Book Review: Ellen Morgan by Walter Tyrer

Updated on January 8, 2019
AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet, and artist who lives on the Wirral peninsula in England.

3 stars for Ellen Morgan by Walter Tyrer

What's It About?

Life in an isolated fishing community is all ten year-old Ellen Morgan has ever known, but immanent starvation means the islanders to abandon their homes in search of a better life.

Deliberately left behind on a Liverpool dock while her brothers sail off to Australia, Ellen befriends an elderly watchman who takes her to his squalid tenement slum on Scotland Road. A drunkard who can't hold down a job, Ellen brings out Captain Amos's good side and he truly does his best for this solemn-faced child who toils to turn their shabby rooms into a home and who befriends Billy, a neighbour's lad who is a tough-nut with a heart of gold.

However, the authorities disapprove and Ellen is forced to live in an orphanage. The regime is harsh, and following the death of the one friend she made there Ellen escapes and returns to Captain Amos, but again the authorities intervene.

Ellen is now adopted by a wealthy man whose only child, Derek, is thrilled with his new playmate. They're both sent to different private boarding schools, but as Ellen's final academic year dawns her adoptive parent dies and his glamorous but cold wife, glad to be free of both an unwanted husband and this "common" girl, cuts off funding.

Ellen's dream of becoming a doctor lies in tatters. She desperately needs a job while she waits for another year until she's old enough to start nursing training.

The novel then goes on to reveal how Ellen achieves her dream of becoming a nurse, and how she again meets Derek and Billy. Both wish to marry her - but how can she choose between either of them and her beloved career?

Choose she does, but there is yet another life-changing tragedy awaiting the heroine of this gentle, affectionate novel.

About the Author

Walter Tyrer was born in Liverpool, England, in 1900. Following his father's death, the family struggled to make ends meet. Aged 16, Walter joined the Royal Navy as a Midshipman and served throughout during World War I.

After the war was over he began writing boys adventure stories, possibly having had his first novel published when he was aged only 21, and he enjoyed some success penning short stories for magazines.

Tyrer served as an ARP warden during World War II. By this time, he was working in Fleet Street and had moved his wife and two children to Kingston Upon Thames.

Tyrer went on to publish many novels which were popular in their day but which have now largely fallen from public notice. He also wrote approximately 37 novels for the Sexton Blake detective series of novels, comic strips and plays.

Tyrer passed away in 1978.

What's to Like?

I first read this book when aged around 10, the same age as Ellen at the novel's opening, and I fell in love with her story. As a child I re-read it countless times but, as I grew into my teens I naturally moved on to a wider spectrum of reading.

By chance, I recently stumbled over a charmingly dilapidated copy and couldn't resist revisiting this old favourite. The paper cover is hanging on by a worn-thin strand, and it is badly torn and dogeared. The old imperial price tag of three shillings and six pence - "3/6" - is still boldly displayed on the back.The red cloth of the hardback cover has been rubbed grey along the edges. Its pages have turned a creamy-grey. This book has clearly been read and re-read countless times; it is a book which has been loved.

The Charm of the Old

Inside, written in pencil, a Vera Crook has left her signature and the date, 1942.

Would I enjoy this novel as much as I had as a child, or would its story now seem merely sentimental? There was only one way to find out, and so I happily paid my contemporary £5.50 and carried home my serendipitous find.

Well, it was a lovely read. Yes, it's very old fashioned and gently romantic, but the prose is well crafted and the plot moves along at a comfortable stroll. The poverty and personal struggles experienced by the main character are described without gruesome detail - there is nothing sordid or graphic here.

This is, as the paper cover explains, a "quiet novel". Yet there are strong character portrayals throughout, with believable scenarios.

Ellen herself shines as an ordinary girl struggling to survive against overwhelming odds. In her own placid way she is determined to build herself a fulfilling and good life despite the many obstacles she faces along the way. She becomes a young woman with ambitions in a period when the working class, and girls especially, had few options available to them.

Scotland Road, Liverpool

The slum tenements of Liverpool's historically poor Scotland Road, as described in Walter Tyrer's novel, were demolished decades ago when this section of the A59 road was developed.

Singer and TV personality Cilla Black grew up in a three-storey building at 380 Scotland Road. Other famous people with links to this road include singer Holly Johnson and actor Tom Baker.

The road was originally a turnpike road for stagecoaches travelling from Lancashire and Liverpool towards Scotland, hence its name. The potato famine in Ireland resulted in a huge influx of Irish Catholics who settled in the area. The women became known locally as "shawlies" due to their habit of wearing a shawl pulled over their heads and shoulders to keep warm.

The area has completely changed since Tyrer's day, and the Scotland Road he describes in his novel is remembered only in history.

What's Not to Like?

Ellen Morgan was published in 1939, and some of the social attitudes and moral view points reflect this era now seem terribly dated. This is not the fault of the author, of course, but a reflection of how cultural values have altered since he wrote this story.

However, this world still has its pampered Dereks and its rough diamond Billys, and there are plenty of Ellen Morgans quietly working to improve their lot in life while remaining true to their own principles.

Sources

The biographical and bibliographical information in this article came from:

  1. www.fantasticfiction.com/t/walter-tyrer
  2. http://thesextonblakeblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/regular-visitors-to-this-blog-can.html

To view images of old Scotland Road, refer to:

  1. https://streetsofliverpool.co.uk/tag/scotland-road

Cast Your Vote!

Have you read Ellen Morgan by Walter Tyrer?

See results

© 2018 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)