Thursday, 31 March 2011

Back at last

Goodness, it's been a long time. I am sorry. The trouble is, that we are spread so thinly out here, like some sort depressing sandwich filler, that it's not easy to find the opportunity to update. Here I am, though, partly to let you know about one ray of sunshine: the Guardian's Northerner which has changed from an email to a blog and now appears more often; every day in fact, so far. Here's hoping that Helen Carter and I, and with luck other contributors soon, can keep that up.

Another book meanwhile. Years ago, when I was on the Bradford Telegraph & Argus just after completing my journalist's proficiency test on the Bath & Wilts Evening Chronicle, there was a very nice, gentlemanly chap in the echoing old building which housed the paper, the former warehouse of Milligan & Forbes, celebrated textile men in their Victorian heyday. He was called Hew Stevenson and he was the big chief, the MD of Bradford's subsidiary company of Westminster Press (a great Northern institution, WP, which survived the 1930s depression in part because its Liberal, and often Quakerly shareholders were content to go without a dividend for quite a few years to see it through).

Well, Hew has now written an excellent book about his family firm - or firms, because their interests in the North East extended from chemical engineering to ownership of the Shields Gazette, which later joined the WP stable too. On the way, one of the vast and varied Stevenson tribe picked up the ownership of Vulcano, the islet off Italy which gives us the word 'volcano', to extract sulphur from its still-active crater (until in 1881 it blew up, and that was the end of that).

Jobs for the Boys (Dove Books) is a mighty tome and costs £30 but it paints a marvellous picture of Northern (and originally Scottish, admittedly) energy and enterprise - of the kind which is no by any means dead. I've just done a Northerner on Barnsley football club becoming the first in the League to be powered entirely by solar electricity. The £1 million contract went to a cutting edge firm in nearby Dodworth.