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23 January 2010

David Britten


Little is known about David Britten, who wrote one boys’ school story as well as co-authoring the four Ranford titles with Paul White, author of the Jungle Doctor stories. Paul White, in his autobiography Alias Jungle Doctor, records that he met Britten at the University of Sydney where White helped Britten become a Christian and the two became close friends (55).

The Making of Stephen Hall. London: Children's Special Service Mission, 1953. 188 pages. Illustrated 'L F L', b/w frontis. & small illus. throughout text.

Britten’s The Making of Stephen Hall is the first Australian example of an evangelist school story, promoting the duties of an active Christian life against a school background. In the beginning of the story Stephen Hall is a successful athlete at Westlake School who develops polio during the holidays, and is forced to spend months recovering in a hospital, questioning his faith in God. When he returns to school he is befriended by a classmate’s father and becomes a Christian. The story skips seventeen months, and Stephen and his friend, Brian, have been transferred to a different house, McIvor, and appointed School Prefects. The new Head wants the pair to try to reform the troublesome house which doesn’t take an interest in sport and runs an illicit smoking club. Stephen’s and Brian’s struggle with the wayward house is the central theme of The Making of Stephen Hall. The plot of an errant house being reformed was frequently used in British boys’ school stories. The Making of Stephen Hall is an Australian example of this motif but is different to the standard plot in the Christian approach the two Prefects take in trying to reform the house. The pair regularly pray for guidance and actively attempt to convert their schoolmates, typical aspects of evangelistic school stories. The two have good success, setting up a House Rowing Team, and converting four boys, but Stephen feels somewhat disappointed until one of his troublesome young charges asks to help him become a Christian.

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