Name Spotlight: Richmal

Richmal

A few of you might already know one particular namesake just by looking at the title. Richmal Crompton (born 1890, died 1969), famous for her ‘Just William’ series of books, in which the main character is a mischievous schoolboy named William Brown.

Her name is the spotlight for today’s post and the spotlight is a rather blurry one. Why? We don’t know the actual meaning and there’s something else that I will show you below in this post.

First and foremost, the line below shows what Richmal apparently means, according to Behind the Name:

A combination of Richard and Michael.*

If that is, indeed, true, then how come a combo of two masculine names create a feminine name? I don’t think anyone reading this, including me, would know at this point.

Now, we move on to the popularity of this name in England and Wales, shown in two graphs (one from 1837-1915 and the other from (1946-2013).

1837-1915

richmal1

1946-2013

richmal2

As you can see from these two charts, Richmal was a rare name (though was a bit more usable during the 1st half of the 19th century) and is now, at this present moment, unusable for a baby.

What’s interesting, to me, is that around 84% of girls named Richmal between 1837 and 1915 were born in the town of Bury in Lancashire, which is where Richmal Crompton was born. As of now, I couldn’t find any clue as to why Richmal was specifically used in Bury.
There were a couple of other Richmals born outside Bury during this time period, in which most of them were born in other towns and villages in Lancashire with one originating from Cheshire and the other from Warwickshire. There was even a Richmal born in Kensington, London, though that was her middle name.

So, if we reflect on what I’ve just said, it might seem clear that Crompton made Richmal usable in all parts of England and Wales.
It was also used in other parts of the world like United States and India, though not as much as here in E&W.

As always, leave your thoughts in the comments section below. If anyone’s from Bury and has some clues for the usage there, I would be glad if you tell us in the comments section.

* – the meaning and history section has since been updated, saying now that the meaning is uncertain but may possibly be a combination of Richard and Mary.

Sources:
Meaning of Richmal – Behind the Name
England & Wales FreeBMD Birth Index (1837-1915) and Birth Index (1916-2005) – Ancestry
England & Wales Popularity Rankings from 1996 to 2013 (used 2006 onwards) – Office for National Statistics

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