WHILE many might know the historic literary links Colchester has, there are some which have perhaps slipped under the radar.

Historian Neil Brinded, who has written a book about the former Colchester Royal Grammar School boys who fought in the First World War, None have Done Better, says he has discovered one some people might not have thought of whilst researching his book.

Neil explains he came across the story of Richard Prescott Keigwin who helped bring Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytales to an English audience - and was also a hugely successful cricketer in his own right.

He and his archivist wife Laurie Holmes happened upon Richard’s story after researching his brother, Henry, who was among those former grammar boys who lost their lives in the Great War.

Neil says : “Colchester has always been keen to claim an association with nursery rhymes and children’s tales.

“However, perhaps not so many people may realise that it was a Colchester-born man who was responsible for producing English versions of probably the greatest fairy stories of all – stories such as the Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, and many others, originally written by Hans Christian Andersen.”

Richard Prescott Keigwin, known as R P, was born in Colchester in 1883.

The family had lived in Capel St Mary before moving to Hospital Road, Beverley Road and later in Stanway, before settling in Lexden.


  • R P Keigwin, right, while at school ; image courtesy of the Clifton College archive

Neil adds : “R P was the fourth of five brothers, and attended Colchester Royal Grammar School before going on to Clifton College in Bristol. He then won a place at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, to read Classics and Modern Languages.

“There he was re-united with his brother, Henry, just two years older and a gifted musician and then at St Paul’s School in London.”

Both Henry and R P were talented cricketers and played together for Peterhouse.

RP won his cricket blue, though unfortunately Henry did not, and he also represented the University at hockey, football and racquets.”

Having left Cambridge the brothers returned to Colchester where they played for Essex and, in 1907, Wivenhoe during what was its most successful season.

He also represented the county, and on three occasions England, at hockey and went on to embark on his teaching career.

Henry was sadly killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 while R P spent the war as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy - and it is here his association with Denmark began.

Neil says : “He served on the battlecruiser, HMS Indomitable, protecting the Belgian and Danish coasts.

“For his services to these countries, he was made a Chevalier of the Belgian Order of King Léopold, and a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, a sort of ‘Danish OBE’, by King Christian X of Denmark.

“He was also awarded King Christian X’s medal for ‘valuable assistance rendered to Denmark during the war.”

Having got to know Denmark well, RP learned the language and took an active interest in the development of cricket there.


  • Bowling - R P keigwin playing cricket in 1907 ; photo belongs to Clifton College Archive

The first Danish club had formed in 1865 and the game expanded rapidly but then quickly slowed before coming to a standstill with the outbreak of the Second World War broke out.

RP helped revive interest and bring it to the attention of the international cricketing community by promoting visits from English teams, including Leicestershire and the Gentlemen of Worcestershire.

When the Royal Naval College closed in 1919, R P joined the staff of his old school, Clifton College to teach languages and while there became a leading authority on Hans Christian Anderson.

“One of his students at Clifton, the future film-actor, Sir Michael Redgrave, gave public readings of RP’s translations of Andersen’s work,” says Neil.

R P returned to East Anglia after he retired, to Polstead, and continuing to play club cricket into his 70s.

Neil, the former head of classics at the Royal Grammar School before retiring last summer, says: “His main focus now was on literary and academic work, particularly, but not exclusively, translations for new editions of Andersen’s tales. “ He continues : “R P’s aim was accuracy and to remain completely faithful to the original.

“In this he succeeded, winning the Hans Christian Andersen Prize for outstanding translation in 1964.

“Millions of children - and indeed adults - all over the English-speaking world, especially those born during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, who were given copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, owe their understanding and enjoyment of them to the work of R P Keigwin,” he explains.