Clive King, author of Stig of the Dump, dies aged 94


The family of Clive King, author of several popular children’s books, including the much-loved classic Stig of the Dump, have announced that he passed away in the county of Norfolk where he had made his home on 10 July 2018, aged 94. He is survived by his widow Penny and three children. The family have requested privacy at this time and our heartfelt condolences are with them. 

Clive King was born in Richmond, Surrey, in 1924. When he was young his family moved to Ash, near Sevenoaks in Kent. He went to Downing College, Cambridge, and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He then served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. His service as a sailor and his work as a language teacher for the British Council took him all over the world. Many of his books for children were inspired by the places he had visited, but it was the one set closest to his childhood home in Kent that launched his writing career.

‘If you went too near the edge of the chalk pit the ground would give way…’

Stig of the Dump, first published in 1963 by the legendary Puffin Editor Kaye Webb, is about a small boy named Barney who explores the dump at the bottom of a nearby chalk-pit, and finds there a cave-boy who has made himself a house out of all kinds of junk. Barney’s magical escapades, drawn on Clive King’s own adventures growing up with his three brothers, immediately captured the imagination of young readers, and they continue to do so to this day. Stig of the Dump, with its highly evocative illustrations by Edward Ardizzone, has undoubtedly become one of Puffin’s all-time favourite titles, and truly deserves the accolade of ‘timeless classic’.

On hearing the news, Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s said, “We feel privileged and proud to be Clive King’s publisher and are sad to hear of his passing. This year our Stone Age Stig is 55 years old. However, the book’s depiction of the vivid interior life and imagination of a child, the delight of roaming free, making shelters and dens away from the grown-ups, as well as ideas such as the universal language of friendship - and even the importance of recycling - feel as fresh and relevant today as they did when Puffin first published it in 1963. I remember reading Stig of the Dump when I was little and longing for a special secret Stig and dump of my own. We extend our thoughts and sympathies to the family."

Stig of the Dump has never been out of print and has sold over 2 million copies. The story was adapted for television in 1981 and in 2002, and in 2013 was the subject of a radio programme by author David Almond in appreciation of the book’s 50th anniversary of publication. In 2015 Clive gave a collection of his work, including manuscripts, letters and cuttings to Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books – providing a fascinating insight to his life and writing career.

Stig of the Dump may have been written when the world was a very different place, but children’s imaginations remain the same – after all, who wouldn’t want to meet a real cave man and make their own den out of junk and stuff that people throw away?

Clive King’s first book, Hamid of Aleppo, was first published in 1958. Some of his other books include The Twenty-Two Letters, The Town that Went South, The Night the Water Came, Me and My Million, Ninny’s Boat, The Sound of Propellers, The Seashore People, Snakes and Snakes. He also wrote for children’s theatre, his plays included Poles Apart, Get the Message and The Butcher of Rye.

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