Bobby Brewster

Herbert Eatton Todd (Bertie) was born on 22 February 1908 in London, one of four children of a headmaster of an Elementary School in Buckingham Palace Road. His childhood there is reflected in the boy in the story 'The Changing of the Guard'. After attending his father's school he obtained a place in Christ's Hospital School, Horsham which existed to provide education of parents with limited means. He always said how much he had enjoyed life at Christ's Hospital. He left at sixteen and worked behind the counter in the ladies' clothing department of a large store in the west end of London. The husband of one of his customers once said to him: 'If you ever need a job, get in touch with me' and a few months later he did indeed lose his job in the depression. Frightened of being out of work, he contacted the address which had been given him and was offered a job in the small firm as a travelling salesman for ladies' shoes. His relief at obtaining work was so great that he remained with the same firm for the rest of his working life, apart from the war years.

He was living with his parents who had moved to Harrow. Here he and his younger brother Mike were involved in local dramatic and operatic performances where they developed comic routines. In a neighbouring street lived Joyce Hughes and she and Bertie were soon attracted to each other. Because of the effects of the depression their engagement lasted several years before they married in 1933, by which time Joyce's family had moved to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. Their first home was nearby in Kings Langley where their first son Jonathan was born, and in 1937 they bought a newly built house in Berkhamsted in which they lived for the rest of their lives. Both before and after the war in Berkhamsted Bertie was very active both in the local operatic society and the cricket club where he became captain.

During the war Bertie was called up and joined the RAF, being stationed in various places in Yorkshire, Herefordshire and Northern Ireland. He was particularly active in arranging concerts and dramatic entertainments for the RAF and in Herefordshire this brought him into contact with the Midlands office of the BBC in Birmingham. His second son Mark was born in 1942 and after returning to his family after the war he further developed stories he had started making up for Jonathan and so Bobby Brewster was born. His contact with the BBC in Birmingham led to regular sessions broadcast nationally on Children's Hour telling Bobby Brewster stories - then as always, from memory. His third son Stephen was born in 1947, and it was soon after this that Joyce suggested to him that he might try to get some of the stories published. After a few attempts the first book of stories 'Bobby Brewster and the Winkers' Club' was published in 1949.

All the early stories were those he had made up for his own sons. During the fifties and sixties, books of stories appeared regularly and radio broadcasts were joined by storytelling sessions on television. As he neared retirement from his salesman job, he arranged visits to the Primary Schools of the places he visited for selling shoes so he could combine story telling and selling shoes in the same day, and this way he developed contacts with schools around thew country. After his retirement from his job he extended this to more sessions, taking over the entertainment of children in schools for a morning or afternoon session.

His own sons were now grown up and Joyce died in 1969, and he was able to make extensive visits to other countries including South Africa, where his brother Mike now lived with his family, and then to Australia and New Zealand. He travelled by what were to be some of the last regular long distance passenger boats, working his passage as a childrens' entertainer, especially telling his own stories. Around 1980 he later travelled to the United States to visit his son Stephen and family and did a tour of schools on the Californian north-west coast.

After Joyce's death a local couple, Mary and William Davis, moved into his home to help manage it, and Mary also accompanied him on storytelling sessions helping with sale of the books.

Books of stories continued to be published regularly. At every session he asked his audience to let him know if they had ideas for stories and these ideas often inspired the stories for the next book. In addition a series of picture books of individual stories were developed in collaboration with the illustrator Val Biro, who lived in Amersham a few miles from Berkhamsted, and they also presented many school and bookshop sessions together.

He remained as active as ever in storytelling round the country until his death just three days after his eightieth birthday in 1988.