Long-suffering wife of Quentin Kirrin and mother of George. We are told that Aunt Fanny’s family once owned all of the land around Kirrin but all that is now left is Kirrin Cottage, Kirrin Farmhouse and, of course, Kirrin Island. I like the idea of a matriarchal line of succession – as an only child George will inherit what’s left of her mother’s property – but must confess to being a little confused – presumably Quentin Kirrin is not only Fanny’s husband but also related to her by blood? To further complicate this tangled web, we are told that Julian, Dick and Anne’s mother is Fanny’s sister, but also that their father is Quentin’s brother. Perhaps best not to ponder this one further…
I suspect that Fanny and Quentin are distant cousins. They probably met at Oxford in the 1920s when Quentin was studying physics, and Fanny was reading English. Fanny might have studied under the yet-to-be-established F R Leavis and may even have been friends with Queenie Roth, who married Leavis in 1929. Despite this, Fanny would have been a tad annoyed at Q D’s 1932 publication, Fiction and the Reading Public, having a secret love for the lending library and the popular writers that Queenie dismisses. Aunt Fanny probably enjoys interwar authors like Dorothy Whipple, Marghanita Laski, Rosamund Lehmann, but no doubt also regularly reads the works of authors writing in the Great Tradition later espoused by F R.
Aunt Fanny is a gentle, homely woman and is endlessly patient with her eccentric husband’s bad habits and constant forgetfulness. Every so often she takes him in hand and occasionally expresses her exasperation, as, for example, when she berates him for failing to have lopped the tree that disasterously falls on Kirrin Cottage in Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.
Quentin’s workaholism allows Fanny to indulge her passions of reading and gardening and, to a lesser extent, cooking. Before the arrival of Joan the Cook (after the discovery of treasure in the first book, Five on a Treasure Island), Fanny does all of the cooking and housework herself. Joan’s presence gives Fanny more time to spend in the garden, or to serve on local village committees, but she still delights the children with her cooking on a regular basis. Fanny’s signature dishes include a supremely sticky gingerbread cake and a tomato soup made with fresh tomatoes.
Like many women of her generation, Aunt Fanny is well-skilled in the domestic arts. I posit that she enjoys knitting, quilting and embroidery. She loves to keep Kirrin Cottage filled with fresh wild flowers (she particularly likes primroses) and as a country housewife she almost certainly has good knowledge of the medicinal as well as culinary properties of different herbs. The cough remedy that George rubs on Timmy’s chest in Five Go Adventuring Again is probably one of Fanny’s homemade potions, for instance.
Although Fanny loves her daughter, nephews and niece, she appreciates the need for children to be independent and also enjoys a bit of time to herself, particularly after long periods spent with the difficult George. Fanny frequently lets the cousins go off on holidays and camping trips together, or leaves them alone at Kirrin for stretches of time. While this has often resulted in George being kidnapped, or one or more of the cousins being locked up by baddies, Fanny knows that the children’s adventures make them more capable and well-rounded individuals, opened up to people from other walks of life (fair and circus folk, the children of millionaires, petty criminals and ex-convicts, crime lords and spies). As Aunt Fanny and we know, things will always turn out right in the end.