Friday 3 December 2021


 The one and only Dave Lull recently sent me a link to a piece in The Oldie written by a fellow member of the dwindling tribe of Nigels. Sadly no mention of Half Man Half Biscuit's Nigel Blackwell, or Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, but otherwise it's a pretty good survey of Nigels past and present. 
  There is no denying that, as Nigel Pullman notes, the name has what might be called an 'image problem' – and one that seems to have deep roots. I was startled the other day to come across this passage in The Skin Chairs, a novel by the rather wonderful Barbara Comyns (The Vet's Daughter, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, etc.), written in 1962 but set in the Twenties. To set the scene... The young narrator is living with her family in reduced circumstances, and one of her older sisters, Polly, has become scandalously involved with a boy they nickname the Golden Boy, or Goldy. He is a last-year student at the local grammar school, but, 'unlike the other grammar school boys, he had a certain glamour, and we once overheard him tell a man at a petrol station [...] that he was joining his parents in the Middle East when he had finished his education. Although he was a boarder, he used to stroll around the town capless, his golden hair flowing and glowing in the sun, which always seemed to be shining on him. He walked with a casual grace and often had a faint smile on his face, which I thought attractive but Esmé said was a smirk. It was I who christened him the Golden Boy, and Esmé who remarked that all that glitters is not gold.'
In due course, Polly is rescued from her entanglement with the Golden Boy – whose name has now come to light –  and returns home to her family. 'Just as I was going to sleep I suddenly found myself laughing. "Nigel!" I whispered. "That's just the sort of name Goldy would have ... Nigel ..."' 
  Well really I meantersay chiz chiz, as my namesake N. Molesworth night say. 


  1. Wha?? 142 Kacpers and < 3 Nigels? There's a scourge of st custard's in my own family hem-hem but, unbelievably, his grandfather so loathed the name he never once uttered it!

  2. In Dawn Powell's novel The Wicked Pavilion, there is a Nigel. He is not prepossessing in appearance, but he cuts quite a swath among the ladies. I thought I had a copy of the novel somewhere in the house, but if so I can't find it, and can't tell you more about this Nigel.

  3. Yes Pipistrello, there are some mighty strange names coming up – one of the many mystifying features of these strange times...
    Thanks for the ladykiller Nigel, George – good to know. And there's also the chivalrous hero Sir Nigel in Conan Doyle's novels about the White Company – he's the one I'm named after. My dad was a big Conan Doyle fan.