Kathleen Hale was born in 1898 in Broughton in Lanarkshire and was brought up in a suburb of Manchester. Her childhood was far from idyllic, her father died when she was very young and she was forced to endure long periods of separation from her mother. This, along with the frustrations of an unexpressed artistic talent, produced a rebellious reaction in the young girl's naturally ebullient nature. However, her talent as an artist was recognised at school by a sympathetic headmistress and she went on to attend art courses in Manchester and Reading.
In 1917, Kathleen moved to London to make a life for herself as an artist. She worked for some time as Augustus John's secretary whilst developing a wide circle of friends in the artistic community, such as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. During the twenties she earned a living as an illustrator, accepting commissions for book jackets as well as selling her own drawings.
However, much as she loved her 'Bohemian' lifestyle, she was to choose the more sedate happiness of wedded life when she married Douglas McClean, a young doctor working in medical research. Together, they created a rural paradise at their home in Hertfordshire where they could bring up their two young sons and entertain their friends. She created Orlando and his world to entertain her children at bedtime.
Orlando The Marmalade Cat 'with eyes like twin gooseberries' was one of the most popular classic children's book characters of the 1940s and 50s. The stories are renowned for their quirky wit, magnificent illustrations and their ability to combine excitement and adventure together with and appreciation of friendship and family life. The books continue to be read by generations of readers who have come to regard Orlando with great affection and delight in the nostalgic memories evoked by the stories.
As the creator of Orlando, Kathleen was awarded the OBE in 1976.
Kathleen Hale died on 26th January 2000 at 101 years of age.