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The real Chummy?

(32 Posts)
hackmum Wed 08-Feb-12 13:10:50

This is for Call The Midwife fans.

The latest issue of the Radio Times has an article asking people to help find the real Chummy. Jennifer Worth's daughters say she was a real person, but that Worth didn't use her real name. They say they've seen photos of her that they no longer have.

In the book, Worth says that her father was governor of Rajasthan - but according to the RT governors of Rajasthan have all been Indian. She also says that Chummy won St Thomas's Nightingale Prize three times - but St Thomas has no such prize.

So Worth obviously changed or invented a few details, but the RT is asking people to write in if they have any idea who she might have been. It's piqued my curiosity (and we all love Chummy, don't we?) so I thought I'd pass it on to see if anybody else has any ideas.

mrsjay Wed 08-Feb-12 17:14:55

I would love to find out where she is and what she is doing, I read an article saying jennifer Worth said at the planning stages of CTMW that Maranda hart had to be chummy , maybe chummy was indian or mixed race ?

LaVolcan Wed 08-Feb-12 18:24:32

Presumably he would have been Governor during British Rule - in which case he would have been British rather than Indian.

I assume that Jennifer Worth changed the name of the Nightingale Prize too - after all she changed the name of the place she was to Nonnatus House.

I would love to know who she was and whether she is still alive.

LaVolcan Wed 08-Feb-12 18:34:39

Come to think... I am a bit surprised that the RT can't track her down. Doesn't the religious order in Call the Midwife still exist, although now based in Chichester? Won't they have a record of who worked for them, or possibly still have someone living with them who remembers her?

Petrean Wed 08-Feb-12 18:38:37

What Volcan said... Assuming she's real of course. The book mentioned she was a deb and presented to the King so
I really can't imagine it's that hard?

hackmum Thu 09-Feb-12 10:25:59

Yes, I wondered that too, LaVolcan. I guess it's possible they didn't keep records - you wouldn't necessarily have records going back nearly 50 years, would you? You'd think someone would remember her, though. I thought it was odd that Worth's daughters said that they'd seen a photo of her but didn't know her name. Surely their mother would have mentioned her real name at some point? Given the success of the books, you'd think it would have come up in conversation.

kreecherlivesupstairs Thu 09-Feb-12 10:29:09

Could she have been <quick look round> a made up person?

LaVolcan Thu 09-Feb-12 11:54:09

I suppose she could have been a sort of composite - you know, tall - one woman, posh - another, skilled midwife -someone else again. I get the impression that she was a bit older than the other midwives - who were what age? Mid-twenties? Jenny Worth has died but what about the other two?

hackmum Thu 09-Feb-12 12:04:56

According to the RT article, Cynthia died a few years ago of cancer - and that was her real name, apparently, though Worth changed the names of all the others, which I guess makes them hard to trace too. I do feel the daughters should have got a grip and asked their mum for more information while she was alive, in anticipation of all this:-)

mrsjay Thu 09-Feb-12 14:59:11

Maybe the writer didnt ask the midwives/nuns permission for them to be in the book so the characters are a mixup of people as somebody else said ,<dunno>

Jumbomummy Fri 10-Feb-12 12:58:41

As a 'retired' nurse myself, I wonder if the Royal College of Nursing, or Nursing and Midwifery Council would have records of 'Chummy's' training/registration, and there must be an old girls association for St Thomas's, or Roedean. Mind you, my family lived in India for centuries too, and were known as 'country born'.Not all generations were proud of their sometimes mixed-race heritage.I have a great aunt who told all her friends, when my family 'came home' in 1947,that she was educated at Roedean, because she was ashamed of her background.She was horrified when my grandfather revealed the truth in his autobiography years later!

hackmum Tue 14-Feb-12 13:29:16

In this week's Radio Times, they've got an interview with members of the actual order of nuns she belonged to (now based in Birmingham, apparently). They think that Chummy (despite what the daughters say) is a made-up character, and they also think that Sister Monica Joan is fictional.

I feel quite disappointed - I'd treated the book as a piece of social history. I accept the idea of having some licence, but now I don't know which bits to believe and which not. Am currently reading the harrowing Shadows of the Workhouse - but I don't know if I'm being needlessly harrowed if bits of it are just made up.

BakerGlynn Wed 15-Feb-12 17:46:37

I am the President of the Old Roedeanians' Association (ORA) and have been reading all the articles about the Chummy and watching the series Call the Midwife with interest as Chummy allegedly attended Roedean.

We have looked in our database of Old Roedeanians and cannot find anyone with a similar name in there. However, there is a chance that Chummy could be based on Dame Cicely Saunders (Founder of the Hospice Movement and Old Roedeanian) who also trained as a nurse at the Nightingale School, St Thomas's. Here is a link to her obituary for your reference. Quite a few of the facts seem to tie in with the description of Chummy in the books. Her education, the distant mother, only daughter with brothers and the fact she was reportedly very tall resonated with me in particular.

If Chummy was based on Dame Cicely, the fact that she was so well known and respected could be one of the reasons why Jennifer Worth kept her real identity secret.

What an intriguing mystery - it would be wonderful to solve this if we can! We would be happy to help in any way we can.

President ORA

mothmagnet Thu 16-Feb-12 14:55:16

Thank you for posting that information BakerGlynn, it's really interesting - good detective work. The obituary is fascinating, what an amazing person. As I read it I had an image of Chummy throughout.

In a way though, I hope it isn't her as I'd like to think she was alive, closer to her fictional character and still happily married to PC Noakes smile

1944girl Thu 16-Feb-12 21:41:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hackmum Fri 17-Feb-12 11:18:00

Yes, thanks for posting that BakerGlynn, and it is very interesting, but I'm still a bit sceptical! Cicely Saunders was never a midwife, was she? And she doesn't appear to have had any connection with the place where Jennifer Worth worked. I think the real answer lies in the photo of Chummy, which was supposedly given to the tv producer - I wonder if she still has it.

Will you be writing to the Radio Times with the theory?

trifling Fri 17-Feb-12 11:32:33

The RT article now has a name from someone who thinks she knows who it is - sounds promising

hackmum Fri 17-Feb-12 16:51:48

Are you referring to the top comment on this, trifling?'s-elusive-star

The dates don't seem quite right to me - too late for Chummy.

Interesting that one of the other commenters remembers Father Joe.

TunipTheVegemal Fri 17-Feb-12 17:05:20

I don't understand why the RT is taking everything so literally. Surely Jennifer Worth would have deliberately changed all the identifiable details while kept the things that fitted with the spirit of the character. So the real Chummy absolutely would NOT have gone to Roedean, she would have gone to Another Posh Girls' School, and her father would have been the governor of somewhere else, probably another bit of India but possibly elsewhere in the Empire, and so on.

CalamityKate Sat 18-Feb-12 12:00:10

I thought I'd read somewhere that Jenny Worth contacted Miranda Hart, saying something like "They're making a TV series of my books and you remind me so much of my friend Chummy - please think about auditioning"?

Or did I dream that?

LaVolcan Sat 18-Feb-12 14:03:34

"The dates don't seem quite right to me - too late for Chummy."

I don't think so myself - it seems to fit quite well to me.

Born 1926 in what was then British India. Therefore in her early thirties during the late 50s.
Presented to George VI - presumably some time between 1946 - 51, which fits age wise.
Trained 1958 - is that the date she qualified or the date she started training?
Living in Poplar 1960 in the place which Nonnatus house is supposed to be based on - this doesn't mean that she wasn't living there in 1958-59.

But some of those women having babies in 1957 must still be around - so surely someone remembers her?

BikeRunSki Sat 18-Feb-12 14:10:40

Calamity I saw Miranda on breakfast tv a few weeks ago and thst's what she said.

hackmum Sat 18-Feb-12 15:13:15

CalamityKate - the impression I had was that Jennifer Worth had written to Miranda saying, "You'd be perfect for Chummy", no mention of the word "my friend". In other words she could mean "the Chummy character I dreamed up". However, I may be wrong.

LaVolcan - you could be right about the dates. I'd imagined Chummy as being a bit younger, ie about the same age as Jennifer Worth (born 1935), but then there's no particular reason why she should be, I suppose. I agree, though, that if Chummy existed, and she did work as a midwife, then there must be women alive whose babies were delivered by her.

I'm still very intrigued by it all. In the second book she has a long account of how Sister Monica Joan is caught shoplifting by the police and taken to court. Surely she can't have made all that up? But if she did, what else did she make up? All very puzzling.

CalamityKate Sat 18-Feb-12 16:32:59

I know it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, but I find it a bit disappointing when you find out that what you thought was real, wasn't.

Like the Herriot books - it was all purported to be accurate at one time, then it turned out that a lot of the anecdotes were made up, or urban-legend-y.

CalamityKate Sat 18-Feb-12 16:40:36

My Friend Chummy

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