Above: Roald Dahl and his sisters photographed whilst on holiday in Tenby, Wales, circa 1924 (L-R: Asta, Else, Alfhild, Roald).
13 Sep 1916 – the date on which Roald Dahl was born, in Llandaff, Cardiff, to parents Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg.
Did You Know?
In 2013, Roald Dahl’s birthplace Villa Marie (now named Ty Gwyn) was put up for sale, valued at £1.45m.
Above: The former Norwegian Church in Cardiff, built in 1868 by the Norwegian Mission to Seamen, in which Roald Dahl was christened in late 1916. It was originally in Bute West Dock but was dismantled in 1987 and rebuilt in its current location in 1992, two years after Dahl’s death. Dahl was the president of the Norwegian Church Preservation Society. (Credit: Eirian Evans, via Wikimedia Commons).
Did You Know?
Roald Dahl was named after the famous Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who, 5 years before Dahl’s birth, led the first expedition to reach the South Pole (on 14 December 1911).
1918 – the year in which the Dahl family moved to Radyr, and into Ty Mynydd (Welsh, meaning ‘Mountain House’), an imposing Victorian farmhouse (now demolished) that Roald would later describe as “a mighty house with turrets on its roof and with majestic lawns and terraces all around it” (Boy).
150 acres – the size of the farm that came with Ty Mynydd, which included a number of farm outbuildings (including a piggery), as well as large gardens, a croquet lawn, and large greenhouses.
5 – the number of children born to Harald and Sofie; Roald and his sisters Astri, Alfhild, Else and Asta. Roald also had a half-sister, Ellen Marguerite (b: 1903), and half-brother, Louis (b: 1906), from his father’s first marriage.
Harald and Sofie’s Children
|Astri Dahl||Dec 1912 – 1920|
|Alfhild Dahl||1914 – 1967|
|Roald Dahl||13 Sep 1916 – 23 Nov 1990|
|Else Kirsten Dahl||15 Dec 1917 – Dec 1998|
|Asta Dahl||1920 –|
3 – Roald’s age when his older sister Astri died of appendicitis, aged 7, in February 1920.
He adored her beyond measure, and her sudden death left him literally speechless for days afterwards. He was so overwhelmed with grief that when he himself went down with pneumonia a month or so afterward, he did not much care whether he lived or died. – Roald Dahl on his father’s grief over Astri’s passing, from ‘Boy’.
57 – the age at which Roald’s father Harald succumbed to pneumonia and died (about a month after Astri’s death).
6 – the number of children that Sofie Magdalene Dahl (then aged 35) was left to bring up on her own; Roald, his sisters Alfhild and Else, his step-siblings Ellen and Louis, and Asta, with whom Sofie was pregnant at the time of Harald’s death. Sofie moved the family back to Llandaff and into a smaller and more modest home, Cumberland Lodge (now part of Howell School).
1921 – the year that Roald started attending kindergarten, along with his sisters Alfhild, Else and Asta, at the Elmtree House nursery school in Llandaff.
Above: The playing fields of Llandaff Cathedral School, with the cathedral in the background.
7 – the age at which Dahl left kindergarten and moved up to Llandaff Cathedral School, a Preparatory School for boys, starting there in 1923.
1925 – the year that Roald was removed from Llandaff Cathedral School by his mother (see Did You Know? below) and moved to a boarding school, St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Weston–super–Mare, aged 9.
Did You Know?
After Roald and four accomplices received a severe caning for ‘The Great Mouse Plot’ (in which they terrorised the village sweetshop owner, Mrs Pratchett, by placing a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers), his furious mother Sofie first reprimanded the headmaster and then withdrew Roald from Llandaff the following term.
Above: The former site of the sweetshop in Roald Dahl’s boyhood home of Llandaff, Wales, in which the young Roald played his prank on the proprietor, Mrs Pratchett. A blue plaque was erected in 2009 to commemorate the role that the shop played in Dahl’s life and autobiography, Boy (Credit: Jvhertum / Eirian Evans, via Wikimedia Commons).
1930 – the year in which Roald, now aged 13, moved on to Repton Public School in the village of Repton, Derbyshire. He joined in the January, a term later than most of the other pupils, and stayed in The Priory on High Street (still a boys’ house for the school today).
2 – the number of pet mice that Roald kept at this time, Marmaduke and Montague. He had to leave them at home when he left for Repton.
12 – the typical number of new chocolate bars that the confectioner Cadburys would occasionally send to Roald and his fellow Priory House boys at Repton Public School, for the purposes of sampling and reviewing. The boys would taste the chocolate ‘blind’ and complete a checklist to give marks for each new product.
17 – the age at which Roald left Repton Public School, in July 1934.
No, thank you. I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to wonderful faraway places like Africa or China. – Roald’s response to his mother when offered the option of going on to study at either Oxford or Cambridge.