A FORMER journalist believes the seeds of a novelist's immense popularity in the United States of America were sown in her father's Oswestry office when she was a child.

Barbara Pym, who died on January 11, 1980, has a number of societies dedicated to her success – she was considered one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century – with the most popular being in America.

Leslie Davies, a former journalist in Wales and Shropshire, has researched Pym's beginnings in Willow Street. as well as her full career across the UK and the rest of the world, and paints the scene of what he calls is a 'forgotten' legacy.

He explains why the days she spent researching books and far off lands in the office The Cross had developed her desire to see the world and how her own life experiences became a crucial part of her novels.

"Schoolgirl Barbara Pym stepped cautiously into her solicitor father’s office at The Cross and gazed with a blend of awe and curiosity at the rows of leather-bound law books," he said.

"It was one of those defining moments in which her footsteps would one day lead her to become an acclaimed novelist in Britain and the USA.

"Her name may not be so well known today but she has a valid claim to be Oswestry’s “almost forgotten” novelist.

"There would be many more such moments growing up with her younger sister, Hilary, in the family home in Willow Street, not far from St Oswald’s parish church where she had every encouragement from her father Frederick, who sang in the choir and mother Irena who was assistant organist.

"Born on June 2, 1913 she began her locally at Queen’s Park School, before she moved to Liverpool and then at St Hilda’s College Oxford, she immersed herself in literature and graduated with a degree in English.

"Early encounters with St Oswald’s sowed seeds which were to flourish in descriptions of rural life and ecclesiastic characters that form a vibrant element to her stories.

"She writes with a delicate observation of the frailties of human nature in the years just after the war sometimes in a mood of melancholy and loneliness which then rises like a low mist to reveal a more nuanced view encompassing tenderness and humour.

"Returning to Oswestry to begin writing her first novel Some Tame Gazelle, published in 1950 following a doomed love affair with an undergraduate, she created a story around the predicable and sometimes restrictive nature of parish life.

"It was a style which featured in other works where loneliness and the desire to be loved were entwined with a gentle satire of clergymen from curate to bishop.

"A restless spirit took her to Germany where a romantic folly with an SS officer ended in regret with the rise of National Socialism.

"After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 patriotic duty found her in the WRENS with a posting to Naples that was to provide more fertile copy for the future.

"A year after the war ended she became an editor at the International African Institute in London again the source of more characterisation.

"In 1952 came Excellent Women, said to be her finest work, written with its delicate observations of human nature, breathing curiosity and passion into otherwise mundane lives.

"It was the advent of the 'Swinging 60s that appeal for her trademark stories of people watching the world drift by amid tensions and forlorn longings in a past era, did not match action filled dramas of drugs and free love."

Leslie explained how Barbara, who never married and settled in Oxfordshire with her now-divorced sister Hilary, went 14 years without being published before two fanmous names came to her rescue.

He said: "She continued to write and produced Quartet In Autumn.

"And then came another of those defining moments in which her destiny was assured; poet Philip Larkin and critic Lord David Cecil praised her work in the Times Literary Supplement.

"Quartet in Autumn, following the lives of four mature characters reflecting attitudes and prejudices in times past, now appeared on the book shelves.

"In 1977 it was nominated for the Booker Prize and she then achieved the distinction of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature."

Barbara died from breast cancer aged 67 with her name forever linked with other British novelists.

Her fame has spread to North America where the Barbara Pym Society has flourished for more than 20 years, alongside the UK Society, which sister Hilary helped to establish.

It has 360 members while by comparison the UK Society has 255 members with 71 new members joining recently in America.

Tom Sosko, the North American organiser of the annual conferences, who has led the group with dedication and zeal since 1999, said the resurgence comes from Ellen Miller, the society's founder, produced a video Barbara Pym: Out of the Wilderness for Americans who were largely unacquainted with her work.