Monday, 31 August 2009

Top quality

The name John K Walton brings joy to all. Now a professor of social history at Leeds Metropolitan University, he has published some marvellous books about northern institutions. My two favourites are Blackpool and Fish & chips and the British working class, especially the latter. It is packed with wonderful regional detail, like the scraps, bits (or in Dewsbury, shoddy) which top off fish & chips even more finely than mushy peas do. The fish and chips book, published by Leicester University Press in 1992, is a rival for Phil Sidey's Hello, Mrs Butterfield (see below) in my most-thumbed category. Blackpool is published by Edinburgh University Press, 1998. John's Riding on Rainbows is another must, a history of Blackpool's Pleasure Beach and its rusty and somewhat peeling-painty, but perennial, place in British popular culture, Skelter Publishing 2007.Check out anything else by John; to inspire you to do so, I append a picture of his rosy and hirsute northern face.

Making things virtuously

This is going to be quite a long section of the bibliography because one of the themes of True North is the lasting tradition of enterprise. With it, in many more cases than is generally recognised, went (and still goes) high principles. Businesses were not just set up to build brass castles for their owners; they provided work, opportunity for advancement for all involved and self-respect.
Enough moralising. But here's a very high moral tome to start with; A Quaker Business Man by Anne Vernon, William Sessions 1982. This is a life of Joseph Rowntree, whose modest grave at The Retreat is indistinguishable from those of all the other York Quakers whose remains lie beside his. If you visit, note how long these virtuous people generally lived! my copy has an interesting press release from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (another of the three great Rowntree trusts) tucked inside, all about New Earswick model village which the great man funded. The Joseph Rowntree Inheritance published by the three great trusts in 2004 is also the sort of thing to cheer you up in glum times.

Completely different is Talking Spanish, a Yorkshire Arts Circus study (1992) of one of the north's most interesting ways of making a living. Like most Arts Circus books, it has the serious flaw of not attributing the quotes and reminiscences about working in the liquorice industry in Pontefract. But it's full of marvellous detail, social as well as commercial, and I like this girl in a liquorice outfit so much that I've made her bigger than any photograph in the blog so far. Another good book, by mates of the Arts Circus Richard Van Riel and Briony Hudson, is Liquorice, published by Wakefield district council to go with an exhibition in the early 200s. (It's undated, alas).
Two good books on the canal trade which was very important to the growth of the industrial North are Victor Waddington, Giant of the South Yorkshire Waterways, by Mike Taylor, Yorkshire Waterways Publications 1999, and Pennine Pioneer by Keith Gibson, Tempus 2004. The first tells a story which is still very much alive in business terms; the canals leading in from the Humber and Trent continue to be of great economic significance. So is the revived Rochdale canal, the subject of the second book, although its role today is tourism rather than commerce.
The Hainsworth Story by Ruth Strong, Jeremy Mills Publishing 2006, describes how a traditional textile company has managed to survive, nay flourish, into the 21st century. I make use of this as an exemplar of the type, in the book. Billingham in Times Past by Paul Menzies, Countryside, two vols 1985 and 1986, has some invaluable material on the early days of ICI and the trouble the company took to provide model housing for its workforce. The History of North East Shipbuilding by David Dougan, Allen & Unwin, 1968, describes a magnificent tradition dating back to Daniel Defoe's time. In 1727 he observed, accurately, of Newcastle upon Tyne: "...they build ships here to perfection." Tyne and Tide by David Archer, Daryan Press 2003, has plenty more. H W Schneider of Barrow and Bowness by A G Banks, Titus Wilson (Kendal) 1984, is enjoyable on both Barrow shipyards and Windermere steam yachts I'll be adding plenty more to this section of the blog, too, over the next few weeks.
And here they come: Made in Huddersfield by Jack Ramsay, North of Watford Publishing 1989, is an eloquent lament for what was, albeit with too many grainy and gloomy pics. The magnificent story of the Fielden manufacturing dynasty of Todmorden, classic Northern industrialists who were also very radical and religious (the latter in the best, social conscience, sense), is told in Fieldens of Todmorden by Brian Law, George Kelsall 1995, and A History of Todmorden by Malcolm and Freda Heywood and Bernard Jennings, Smith Settle 1996. Both are socking great tomes. The noble pair of Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby have famously covered many Northern subjects; but the general association of them with the Yorkshire Dales is too narrow. Books such as Life and Tradition in West Yorkshire, Dent 1976, Smith Settle 1990, are full of firsthand accounts from the factories and mills, which give a much broader picture than the usual cliche. Scotswood Road by Jimmy Forsyth, Bloodaxe Books 1986, is engaging on Newcastle upon Tyne's industry and those who worked in it. Marshalls of Leeds, flax-spinners by M M Postan (Cambridge University Press) is an excellent study of a fascinating firm - the one which gave us the Egyptian Temple Mills in Holbeck, Leeds.To Prove I'm not Forgot by Sylvia Barnard, Manchester University Press 1990, is a great look at manufacturing from the unusual angle of the dead. It's a cracking history of the huge graveyard opposite St James's hospital in Leeds where both mighty manufacturers, such as Sir John Barran, and their workers at last rest.

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Another favourite here. The lost towns of the Yorkshire coast by Thomas Shepherd 1912, republished 1986 Mr Pye Books, is both a classic and a salutary reminder that things don't stay the same.
Even things as solid as northern England. look - by clicking on it - at the map in my second illustration (complete with instructions to Paddy Allen, once of Graphics at the Guardian, in which I have warbled on about North Sea coastal erosion many times). Amazing! More than 40 towns taken by the sea.

The Floating Egg by Roger Osborne, Jonathan Cape 1998, is a deservedly acclaimed series of studies all connected with the 'dinosaur coast' between the Humber and the Tees. It covers science, industry and everyday life. For me, the important lesson to draw from it is how extraordinarily varied just this one slice of the north is. Like all the other slices.


Here are two very good books about that rare thing, a regional media success story. Phil Sidey's account of the early days of BBC Radio Leeds, which I vividly remember from my teens, is one of the favourites of all my northern books. I can read it again and again, always sharing his relish (he was the first station head and without reservation a Good, nay Wonderful, Thing). It's a success story, but against enormous and often eccentric metropolitan odds. Hello, Mrs Butterfield, Kestrel Press 1994.

The Dream that Died, Matador 2008, by the award-winning journalist Ray Fitzwalter, who incredibly first exposed the crooked architect John Poulson and his crew of corrupt politicians from the humble berth of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus is about a success story which went dismally wrong. Like Phil's book, it's an indictment of London control. But unlike his, it's also a textbook description of how not to fight that, if you want to win rather than make a point.
It's a shame that mainstream publishers didn't take up either of these books.


Michael Heseltine deserves acknowledgements and thanks for his role in promoting regionalism. The regional offices of Government are his legacy, and he also had a revitalising effect on Liverpool and Merseyside at their lowest ebb. He behaved with much more conviction than the supposed archetype of conviction politics, Margaret Thatcher, who did not offer him the support she could have done, in spite of coming from Lincolnshire, one of the most forgotten sub-regions of all. Like Tarzan himself, the book, Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, is a bit of a beast, 560 pages long and weighing a ton, but it's a good read (and has plenty of other material about his enthusiastic life). Hodder & Stoughton 2000.
Another lively book which I've pillaged over the years is The Fight for Yorkshire by Michael Bradford, Hutton Press 1988, which is very good on Yorkshire's ambitions to conquer the world (or at least capture the final eight miles between the North Riding and the Irish Sea). Closer to the ground, Whose Town Is It Anyway? by Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Steve Clayton, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust 2006, is a very thorough analysis of voting and governance in Burnley and Harrogate which comes to a welcome, anti-centrist conclusion. The New Governance of the English Regions by Mark Sandford (Palgrave Macmillan 2005) is very thorough and brings things up to date.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Miners and Mining (1)

There's quite a lot about miners and mining in True North, and I have found the following books very illuminating. The Bus to Barnsley Market, edited by Brian Lewis, Mel Dyke and Ian Clayton, Yorkshire Arts Circus 1989 (anything by Yorkshire Arts Circus is excellent, except for the serious flaw in most of their collections of memories of not attributing them to the speaker/writer. The firsthand accounts are otherwise gold dust, and in thenfine tradition of Marie Hartley, Joan Ingilby and Ella Pontefract. All books by that trio are lastingly excellent. Shafted. The media, the miners' strike and the aftermath, edited by Granville Williams (a hero of Huddersfield University and the wider North), Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom 1989, is illuminating, both on injustice and self-pity. If you like contrasts, read this jointly with West Yorkshire Within Living Memory, Countryside Books and the West Yorks Federation of WIs 1996; like the Arts Circus, very good on firsthand accounts. Another Arts Circus book helped too: Why Waste it on a girl? Growing up in Methley and Castleford by Jean Pearson 1989. I also benefited from Barnsley - Seams of Gold, various editors, the Coalfield Regeneration Trust 2001 and The Kinsley Evictions 1905 by Pat and Rennie Pickles, Wakefield Museums, undated by I think 1991 when there was an exhibition in the city. The Politics of the Yorkshire Miners by Andrew Taylor, Croom Helm 1984, is an extremely detailed analysis of the tooing and froing within this once-mighty body between 1945 and 1974. A lot has happened since then...
And a lot happened before the pits. I've much enjoyed a many local histories, revelling in their painstaking detail and, in the case of the north's mining areas, the way that they describe life before the shafts were sunk. One such is The History of Brierly and Grimethorpe by W.Bretton, who died in 1959. His manuscript was finally published in 1999 by Grimethorpe's regenerational Community Partnership and the WEA. A History of South Kirkby is equally painstaking, by Aaron Wilkinson, published by South Kirkby and Moorthorpe's enterprising town (parish) council in 1979. Two Lives by Winifred Hodgkiss (Yorkshire Arts Circus 1983) is a charming account of how a BBC producer and a miner from Wigan ended up living happily ever after in Littondale.

A classic of mining literature which I much recommend is Out of the Old Earth by Harold Heslop. My edition was published by Bloodaxe in 1994. It describes growing up in the Durham coalfield and much else, including Heslop's extraordinary literary success in the young Soviet Union where his first novel sold half a million copies. Another fascinating memoir is Them and Us Souvenir Press 1972, by Jim Bullock, a lad from a pit village who became an extremely feisty colliery manager. Five more, on different sorts of mines. Swaledale by David Leather, Smith Settle 1992, is a good introduction with walks to an area with a remarkable lead-mining history. A portent for today's former coalfields, in the way its once wrecked landscape is now a national park. I've also gained much from A History of Richmond and Swaledale by R.Fieldhouse and B.Jennings, Phillimore 1978 rpt 2005. Ian Tyler tells a very specific and absorbing mining story in Seathwaite Wad, about the famous graphite industry in the Lake District, Blue Rock Publications 1995. And Inside the North Moors David and Charles 1978, is a marvellous compendium of information by the renowned local journalist Harry Mead, including lots on the old ironstone and alum workings. Oh, and add in anything by Arthur Raistrick.

A visit to Kilhope lead mine at the head of Weardale, to test it with a family for the Guardian's family-friendly museum award (which it won, yo!) great;y interested me. This is the landscape of Auden, which is discussed in True North. Good books/booklets which I picked up at Kilhope included three by the mine's enthusiastic manager Ian Forbes: Lead Mining Landscapes, Durham County Council 2003, Lead and Life at Kilhope, essentially the extended guide to the Museum, Durham County Council, undated, and Whar a candel will not burn..., the story of Park Level mine, also at Kilhope. Durham county council again, 1996.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Manchester and Tyneside

A couple of excellent books on these two subjects: each has given me lots of material over the years, as well as prompting me to follow up subjects which they raise. Manchester in the Victorian Age by Gary S Messinger, Manchester University Press 1985, is particularly good on the city's cultural achievements in Victorian times and on the myths about its grimness and how they grew. It quotes Disraeli's Coningsby on the title page: "Rightly understood, Manchester is as great a human exploit as Athens." I've also learned a lot from The Diaries of Absalom Watkin, A Manchester Man, most recently edited by Magdalen Goffin, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993., Manchester by Alan Kidd, Ryburn Publishing, Keele University Press 1993 and The Manchester Man by Mrs G.Linnaeus Banks 1896, republished by Printwise Publications 1991, The Manchester Outrage by Jack Doughty, Jade Publishing 2001, which describes 19th century community tensions well, and After the 1996 Bomb by John Myles and Ian Taylor, Institute of Social Research, Salford University 1999, which deals with the results of those tensions in more recent times. Scouses vs Mancs by Ian Black, Black and White Publishing 2006, takes a humorous look at Manchester and Liverpool's rivalry. And, of course, everything by Elizabeth Gaskell is instructive as well as a good read .

Geordies, edited by Robert Colls and Bill Lancaster, Edinburgh University Press 1992, is crammed with riches. I am particularly grateful to the chapter on Black Geordies by Barry Carr, which gives an excellent account of the Yemeni community in South Shields. Tucked inside my copy is an article from the Newcastle Journal of 22 November 1997, sent to me by Alan Myers (see the book) and all about Wittgenstein's curious stay in Newcastle. The North East Engineers' Strikes of 1871 by Allen, Clarke, McCord and Rowe, Frank Graham (Newcastle) 1971 is a fascinating and detailed study of industry and industrial relations. I warmly recommend anything by the late Bill Griffiths, linguistic and historical expert in the North East, and just got his last book in time, Fishing and Folk Northumbria University Press 2008. Even better is his Pitmatic, a study of North East miners' fascinating argot, also published by Northumbria University Press, 2007.

The North-South Divide

Two books I've used a lot, with the same title Their sub-titles explain the difference. Helen Jewell's is a fascinating historical study of the development of a 'Northern' idea. Her own bibliography gives lots of guides to further exploration. The North-South Divide Manchester University Press 1994.

The second The North-South Divide Paul Chapman Publishing 1989, has loads of statistics which show both the divide and some (but not all) of the divisions on either 'side', which ultimately make the picture much more complicated than a simple Us and Them.
Three other sources which I have found very useful in this debate are: The Woollen Manufacture of England by Edward Baines, with a new introduction by K.G.Ponting David & Charles 1970; The Origins of Civic Universities by David R Jones Routledge 1988 and the Northern Economic Review, Autumn 1999, No.29.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Off we go...

Right, well this is the letter which made me feel I ought to set something down at length about the North. Written on the back of a photocopied page from Yellow Pages (jewellers to juke boxes) it arrived in the Manchester office about five years ago. It started 'Dear Mr Wainwright' which I'm afraid I can't fit in, through scanning incompetence, but that was the only polite thing about it. I did go off to the Town Hall but searched for the correspondent in vain. Perhaps he or she is reading this.

Now for some books, starting with a shameless plug. This is my own first effort. I was already a self-publicist back in 1971 when Ireland not Socialism - A Leeds election came out. It's my mini-thesis for my history degree. After writing something like 50,000 words, I couldn't bear to see them simply stashed away in a university cupboard. I wouldn't say it's a riveting read but there is masses of information compiled to impress the examiners. eg the fact that at the time of the book's oublication, more than 25 tons of soot was still falling on every square mile of Hunslet. It also had some curious illustrations inside and I append one of them.

It's quite hard to get hold of, though copies occasionally surface on Amazon. If you want one, I can send you one, probably rather dog-eared, for the price of postage. Can I recommend with it, a very old stand-by of mine which has helped with countless Guardian articles: Leeds Born and Bred by James Thompson, Dalesman Books 1982. It has an excellent choice of the city's worthies from Joshua Tetley to Hedley Verity and the big industrial cheese of Unilever, Sir Ernest Woodroofe. There's also James Barr, founder of Wallace Arnold, and my copy has tucked inside the agenda for the EGM which wound up that grand old firm in 1994

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hello World!

This blog is about my book True North, published in October 2009, and will serve - I hope - as a bibliography which saves paper, trees etc, and a forum for discussion, criticism, correction of errors (I am a journalist...) and the like.

I'm just setting it up now, but will return shortly with the first batch of books which have helped me to define my view of the North of England and to write - as the book's subtitle puts it - In praise of England's better half. So, more soon.