One of the best-loved authors associated with the South West Coast Path is Dame Rosamunde Pilcher, whose literary career spanned five decades, resulting in over 20 novels and many collections of short stories. Her best-loved novel, 'The Shell Seekers', has sold more than five million copies worldwide, and in 1996 'Coming Home' won the Romantic Novelists' Association's 'Romantic Novel of the Year Award'. Her books are prized for the warmth and compassion with which Pilcher portrays lovable characters in everyday situations that the reader can relate to, as well as her breathtaking descriptions of idyllic places, many of them on the Cornish coast.
Pilcher became a household name after the phenomenal success of 'The Shell Seekers', a semi-autobiographical family saga published in 1987. Set in London and Lelant, the lives and loves of three generations of the Keeling family from the Second World War onwards propelled the novel into the bestseller lists, where it lingered for months, establishing Rosamunde Pilcher as one of the most popular storytellers of the twentieth century.
Awarded the OBE in 2002 for services to literature, Dame Rosemunde Pilcher has been writing since the age of seven. Her first novel, a romance written under the pseudonym Jane Fraser, was published by Mills and Boon in 1949, and she wrote a further nine romantic novels using this pen name, the last being published in 1963. Meanwhile, in 1955 'A Secret to Tell' was the first of the countless novels and short stories published in her real name in the next 45 years, before she retired from writing in 2000.
The Romantic South West Coast Path
Dame Rosamunde's books have been extensively adapted for TV and films, and numerous locations around the South West Coast Path have featured as the backdrop to these popular dramas.
In 1989 Central TV filmed The Shell Seekers at various places around West Penwith, including Mousehole and the picturesque Lamorna Cove. Five years later, in 1994, Frankfurter Films used a number of locations on the North Cornish coast as the setting for their adaptation of 'The End of Summer' and 'The Carousel'. A year later this same company returned to the area, visiting the Lizard peninsula as well as they screened another four of Pilcher's novels. In 1996, and again two years later, the South Devon coastline became the backdrop for their filming of two collections of her stories.
In 1998 Yorkshire Television turned 'Coming Home' into a two-part blockbuster starring Peter O'Toole, Joanna Lumley and Penelope Keith. Once again filming took place around West Cornwall and in Prideaux Place in Padstow. A year later its sequel, Nancherrow, was shot around the St Agnes coastline in North Cornwall, with Susan Hampshire starring alongside Joanna Lumley.
Pilcher's stories are especially popular in Germany, after the national TV station ZDF filmed more than 100 of them in numerous locations around the South West Coast Path and elsewhere. Among the station's most popular programmes, in 2002 these films earned director Dr. Claus Beling and Rosamunde Pilcher the British Tourism Award for the influence both books and films had on tourism in Cornwall and Devon.
A Wartime Romance
Born Rosamunde Scott in 1924 in Lelant, near St Ives, she attended St Clare's School, just outside Penzance, later transferring to Howell's School in Llandaff before moving on to secretarial college. In the Second World War she served with the Women's Royal Naval Service, doing a stint in Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1945, back home in St Ives, she met Graham Pilcher, a commanding officer with the Black Watch, who was staying with his grandmother while recuperating from battle wounds. Rosamunde and Graham were married in St Uny's Church, Lelant, in December 1946, and subsequently moved back to Dundee, where Graham returned to the jute business that had employed him before the war, becoming an important figure in the Scottish textile trade. The couple had four children, including a son (Robin) who followed in his mother's footsteps to become an author himself.