This led directly, just as retirement kicked in, to a happy decade of involvement in researching and writing on some of the subjects that most interested him – history, wildlife and sport, especially cricket. The history was aimed at children in the 8-11 age bracket and the format was in the style of pop-up illustrations – for example of a three-masted sailing ship that carried 19th century Irish immigrants escaping the great famine.
David wrote eight of these books altogether. The first two, Life on a Famine Ship and Titanic: the Ship of Dreams, proved to be popular in the USA, Titanic selling 177,000 copies there. Some of the other titles were also issued in foreign language editions; one even had Russian and Albanian editions.
David adopted the pen name of Duncan Crosbie for his children’s writing - “to stop my former publishing colleagues laughing too loudly if they saw my real name on the work” - but he was happy to use his own name for the sports and wildlife books. In 2001 he was one of a small Anglo-American group assisting the University of Mexico to trap and monitor small carnivores in the tropical dry forest along Mexico’s Pacific coastline. “It was immensely rewarding for the wealth of wildlife from birds to butterflies to reptiles,” he recalls. “The highlight, though, was finding an ocelot in one of our remoter traps, tranquilising it, measuring, weighing and examining its condition, before putting on a radio collar and releasing it. We stood well clear for the last bit!”
Full article available on pages 12/13.
By Claire Cooper
When David and Sheila Mortimer moved to Cuckfield more than 19 years ago, after 11 years in Lindfield, it was the start of a new chapter, both personally and professionally. Their eye was caught by the upcoming auction of the properties comprising Mill Hall School for Deaf Children, following its move to Newbury, and they were ready to downsize. They finished up with a wing of the old Victorian building, which had fewer rooms, to be sure, but with more space in and around them. Not quite what they’d intended!
“You’re mad,” said half of their friends, but Sheila fancied a project and David didn’t positively object, which was just as well as he spent the next 15 months redecorating, mainly in evenings and at weekends and often at the top of a long ladder. And then there was a garden to be created. They chose to preserve some reminders of the old school. ‘You too can have dreams’ was painted above the stairs and is still there. So too, on the bedroom wall, is the painting of a happy witch with an owl and a fat ginger cat in the basket of a balloon sailing over the Downs.
It was as ‘the project’ was coming to an end that Sheila came home one day from her work creating children’s books with a project that they had been approached to do, but for adults not children. Past Times (remember them?) wanted a book called Tips from the Old Gardeners. Would David, as an ex-publisher, be interested? He was, did lots of research and the resulting small book proved more successful than he expected.