Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
NameElspeth (aka Emma and “Nellie” ) HALLSMITH , 199
BirthAugust 21st 1923
DeathApril 24th 2018
MotherJanet LAURIE , 2309
Birth7 Mar 1914
Death22 Sep 1957
EducationPangbourne Nautical College
FatherCaptain Thorold Arthur STEWART-JONES , 163 (1873-1915)
MotherEva Joan HOLLAND , 164 (1884-1942)
ChildrenBarnaby (“Barney”) Richard , 200 (1951-)
 Lucy Rose (“Rosie”) , 201 (1955-)
Notes for Elspeth (aka Emma and “Nellie” ) HALLSMITH
Well known writer under the the name of Emma Smith. She was born in Cornwall in 1923 and was privately educated.  In 1939 she took her first job in the Records Department of the War Office before volunteering for work on the canals; this gave her the material for Maiden's Trip (1948), which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. She spent the winter of 1946-7 with a documentary film unit in India and then lived in Paris and wrote The Far Cry (1949), awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the best novel of the year in English.

In 1951 she married R S-J . After his death in 1957 she went to live in rural Wales; she then published very successful children's books, short stories (one of which was runner-up in the 1951 Observer short story competition that launched the winner, Muriel Spark, on her career) and, in 1978, her novel The Opportunity of a Lifetime. Since 1980 she has lived in Putney in south-west London


The Times 2nd May 2018

At the age of 24, Emma Smith was sitting on the bank of the Seine one hot summer day, her typewriter on her knees, wearing a halter-neck top and shorts. A roving photographer named Robert Doisneau strolled by and took her photograph without her knowing. It was 1948. The picture appeared in Paris Match, in a heatwave feature. And Doisneau later included it in all his collections. The two never met, but for Smith that image symbolised the time she spent in Paris (“dream city of aspiring writers”) renting a tiny room on the Left Bank and working on her second novel, The Far Cry, about a young girl in India under the Raj, based on her own visit there in 1946.

This became a second bestseller for her: The Far Cry won the James Tait Black prize as the best English novel of 1949. Critics were rapturous. “Here is a clever young woman!” cried George Malcolm Thomson in the Evening Standard. She was “fresh, funny, sympathetic,” “amazingly perceptive”, “witty and compassionate”. Elizabeth Bowen called the novel a savage comedy with a visionary streak, and declared: “She brings to English fiction something too often lacking: a superabundant vitality.” Smith seemed destined for a life of literary glory.

Yet The Far Cry was out of print by 1951. It was reissued half a century later by Nicola Beauman’s enterprising Persephone Books, with immense success. Galvanised in her eighties, Smith then published two volumes of memoir, finding a new devoted readership attracted by her penetrating observation and self-mocking humour.

Emma Smith was a nom de plume. She was born Elspeth Hallsmith in Newquay in 1923, the third of four children in “a deeply unhappy, dysfunctional family”. Her father, Guthrie Hallsmith, DSO, a decorated but traumatised PoW in the First World War, wanted only to be a painter, an ambition thwarted by his annual rejection by the Royal Academy. “Instead he spent his entire life in a bank, a job he loathed. No wonder he was always in a rage,” said his daughter. Her mother, Janet, struggled heroically to hold the family together despite her “thundercloud” husband; Elspeth was his favourite but veered between revulsion and filial duty. One day he launched a physical attack on his wife, and soon left the family altogether. Books were already Elspeth’s refuge from the rows and violence around her: she worked her way through Dickens, Henry James, Conrad and Saki, “which brought me a different world from my own overshadowed and anxious one”.

Perhaps it was the tension between her fears and her intense inquisitiveness, she said, that made her a compulsive writer: “I spoke to nobody and nobody spoke to me. Other people were like characters in a book, and I was a seeing eye, a fly on the wall.”
Her schooldays were brief (“It wasn’t done to want to learn, you see”), but she was well-taught by governesses, and from the start her prose had an original, graceful yet effortless style. Released by the Second World War from the constraints of tennis parties, she first went as a typist to MI5 at Blenheim Palace. She then volunteered as a “boater” on a narrow boat carrying coal and other cargo on the Grand Union Canal, enjoying a barefoot bargee’s life in dungarees, getting familiar with canalside pubs, locks, and factory workers’ caffs. It was “an undreamed of world, a complete education”, inspiring her first novel Maidens’ Trip, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize.

What took her to India in 1946 was that a friend, the documentary-maker Ralph “Bunny” Keene, was making a film for the Tea Board. They sailed on the SS Andes with two cameramen and the poet Laurie Lee as scriptwriter. Hectically scribbling, 22-year-old Emma (it was Lee who suggested her new name, while she encouraged him to write his childhood memoir, Cider with Rosie) kept a graphic diary. Those months in Calcutta and the Naga hills at the tail end of the Raj “burst upon me with the force of an explosion”: the exotic sights and sounds, the searing heat, the teeming life and colour were such a fantastic contrast to drab, rationed postwar London. And on the voyage out, she observed Lee with a gimlet eye (“kissing of hands, and the girls in raptures”) an education in itself, as she saw hearts being broken.

As for the British in India, her observations were scathing: “The awful creatures at Dibrughar, ordering whisky after whisky in the middle of the day, lolling at the bar in their shorts and boasting to each other of past drinking bouts — looking so silly, their lives just one string of parties and polo and rubbish.” These impressions became, in The Far Cry, those of her heroine, a wary, awkward 14-year-old girl taken to India by her scratchy, pompous father.

In 1951 at the Chelsea Arts Ball Smith fell in love with the amiable Richard Stewart-Jones, a Chelsea borough councillor known as Rick and a restorer of old houses. They married within a month, inviting no guests, at Chelsea Old Church, for whose post-Blitz restoration the bridegroom had vigorously campaigned.

Stewart-Jones was a man dedicated to two things, as James Lees-Milne wrote: the preservation of beautiful buildings and scenery, and the happiness and wellbeing of his fellow men. “Darling Richard,” Smith said, “he gave marvellous parties, and lived like a rich man, which he wasn’t at all.” Through the National Trust, for which he volunteered, the couple went to live at the supposedly haunted Combe Manor in Berkshire, a Charles II shooting box, with their two children, Barnaby and Rosie. Barney became a BBC producer who edited Breakfast with Frost, but now teaches at City University; Rosie is an interior decorator.
In Berkshire, Smith wrote for the News Chronicle about life as a country wife. “It paid £20 a week, which we badly needed, but I hated doing it. I’d shut myself in the gazebo to write these funny pieces with tears rolling down my cheeks, seeing Barney’s little figure trailing round the garden looking for me.”

In the seventh year of their marriage, her husband, a chain-smoker, had three coronaries: the third killed him, at 43. He was in the middle of securing Dyrham Park near Bath for the National Trust, where they had planned to live in one wing. Smith, widowed at 34, was bereft. Being “deeply antipathetic to the sherry-party country gentry social network” she retreated to a Welsh hillside, to give her children, now eight and four, a rural life among unhierarchical farming people. She found an old school-house by a stream in Radnorshire without mains water or electricity.

In Wales, Smith wrote four children’s books, many short stories, poems and a screenplay. Yet The Far Cry was forgotten until the novelist Susan Hill found a copy (10p in a jumble sale) in Woodstock, and wrote a piece about it in 1978. So when Persephone Books was launched, the time was ripe for a reissue of The Far Cry in 2002.

A tall, lean figure, without vanity, Smith seemed astonished when Persephone invited her to the shop to address her readers. She handed round her Indian souvenirs, including an impressive Naga spear. She was back in London, in a Beatrix Potter cottage on Putney Common, with a whistling kettle and roses rambling wildly in the garden.

Yet it was Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury, who had read and loved Maidens’ Trip in her Chelsea childhood to whom Smith, having dug out her old typewriter, offered her new manuscript. The Great Western Beach was about her childhood. Bloomsbury published it in 2008 when she was 85, and Diana Athill said she had “rarely come across a more gripping childhood memoir”. Bloomsbury then reprinted Maidens’ Trip, after which Smith vowed she would write no more. But Pringle and her husband Rick Stroud took her to lunch at the Chelsea Arts Club, and entreated her to do a final volume. She completed it at the age of 90, interrupted by a family holiday in Kenya, at a rented beachside lodge near the Tanzanian border. Smith said she was too old to go gallivanting, but her grandson promised to guide her every step of the way. So once more she sat on a beach, under palm trees, gazing out to sea.

In 2013 the critical acclaim for As Green As Grass brought one more late success for the invincibly resilient Emma Smith, the deserving heroine of her own life.

The Guardian 24th April 2018

Few writers get a second chance at success, but after a hiatus of more than 50 years after her first work was first published, Emma Smith, who has died aged 94, enjoyed that rare experience with two acclaimed memoirs.

Her début novel, Maidens’ Trip, an account of life on the Grand Union Canal during the second world war, was published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize. It was one of two novels written while she was working as a runner-cum-secretary for Laurie Lee, then a young screenwriter, in the postwar years. He suggested the nom de plume Emma Smith – she disliked her birth name, Elspeth Hallsmith, because its sibilance landed her with the nickname “Spitty” at school. She encouraged him to write Cider with Rosie. But though close, their friendship was never romantic, in part, Smith said tartly, because Lee was capable of loving only one person: himself.

In 1946 she travelled to India with Lee for a documentary. The soon-to-be independent country left an impression, and, pressed for a follow-up to Maidens’ Trip, Smith drew on the trip for the comedy The Far Cry (1950), another bestseller. The following year she married and, over the following decades, published little.

More than 20 years later, the writer Susan Hill discovered a copy of The Far Cry at a school jumble sale. It was, Hill enthused in her World of Books column in the Daily Telegraph, “a forgotten masterpiece”. She lobbied for it to be republished, but the novel did not reappear until 2002. Soon afterwards the author was hunted down to write a memoir.

The Great Western Beach (2008), typed on the same machine she had used for her earlier works, was a vibrant account of her childhood in 1930s Cornwall, and an immediate success. Smith repeated the feat with As Green As Grass (2013), which recalled her postwar adventures.

One of four children of Janet (nee Laurie) and Guthrie Hallsmith, she was born in Newquay, Cornwall. Young Elspeth and her siblings roamed local beaches, playing in rock pools, swimming and reading, to escape the stifling conformity of their middle-class parents. Banned from mixing with “hoi polloi”, she rebelled. In The Great Western Beach Smith recounted narrowly escaping the belt after playing with a boy from a Barnardo’s home.

Her parents’ marriage was desperately unhappy. During the first world war, Janet had served as a nurse, Guthrie a soldier, whose bravery earned the Distinguished Service Order and promotion to captain. But the conflict left him mentally scarred. His anguish exacerbated by frustration at the daily humiliations he suffered in his day job as a bank clerk, he was a domestic tyrant.

Her father was a formative influence on Smith as a writer – the two would read poetry together – yet his daughter later expressed relief at his abandonment of the family following a breakdown when she was 12. The family had then recently moved to Dartmoor, and her father left for St Ives to pursue a career as a painter.

Interviewed in the Guardian in 2008, she blamed his terrifying outbursts for her lifelong state of “extreme nervousness” at parties. “I always felt … I am going to disgrace myself and the family,” she said.

On the outbreak of the second world war, she escaped to work for the War Office, headquartered at Blenheim Palace. But she was bored and, when the chance came, volunteered to crew canal boats carrying vital supplies along the Grand Union Canal. A tough job, it offered Smith, still a teenager, exhilarating freedom and she would run along the narrowboat barefoot – she once forgot her shoes when on leave, to the consternation of her mother. It was canal life that inspired her to write Maidens’ Trip.

The Far Cry was written in Paris, during a heatwave, when Smith would take her portable typewriter to the Île de la Cité, and typed while sitting on cool cobblestones. It was here that, unseen, the photographer Robert Doisneau snapped her for Paris-Match magazine.

In 1951, she married Richard Stewart-Jones, who worked for the National Trust, within four weeks of meeting him at a new year’s ball at the Royal Albert Hall. He died of a heart attack six years later, and she was left with two young children and a portfolio of heavily mortgaged houses in Chelsea thanks to his misguided investments. After she had sold all but one house, Smith fled to rural Wales and an isolated farmhouse, her situation not dissimilar to that of her mother abandoned on the edge of Dartmoor 23 years earlier. The house had no running water or electricity.

There she continued to write – a series of children’s books and a novel, The Opportunity of a Lifetime (1978), published not long before she returned to live in Putney, south-west London.


Always redoubtable – she was recovering from a broken back caused by playing tennis with her grandsons when she wrote As Green As Grass – she went into hospital in January following a fall. Despite her decline, she insisted on completing the Guardian crossword every day and almost to the end would challenge her basic language skills by reading novels in their original French, dictionary to hand.

She is survived by her children, Barney and Rosie, and three grandsons.

• Emma Smith (Elspeth Hallsmith), writer, born 23 August 1923; died 24 April 2018

The Telegraph 25th April 2018

Emma Smith, writer – obituary

Emma Smith, who has died aged 94, looked set fair in the late 1940s to become one of Britain’s leading novelists after publishing two highly successful books in her early twenties; in the event she virtually stopped writing, but in old age she saw her early works republished to renewed acclaim, and resumed her career with two highly praised volumes of autobiography.

She was able, in her early fiction, to draw on a range of unusually adventurous experiences for a young middle-class woman of her generation, having been spared the expected life of secretarial drudgery by the intervention of the Second World War.

She was born Elspeth Hallsmith in Newquay on August 21 1923, into what she called “a deeply unhappy, dysfunctional family.” Her father Guthrie, a bank clerk who had been badly affected by his service in the Great War, “overshadowed our family like a black cloud”, she said.

He was prone to terrifying outbursts and when she was 12, not long after the family had moved from Cornwall to Dartmoor, she felt relief when he abandoned his wife Janet and their children to pursue a career as a painter. In later life, though, she came to appreciate how much he had done, despite his other shortcomings, to stimulate her love of literature.

Early in the war she went to do clerical work for a branch of the War Office – or MI5, as she admitted in later life – in Blenheim Palace, but although glad to have escaped home she was bored stiff, and answered an advertisement for women to work on canal narrowboats that had been grounded since their male crews had been called up. Aged 19 she found herself working with other young women from all social backgrounds on three-week round-trips ferrying steel to Birmingham and coal back to London.

It was physically demanding work and lavatory facilities were rudimentary – it was “bucket and chuck it”, she recalled – but she was proud to earn the respect of bargemen and dockers, and found the experience hugely liberating.

In 1948 she published Maidens’ Trip, a lightly fictionalised account of her adventures, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was a bestseller. “It was what people wanted, something light-hearted about the war,” she reflected in old age.

In the meantime she had met the film-maker Raymond “Bunny” Keene when he asked her to dance at the Gargoyle Club, and in 1946 she agreed to accompany him as a gofer on a trip to India to make a documentary about tea plantations.

The scriptwriter accompanying the party was Laurie Lee, who encouraged her early attempts at writing (as she encouraged his) and suggested that she take “Emma Smith” as a pseudonym. “People always tried to make me say I had a love affair with Laurie,” she said in 2009. “But he was just a very good friend. I went off [him], though – he needed so much adulation.”

Emma Smith smokes a cigarette in her doorway after a day spent working on her cottage in Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, April 1950
Emma Smith in Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, April 1950 CREDIT: KURT HUTTON/PICTURE POST/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY
The contrast between drab wartime London and the colour of Bombay and Calcutta hit her “like an explosion”, she said, and she kept a detailed diary of her trip; on her return she went to live in Paris and started to write another novel based on her experiences.

One day while working on her typewriter by the Seine she was unwittingly snapped by the photographer Robert Doisneau. The picture became one of the most famous examples of his work, but it was not until 2013 that Emma Smith revealed herself to be its subject.

Her second novel, The Far Cry, was published in 1949; the story of an English girl spirited off to India by her neurotic father to escape the clutches of his loathed ex-wife, her mother, it proved to be Emma Smith’s masterpiece. It was another popular and critical success, and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Elizabeth Bowen hailed “a savage comedy with a vicious streak … She brings to English fiction something too often lacking: a superabundant vitality.”

In 1951 Emma Smith married Richard Stewart-Jones, an architectural conservationist who had once been the lover of James Lees-Milne, a month after she had met him at a new year ball. She enjoyed a smart social life unlike anything she had known before, and lost interest in writing.

In 1957 her husband died of a heart attack, leaving considerable debts, and Emma Smith went with her son and daughter to live in a cottage with no electricity or running water in Wales; she occupied her time by writing children’s books. She published another novel for adults, The Opportunity of a Lifetime, in 1978 and the following year Maidens’ Trip was dramatised on BBC Two, but it was not until 2002, when Persephone Books reissued The Far Cry as part of a series of neglected classics by women, that her work again received serious attention.

Emma Smith, who wore bright colours and even as an octogenarian had an air of 1930s Bohemia, was delighted to receive praise from writers such as Michael Ondaatje. She decided to return to writing for a wider audience, keen to record her experiences for her grandchildren.

Her two volumes of memoirs were The Great Western Beach (2008), describing her childhood in Cornwall, and As Green As Grass (2013), which dealt with her life up to her marriage; it was typical of her determined personality that she finished the latter book despite having broken her back. Her publisher noted that she had “total recall” and, unlike many memoirists, invented nothing.

Emma Smith is survived by her son and daughter.

Emma Smith, born August 21 1923, died April 24 2018

From The Sunday Times

July 13, 2008
The Great Western Beach: A Memoir of a Cornish Childhood Between the Wars by Emma Smith

The Sunday Times review by Lynne Truss

Until she was 12 years old, from 1923 to 1935, Elspeth Hallsmith lived in Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall. On the Great Western beach, men with horses and carts distributed the deck-chairs every day and collected them at dusk; residents used old, iron-wheeled bathing machines for beach huts; Italians dispensed vanilla ice cream; and fearless little girls with their hair in rat's tails surfed the waves on home-made boards that were just heavy planks of wood.
Family picnics on the beach consisted of (each) a tomato, a hard-boiled egg, a cornish pasty and so on, all finished off with a Fyffes banana - and there was a rigid rule that nobody must bathe until at least three quarters of an hour after eating. “We believe this absolutely,” writes Emma Smith, in her customary present tense, “and when foolhardy visiting friends rush into the water within half an hour, or less, of eating, we expect to see them throw up their arms and die in front of our eyes.”
The Great Western Beach is a wonderful book, full of unexpected effects, and I suspect that it will become a classic of the genre. The straightforwardness of its prose should fool nobody: there is a powerful emotional undertow to this memoir that drags you in and carries you off, especially if you forgot to wait 45 minutes for that banana to go down.
Being entirely free from self-pity, this is the antithesis of a misery memoir. It is full of fresh air and sunlight and photographs of healthy children in bathing costumes against a glittering sea. But the breeze that blows through the book is not nostalgia. The Hallsmiths were not a happy family, and young Elspeth (who changed her name later to Emma Smith) was an observant and empathic child caught up in domestic tangles beyond her control. Perhaps everyone should wait until they are in their eighties to write about their childhood. Smith's whole purpose in Great Western Beach is to describe, explain and evoke what one child saw, did, felt and understood three quarters of a century ago. The absence of blame is not only refreshing but astonishing, and I think elevates the book to something brilliant.

Perhaps the exceptional feature of this particular childhood is that Elspeth was not sent to school until the family left Newquay, when she was 12. While the rest of us may struggle to remember how the world seemed to us before we were five, Elspeth's life suffered none of the usual jolting discontinuity caused by pegs in the cloakroom, teachers with whistles and little boys pulling your hair out. Thus, for 12 formative years, her world was the family home and the people inside it.

Father was Guthrie Hallsmith, an employee of the Midland Bank and a veteran of the first world war, a man volcanically frustrated by the lowly anonymous life that fate had awarded him (he kept “a daily look-out for insults”). Several years older than her husband, mother was Janet, an emotionally distant and morally strict woman who devolved childcare to her helper, the round-faced Lucy Coles. Older than Elspeth by three years were the twins, Pam and Jim: tall Pam, who boldly stood up to her angry, bullying father; and sickly Jim, who didn't. “Jim's aim is, as also is mine, simply to get by; to be, by hook or by crook, a survivor.”
What the beach represented to this family was nothing less than salvation. “To be out of the house, out-of-doors, to be sitting on the sand, or on smooth rocks, with the sounds of the sea making unnecessary any attempt at conversation: this has for them [the parents], it would seem, a significance of almost religious intensity...We become aware of a letting-go at last, a blessed loosening of a sigh exhaled.”

Is the child's awareness of all these undercurrents her salvation in turn? Or did it make matters worse that she so often understood what was happening? The word “witness” occurs significantly often, and the book is full of episodes that the greatest of short-story writers would gladly trade limbs for. When her father finds a valuable gold and opal brooch on the beach and proudly presents it as a gift to her mother (who is shocked), the argument that ensues is almost unbearable to read about, simply because it's told from the children's bystanding perspective.

I seem to be running out of space already here, which is annoying, as I haven't told you about the tennis club, or the three different houses the Hallsmiths lived in, or mother's lettuce-green dress, or the eccentric ladies who ran the Rose Tea Room, or Elspeth's treasured, painted plaster goose-girl (with her flock of four plaster geese), or even the rather unlikely visit to Newquay from TELawrence, whose brother had once been betrothed to Elspeth's mother. This visit was almost subliminally short, by the way, but its brevity was a significant part of its interest. “Ned” Lawrence turned up to the beach late on his motorbike, snubbed Pam (who never forgave him), then had a heated shouting-match with their father out of earshot, and roared off. Since nobody ever talked about it afterwards, the whole episode remained a mystery. Why was he so rude? One can appreciate, of course, that he'd seen quite a lot of sand before, but that was surely no excuse.

The book ends with two powerful blows to the reader's already wind-buffeted, sea-churned and sun-blasted emotions. An afterword is directed to the author's parents (“How I wish I could have saved you”), which is so sincerely compassionate that I honestly can't read it without weeping. And then there is the final picture - the distant figure of a child alone on a beach, which is just what you would expect, of course, except that it breaks your heart.
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