October 24th Denys Val Baker (Birth)



Yorkshire – born Denys Val Baker (1917 – 1984) of Welsh descent, specialised in articles, short stories, novels, and magazines.

In the 1930s, he worked for the Derby Evening Telegraph before moving to London as a freelance journalist.  A pacifist and vegetarian, he spent the first few months of the Second World War, as a registered conscientious objector, working as a farm labourer on Jersey before being returned to London due to the threat to the island.  He then became a rescue worker during the Blitz.

In the war years, Val Baker began publishing his own quarterly magazine ‘Opus’ which featured stories, poems and reviews and, in 1943, produced the first of the annual ‘Little Reviews Anthologies’ and anthologies of short stories by numerous writers.  In the 1940s, he published three novels and had at least one hundred short stories broadcast on the BBC’s ‘Morning Story’ programme.

In 1948, Val Baker moved to St. Ives and launched ‘The Cornish Review’ in 1949, which continued until 1974.  With the exception of three years in Bermuda (1954 – 1957) and one in London, Val Baker remained in Cornwall for the rest of his life.

In 1949, Val Baker and his wife, Jess, bought the 17-room house in St. Hilary which had been the vicarage in the days of Father Bernard Walke (June 23rd) and his, artist, wife Annie (Fearon) Walke (July 6th).  

Val Baker’s, already impressive, literary output increased enormously and in the next forty six years he published twenty-six humorous books about life in Cornwall, fourteen novels and twenty-three collections of short stories.  He also published another ten books on diverse subjects as well as producing hundreds of short stories and articles for magazines across the world.

At the same time Jess started taking pottery lessons with David Leach, the son of Bernard Leach (May 6th) and she opened a studio pottery in St. Ives. Whilst Jess was working, Val Baker would sit writing and serving customers. 

In 1967, the Val Baker family moved to ‘The old Sawmills’ on Golant creek of the River Fowey which was accessible only by water or via the railway operated by the English China Clay Company. 

They remained there for five years until Jess was offered a one year appointment teaching pottery in Bermuda. 

On their return in 1972, they moved to Crean, between St. Buryan and Land’s End where they remained until his death in 1984.


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