Rosemary Ellerbeck, Class of 1950

Old Waconian Rosemary Ellerbeck (Class of 1950 ) was born in Cape Town, attended Cheadle Hulme School and went on to London School of Economics before pursuing a successful literary career as novelist, Nicola Thorne.

Rosemary recently got in touch with the School to recall some of her memories…

“I spent two years at Cheadle Hulme School in the Sixth Form as a Boarder. My parents were both on the staff, my mother Molly Ofner the Matron and my stepfather Curt Ofner a Maths Master. Most of my education had been at a convent school in Preston and going to a large coeducational school was a big shock. The School was our home and I had my own bedroom instead of sleeping in a dormitory and other privileges which made me feel uncomfortable. My parents socialised with many members of the senior staff and particularly the Head Mr Lockhart and the senior mistress Miss Stirk. However my fellow pupils, whatever they may have thought privately, accepted my curious status, were welcoming and friendly and even cajoled me into going camping with the Guides!  I worked hard enough to get a place to study Sociology at the London School of Economics where I stayed for five years, certainly one of the happiest periods of my life. London in the fifties was an exciting place to be. We had scarcely recovered from the war and certain things were still scarce. We made our own entertainment and had lots of parties. Television was in its infancy and coffee bars were a rarity. Restaurants however were plentiful and cheap, Schmidts in Charlotte Street being a particular favourite. I also remember the big smogs and standing in the middle of Oxford Circus in a peasouper.

Eventually armed with a degree I worked at Chatham House and the British Institute of Management but my heart was set on being a writer and I was never a good employee being repeatedly sacked. My first novels were written usually at work as I was invariably underemployed, hence the sackings when I was discovered. The first novels were never published, they were mostly turgid semi-autobiographical rubbish and it was just as well. But eventually I was taken on by a leading literary agency Curtis Brown and had my first novel published a thriller novel called Inclination to murder.

My first real success however was The Girls which again was semi-autobiographical but better written. Publishers vied for the paperback rights and there was talk of a film and I thought wrongly that I was going to be rich and famous. Which is really the story of my life.

I have now written 57 novels in many genres historical, contemporary and even Gothic, all published by leading publishers, some worldwide, many of which did very well, some optioned for films, and I made a good living. But it was always a bit on the edge and Nemesis finally caught up with me in 2002 when I had a near fatal car accident which virtually finished my career.

Publishing has changed enormously since I started. I feel I saw the glory days when there was intimacy and loyalty which seems to have disappeared in the relentless march of great corporations and mergers. It might still exist for some talented people but it is largely the age of celebrities most of whom have their books written for them. E books and self-publishing have made it possible for anyone to get published and in some ways this is a good thing, but it has also resulted in books being published which are far more rubbishy than mine in my early days. Writing is a craft which has to be honed. And few achieve or deserve instant fame.

I know Queen Victoria thought the institution of monarchy would die with her. Well her cynicism was misconceived, and maybe mine is too.”

Are you a contemporary of Rosemary’s? Do get in touch with her if you are – she would love to hear from you: