May 22nd Frank Baker (Birth)


London-born Frank Baker (1908 – 1982) was a writer, actor and musician who developed a deep love of Cornwall and kept returning even when called away for work.  He did though seem to have difficulty deciding where in Cornwall to live.

Educated at Winchester Cathedral School he became a proficient organist but, on leaving school, became apprenticed in his father's maritime insurance business before, five years later, working for the School of Church Music. After a year there and equipped with a £20 note and a piano he moved to St. Just where he gained employment as an organist at £1 a week and began to write and write and write. 

He let holiday rooms in the cottage he shared with Marcus Tippett and, encouraged by one guest, the writer and editor Edward Garnett, Baker wrote his first novel, ‘The Twisted Tree’, which was published, to nationwide acclaim, when he was just twenty-seven.

After Tippett’s death, Baker moved to St. Hilary where he became became the Church organist and a close friend of Father Bernard Walke (June 15th).  The two collaborated, with Filson Young (June 5th) on the radio broadcast of Walke’s Christmas play, Bethlehem, which was the first live broadcast of a play. 

A man of many talents, Baker also worked as a professional actor and toured in the forties with Dame Sybil Thorndike, Hattie Jacques and Paul Scofield.  It was through this work that he met his future wife, Kathleen Lloyd.


The family moved to Mevagissey after the war but five years later moved to Surrey then back to Goldsithney and then to Cardiff where he worked as a scriptwriter and editor for the BBC before eventually returning to Cornwall to settle in their final home in Porthleven.

Throughout all these personal moves, Baker continued writing novels, short stories and newspaper articles. One of his books, ‘The Birds’ had an initial premise similar to that of the short story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier (May 13th) and when her story was filmed Baker was tempted to sue for plagiarism but was dissuaded since the rest of the plot was very different to du Maurier’s and it was obvious that his case would be dismissed as without foundation.

Baker wrote fourteen novels, the most famous of which, was the comic novel ‘Miss Hargreaves’.  In this novel, two friends invent a fictional character, embellish her life story and are shocked when she comes to life and sends them a telegram indicating the day that she will come to stay.  The novel was adapted for the stage with the lead played by Dame Margaret Rutherford and it was also produced for radio. 

Another of his novels, ‘Lease of Life’ (1954) was made into a film starring Robert Donat who was the best friend of J.C. Trewin (December 4th).  With a script written by the thriller writer,  Eric Ambler, it was also one of the first of Denholm Elliott’s films.

Baker wrote two memoirs. The first, ‘I follow but Myself’ (1968),  concentrated on the friends who had had the most effect on him whilst his final work, ‘Call of Cornwall’ (1976) explored Cornwall’s spiritual and literary history and landscape and through which he expressed his deep and profound love for the county.
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