Ernest Sackville Turner

Ernest Sackville Turner

Ernest Sackville (E. S.) Turner (born Liverpool, England, 17 November 1909; died Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England, 6 July 2006) was a freelance journalist and author who published 20 books, and contributed to the English weekly satirical magazine "Punch" for more than 50 years.


E. S. Turner, as he was professionally referred to throughout his life, was a descendant of Sir Barnard Turner, officer in charge of troops attempting to control the Gordon Riots in 1780, [ Sir Barnard Turner] , notable ancestor: London Review of Books website.] and who became a Member of Parliament in 1784.

Turner was educated at, amongst other schools, Orme Boys School in Newcastle under Lyme. He was an otherwise unremarkable pupil and never went on to attend college or university.

However, at the age of 17 his father, Frederick, presented him with a second-hand typewriter, and this fuelled his desire to write. After having a piece published by the "Dundee Courier" in 1927, he managed to secure a position with the "Glasgow Evening Times", progressing from humble copy boy to become sub-editor, reporter and gossip column editor. After moving on to the "Glasgow Evening Citizen", he then joined the "Scottish Daily Express".

Turner met a girl called Helen Martin, from New York in the USA, who impressed him so much that they married in 1937. They would go on to have two daughters, Patricia and Jill, before Helen's death in 1968.

After the onset of war in 1939, he continued to write for various publications, even after he joined the Royal Artillery in 1941. He was able to contribute during his spare time in the Army, being based in the UK throughout the hostilities. At one point, whilst he was on leave, his anti-aircraft unit actually saw action when they shot down a German bomber.

Realising his writing talents, the Army 'top brass' decided to put him to work in a more appropriate area - helping to set-up and publish "Soldier", the magazine of the British Army. This contributed to his promotion to the rank of major in 1946, coinciding with his appointment as editor of the magazine. He held this title even after 'demob', until 1957.

In 1948 'Michael Joseph', the publishers, released his first book, "Boys Will Be Boys: The Story of Sweeney Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton, Et Al" - usually truncated to "Boys Will Be Boys". This was an in-depth examination of the "Boys' Weekly" genré, also known as 'story papers', 'penny dreadfuls' or 'bloods' (due to the violent nature of the prose). He carried out research for the book, ploughing through numerous back-numbers of the various publications. [ [,,1822759,00.html Obituary - E. S. Turner] : Jonathan Sale, Guardian Unlimited website.]

For his second book, however, he changed direction completely, producing the 1950 non-fiction work "Roads to Ruin: A Shocking History of Social Progress", which was a forthright insight into the British class system, and the resistance of the upper class to significant change. The politician Tony Benn often quoted passages from the book in the House of Commons to illustrate points he was trying to make, and especially in 1992, during one particular debate on foxhunting. [ [ Tony Benn foxhunting quotation] : Hansard Debates, 14 February 1992, "House of Commons".] Turner was also quoted by another politician, Gerald Kaufman, during a 1996 debate on homosexuality in the Armed Forces. [ [ Gerald Kaufman quotation] : Hansard Debates, 9 May 1996, "House of Commons".]

During the 1950s, as a now permanent freelance writer, Turner contributed regularly to "Punch Magazine", the leading satirical magazine with the accent on humour and pastiche. This source of income enabled him to concentrate more on writing books. In all, some 20 works by Turner were published in book form during his lifetime, including two novels under the pseudonym of 'Rupert Lang'.

Soon after his first wife Helen's death in 1968, Turner met an Irish housing manager called Roberta Hewitt whilst travelling in Samarkand. They married in 1971, and were childless.

Turner's literary flexibility was illustrated two years later when he wrote a Betjeman-style pastiche for the Royal wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips on 14 November 1973, subsequently quoted in an obituary by Miles Kington in 2006. [ [ Pastiche for the Royal wedding] : Miles Kington, The Independent obituaries.]

At the age of 89, he published "Unholy Pursuits", which took as its subject the incidence of Anglican clergymen working anonymously as journalists (a profession considered well beneath them at the time). Its 1998 release coincided with him being dropped by his regular publishers. [ [ "Unholy Pursuits"] , a book by Turner released in 1998: website.]

E. S. Turner contributed many pieces in his later years to publications such as the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, [ [ Latter years] : contributions to publications, The Scotsman obituaries.] culminating in his final article, which was published posthumously in the magazine "The Oldie" in September 2006. [ [,_author_200608041432.html Obituary - E. S. Turner] : "The North West Enquirer" website.]

Main Body of Work [ [ New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors] ]

*Boys Will Be Boys, published 1948 by Michael Joseph: ISBN 0718112822
*Roads To Ruin, published 1950 by Michael Joseph: ISBN
*The Shocking History Of Advertising, published 1952 by Michael Joseph: ISBN
*The Third Pip, published 1952 by Constable & Company: ISBN
*Maiden Voyage, published 1954 by ?: ISBN
*A History Of Courting, published 1954 by Michael Joseph: ISBN 0860258173
*Gallant Gentlemen, published 1956 by Michael Joseph: ISBN
*Call The Doctor, published 1958 by St Martin's Press: ISBN
*The Phoney War On The Home Front, published 1961 by St Martin's Press: ISBN
*What The Butler Saw, published 1962 by Penguin: ISBN 0141390832


External links

*Turner's major employer, [ Punch magazine] : their website.
* [ "Soldier" magazine] : Announcement of the passing of their former Editor-In-Chief, "Google" cache from 26 March 2007.

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