock who was Doyle’s class-mate. By all accounts, Patrick wasn’t an especially clever boy so didn’t inspire the character of Holmes but most likely did inspire the name.

It was also fascinating to learn that there were two Moriartys in Doyle’s year – Michael and John. Michael was a brilliant mathematician so could easily have inspired this aspect of Doyle’s most famous villain. John Moriarty went on to become a lawyer and attorney general for Ireland. He was described in later years as ‘serpentine’ and could conceivably have inspired the darker aspects of Sherlock Holmes’ great nemesis.

There was even a Watson but he was five years younger than Doyle so it is difficult to know whether they would have been friends or known to each other.

It is widely accepted that Doyle modelled Baskerville Hall on Stonyhurst but the school’s curator when a step further. She pointed out that Doyle’s bedroom would have been very close to the school kennels and perhaps all those years of listening to them howl led him to create the fearful hound of Baskerville fame.

I found all this information fascinating, how strange to think that something which may have seemed so insignificant at the time could go on to inspire someone to create some of the most famous characters and stories of all time?

I’ve had a holiday day from work today. There I was having my morning coffee when Jeremy Brett popped up on the TV – ITV were showing one of the Granada episodes. I’m proud to say that husband and I guessed which one it was in seconds. We heard the line ”Three of them are lame,’ turned to each other and said – ‘Silver Blaze!’ As the rain lashed the windows, we snuggled in and watched the episode which was a real treat. It is undoubtedly one of their best and reminded me (not that I really needed reminding) of why Jeremy Brett will always be my favourite Holmes. But how different things might have been if little Patrick Sherlock had been sent to different boarding school? Or called Patrick Smith?

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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