Life and times of Berwick author Ann Hepple are fondly recalled

A Berwick housewife who became a renowned author brought images of her surroundings to millions of people across the world.

Friday, 4th January 2019, 10:39 am
Anne Hepple in Allanton with her bull terrier Susan

Anne Hepple’s first novel, Jemima Rides, in 1928 led to her appointment as the editor of the London Women’s Magazine from 1931 to 1934.

Her name was prominent on the front cover and her later novels first appeared in serial form in the magazine in which she wrote the agony aunt column.

She went on to write 27 novels before her death in 1959.

Anne Hepple Batty was born at Whinnycrook, Widdrington, on October 16, 1877. Eighteen months later, her mother died and she was sent to live with her paternal grandparents on a farm, where she developed her lifelong interest in nature and the Borders country, together with the down-to-earth philosophy of farm folk.

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Her father remarried twice while Anne was a child and the family relocated to Berwick. After an illness, the doctors recommended a spell abroad and Anne was sent to a finishing school in Germany, then lived in London where her early interest in literature and writing continued and she carried on writing poetry and earned money from articles in Country Life.

She returned to live in Berwick for a continuing romance with Bill Dickinson, who had a boot shop across the street from the town hall. Both families were against the marriage – her father was a prominent member of Berwick society and Bill was a poor cobbler – but love triumphed and the couple were married in 1903.

After her children Hepple and Bain were grown, Anne resumed her writing career but her short stories were not accepted for publication. Undeterred, she decided to write a novel – Jemima Rides – which was accepted for publication immediately and Anne earned the sum of £25.

She became an ardent suffragette and took part in demonstrations in Berwick in support of the cause.

Anne later moved to Broadmeadows, near the Chain Bridge, and then close to the river in Allanton before moving to Spittal in 1946 to be closer to town life.