Children’s author Michael Morpurgo: I was too immature to be a father
MICHAEL Morpurgo has admitted he was too "immature" to be a father as a new biography of his life reveals that his sons refuse to speak to him to this day.
Despite having more than 100 children's books to his name Mr Morpurgo said he was "not ready" to be a father when his first child was born in his early twenties, and that broken relationships were a "source of great pain" in his life.
The War Horse author, who himself had a turbulent upbringing, said there were still "difficulties" within his family but added that he would like to "reconnect and see things resolved".
His comments came ahead of the publication on Thursday of a new biography which reveals the troubled relationships which Mr Morpurgo had with his children, which have yet to be repaired.
In the memoir, written by Maggie Fergusson, Mr Morpurgo admits that the theme of reconciliation is included in all his books – for example in War Horse where the opposing soldiers meet in No-man's-land – because it is "what I yearn for most".
Although his daughter Ros agreed to be interviewed for the book both of her brothers, Sebastian and Horatio, declined to have any involvement.
Mr Morpurgo has a close relationship with all six of his grandchildren, but the biography reveals that his troubled relationship with his sons remains a bitter source of regret which, he says in the book, "lasts longer than any kind of pleasure that comes from success."
The new memoir, Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse, describes how in 1975, when his children were 12, nine and eight, Mr Morpurgo and his wife Clare moved to a farm in Devon where they set up a charity which gave inner-city children the opportunity to experience life on a farm for a week.
Working three seven-day weeks in a row before taking one weekend off, the couple channelled so much of their energy into looking after the visiting schoolchildren that they were unable to fully devote themselves to their own family, the book claims.
Ros Morpurgo recalls how she was banned from riding her pony in sight of the farm in case the visiting children became jealous, and how her toys were often donated to the less privileged visitors.
Referring to the devotion which the young guests showed her mother she said: "If you can love someone you've known for less than a week, they loved her. I wonder now how my brothers felt about it."
For the biography Ms Ferguson sent each chapter in turn to Mr Morpurgo and invited him to write a piece of autobiographical fiction based on the memories it resurrected, to prompt a series of new stories for children to enjoy.
She told BBC Radio 4: "It was slightly nerve wracking facing him with things which weren’t necessarily always 100 per cent complimentary."
Mr Morpurgo said: "I was an overly young father, is the most polite way of putting it. I think I was rather immature and all I can say is that I think I’ve made a much better grandfather ... I don’t think I was ready to be a father to be honest.
"The big relationships you make in your life are with those that you love and if things do go wrong then it’s a source of great pain and that lasts."
Describing the book's final chapter as "a wish to connect and to see things resolved", he added: "You get to about 65 or 70 and you lose friends and the world does seem to be an endlessly difficult place and tragic place, so it’s more and more difficult for me to find the bright lights.
"I still do it, I think I’m ultimately a very optimistic person, but I think more and more that the clouds do hover and it’s sometimes difficult to believe there is sunshine behind it