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23 January 2010

D. Lindsay Thompson (Douglas Lindsay Thompson)

Douglas Lindsay Thompson, known as ‘Duncan’, was born on October 27, 1899, in Mosman, New South Wales, the eldest son of author, Lilian Turner, and her husband Fred Thompson (Turner & Poole 244). Thompson was educated at Sydney Grammar School, which he uses as a setting for his two boys’ school stories. As a journalist he worked for the Adelaide Advertiser, and the Melbourne Herald. At the Sydney Morning Herald, where he was a feature writer and chief of staff, his work as an investigative journalist led to an inquiry in the New South Wales Heath Service (Lees & Macintyre 414). He also wrote a history of the Smith Family organisation. It is not known whether he married or had any children.

Blue Brander: A Story of Adventure and Australian School Life. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1927. 313 pages. Illustrated 'W. E/F? Wightman', b/w frontis. & 3 b/w illus.

Thompson’s first story in a series of two about ‘the Gang’, ‘Blue’ Brander and his friends, Johnson, Burton, Hyde and Warnecke, is part school story, part adventure story. Blue Brander neatly combines adventure with more traditional school story elements; a new master, ragging and a thrilling sporting victory, using the Easter Break for the adventure plot sandwiched between more typical scenes of school life. Blue Brander opens with Brander of the Middle Fifth leading a scrimmage against the Upper Fifth. As a result, the new master, Mr Doohan, unjustly punishes Johnson, the School rowing stroke, banning him from rowing for three weeks, meaning the school’s chances of winning the upcoming Head of the River Race are severely diminished. Brander plots revenge on Mr Doohan during the Easter holidays, even though Mr Doohan is dating his sister, Daphne. Blue Brander is similar to its contemporaries in that it sets the adventure storyline during a holiday period. The Branders, Mr Doohan and the Gang set off to the Jenolan Caves where Mr Doohan is going to search for his grandfather’s treasure hoard hidden years ago. When an old man the Gang befriended on the train trip turns out to be a bank robber, the Gang decide to foil his plans as well. They plan to find the treasure themselves, then hide a fake treasure and arrange so that the old man and Mr Doohan find it at the same time. Brander also enlists the help of a reporter to further complete Mr Doohan’s humiliation. The plan works well, with the Gang rescuing the bank robber’s stolen money too, though Brander is shot. The holidays over, the Gang return to school. Mr Doohan cancels Johnson’s punishment and Johnson helps Grantham win the Head of the River. When Brander learns that his sister and Mr Doohan are engaged he decides to end his feud with the master, and the Gang smuggle the treasure into Mr Doohan’s lodgings where he discovers it. It was not unusual for a master to unjustly punish a boy in a school story, or for the schoolboys to seek some sort of revenge, but the elaborate plans made by Brander and his friends and their success are remarkable.

The Gang on Wheels. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1930. 269 pages. Illustrated 'W. Edward Wigtall', b/w frontis. & 3 b/w illus.

The Gang on Wheels furthers the adventures of the Gang, Brander, Johnson, Burton, Hyde and Warnecke, started in the previous story, Blue Brander. They are now in the Upper Sixth and have returned to school after the summer holidays. In The Gang on Wheels Thompson employs a similar structure to his previous story, including an adventure story in a holiday setting while opening and concluding the novel in school. The story opens with typical school minutiae, a fight between Johnson, and Kidman, a newly appointed prefect. There is some antagonism between the pair as much of the school feels that Johnson, the popular sportsman, should have been made a prefect instead of Kidman. The adventure part starts when Hyde finds a roll of forged florins and with the school having to close due to the Influenza epidemic, the Gang decide to investigate. The inclusion of this real life incident is distinctive; Thompson would have been not many years out of school when the epidemic occurred. The Gang travel to the Wingecarribbe Swamp in Brander’s ramshackle car as Hyde thinks this would be the perfect location for a counterfeiting forge to be hidden. At the same time Kidman and his family are embarking on a holiday to the same area and the two groups meet when they are involved in an accident. Mr Kidman is kidnapped and it turns out that it is one of his employees, and his daughter and two men who are the forgers. The Gang rescue Mr Kidman and pursue the forgers but they manage to escape. Later the police capture them. As with other boys’ adventure stories the role of the police is somewhat limited due to the ample capabilities of the hero and his friends. With the epidemic over, Grantham School is reopened, Johnson is appointed to a vacant Prefect post and Burton is made Senior Prefect. Brander is left wondering what this new responsibility will mean for the adventures of the Gang. Thompson brings in a touch of romance, with Hyde falling in love with Kidman’s sister, quite an unusual element in a boys’ school story.


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