Desperately Seeking Rosie


Bank_Cottages_Slad

Author Laurie Lee’s childhood home. But who was Rosie?

The publication of Cider with Rosie in 1959 generated a hunt to find the real young lady behind the title.

Several possibilities have been put forward over the years and it is now generally considered that the author, Laurie Lee, used an amalgam of people. It is known, however, that a Rosalind Buckland, nee Gleed, lived in Slad during the period Lee recounts in his memoir. She was his cousin and it is her name which was immortalised in his most famous work, although she would only have been nine at the time of the infamous event, too young to be the secret sharer of the libation. She died last year, a few days short of her 100th birthday. The Telegraph printed her obituary (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11102469/Rosalind-Buckland-obituary.html).

Lee merged many of his earliest memories to create Cider with Rosie. It forms a central part of the Oxford Home Schooling Year 7 work on autobiographies. Students learn how Lee begins by writing from the point of view of a three-year-old, seeing the grass which surrounds him in his garden almost as a threat to his safety. It is this vivid recollection and his ability to express and embellish it which makes his work so enjoyable. He provides us with a lesson in the art of the autobiography, picking and choosing facts and giving us only what he feels will appeal to the reader.

I know how much our students enjoy his recollections of his village school, where a child ‘remained till he was fourteen years old, then was presented to the working field or factory, with nothing in his head more burdensome than a few mnemonics, a jumbled list of wars, and a dreamy image of the world’s geography’. Times may change but great literature endures and Rosalind Gleed, however unwittingly, played her part in the creation of one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century.