Saturday, 29 January 2011

Voices for Libraries : Save our Libraries Day, 5 February 2011

I`ll return to the story of my great-grandfather and his role in the setting up of the first free library in Long Eaton at a later date.

In the meantime, many people will be aware that 5 February is Save our Libraries Day. Various plans have been made for the day in different areas, some more practical than others.

I`m guessing most people are like me and tend to always plan a few weeks ahead, so may not now have much spare time available. That need not be a problem. If you Google the phrase `save our libraries 5 february` you will easily find an entry from CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), suggesting ways to show support even if you have only a couple of minutes to spare.

As a suggestion of my own, one possibility you may be able to pursue is to reserve a book or books online and just drop into the library to collect it on the day. That shouldn`t eat into your day too much.

In my experience of these things, there`s always someone who starts wanting to change plans or introduce new ones, with little thought to the practicalities, usually with very little time to go. As Senegalese historian/author Cheikh Anta Diop once wisely commented "there is always someone trying to drown a fish" ! There`s really no need to make complications, just do what you can and don`t make a rod for your own back, that`s my advice.

Lastly, if you want to read more on the subject, you might like to see my articles `Voices for Libraries` (29 Sep 2010) , `Voices for Libraries #2` (9 Dec 2010) and/or `Voices for Libraries #3 : 5 February is Save our Libraries Day` (25 January 2011), all of which appear at

Of course, better men than me have addressed this subject ! One piece that seems to have been unjustly overlooked is Ian Clark`s `Libraries : The Foundation for a Democratic Society` (22 Sep 2010), which can be found at . If you only read one article on this issue, make it this one !

Friday, 28 January 2011


George Mellor (1917 - 2010) was the son of a coal miner from Loscoe in Derbyshire and seems to have lived in the Heanor/Loscoe area all his life, apart from six years military service stationed in Somalia during World War Two.

He worked as a teacher and on his retirement showed himself to be an accomplished amateur artist, poet and local historian. 

This is the story of his childhood, illustrated with his own sketches and with many digressions into the history of Derbyshire.

This has now become a scarce title, but we`ve kept the price within reason given the current climate. 

We have many titles in stock on the history of the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire area, and also a number of titles on coal-mining, including books by Robin Page Arnot, Keith Staley and Ann Goddard. Hopefully we have something to suit every pocket and every level of interest.

We have one copy of Mr Mellor`s book, which will be number 3809 in our listings and should appear online within the next twelve hours.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Long Eaton Library and a Local Historian`s Legacy

From cowboys and detectives we naturally move on to consider the life of a librarian.

Actually, this is by the way of being a personal request for information.

There is a tradition in our family that an ancestor of my mother`s was instrumental in the setting up of the first ever library at Long Eaton, a small manufacturing town on the Notts / Derbyshire border, in 1906.

 As a youngster I recall being shown a booklet on the history of the library, possibly a booklet commemorating the opening,  including a picture of the person in question. Unfortunately, when the relatives who owned the booklet died, having lived to a very great age, it couldn`t be found.

I believe my exalted ancester may have been Arthur Hooper, librarian at Long Eaton until 1938 and author of a book, possibly called The History of Long Eaton and District, which was published in 1954. He is credited with the quote "there is no castle, great house, battlefield or even moorland to give colour to the story" of Long Eaton.  It is true that the area has a long history (it is mentioned in the Doomsday book as the village of Aitone), but not a colourful one, though it is interesting in terms of the development of industry in the region and the story of the  attendant canals and railways.

I will be making my own enquiries as best I can, but if anyone has any information about Arthur, I`d be very glad to hear from you.

I don`t know if it helps, but I recall that I had two great aunts, Jessie and Edie (Edith), who lived in Long Eaton all their lives, so I presume if Arthur was related to me he was possibly their father or grandfather. They lived to be very old and were possibly involved in the Methodist Church and with good causes generally. I recall them sharing a council flat in later years, and my recollection is that they were unassuming and approachable but with a certain resilience common to many of my female relatives. I well remember my mother pointedly asking Jessie why she gave money to Help the Aged when she had little enough money to spare on herself. "I like to help the old people" she declared airily. She was 88 at the time.

Lastly, if anyone`s interested in issues affecting libraries today, you might like to see my articles Voices for Libraries (29 Sep 2010) and Voices for Libraries # 2 (9 Dec 2010) , both at

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Cowboy and the Detective

New Zealand-based author Keith Chapman, who writes as Chap O`Keefe, was kind enough to contact me recently after a reading a review of mine. My review, of  Walter Tyrer`s  The Strange Affair of the Shotgun Sniper, was posted on 4 Dec 2010 at The Sexton Blake Blog and  Mr Chapman`s comments are posted below the review.

MR C was basically contacting me to fill in a few gaps in my knowledge of the life of  author Walter Tyrer. I knew that Tyrer was born in a tough part of Liverpool and began his career writing school stories in the `20s and `30s, before branching out into romances, westerns and detective stories, including a number of rather quirky tales for the Sexton Blake Library series. He published some books, but made his name, and a considerable amount of money, writing as a freelance for the popular story magazines of the day, eventually setting up home in a rather swish residence on the banks of the Thames.  Keith was able to add to this that Walt then moved to Hove (Sussex) and penned some episodes of Coronation Street, also writing for Micron Publishing  under the name J T Lang - his only pseudonym as far as I know.

Just as interesting is Mr Chapman / O`Keefe`s own career. Having encountered fictional detective Sexton Blake as a child in 1952 (John Hunter`s the Case of the Crooked Skipper was the first Blake he ever read), he was fortunate enough to work at Fleetway House on the editorial staff of the Sexton Blake Library during 1961/2, and went on to edit the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. He spent 35 years in newspaper and magazine journalism before returning to writing fiction in 1992 and is still writing today, mainly westerns, including the Misfit Lil and Joshua Dillard stories. He is editor of , and in that respect, perhaps I could draw your attention to his articles `Detectives in Cowboy Boots` and `Farewell to a Small Giant` (a tribute to the late Sydney J Bounds which is also useful for casting light on the many pseudonyms used by Mr Bounds)  - both dated  March 2007.

Keith is in good company in choosing the western as his chosen vehicle. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bret Harte, Stephen Crane and O. Henry all donned their metaphorical stetsons at one time or another. His  Detectives in Cowboy Boots article, mentioned above,  is a fascinating guide to crime fiction writers who have also turned out westerns as a sideline - a surprisingly long list that includes Frank Gruber, John Creasey, John Hunter, Sydney Bounds and T C H Jacobs.

Should you wish to sample some of Mr O`Keefe`s work, then help is at hand ; a free excerpt from Chap O`Keefe`s Doomsday Mesa can be found at For further details of his back catalogue, visit . Hopefully we`ll be able to keep you up to date with his activities as we go along.

That, then, tells us a little of the life and times of Tyrer and O`Keefe. Walter Tyrer`s words are still read today (I`m one of the people that read them), when many of his more exalted peers are almost totally forgotten. Who`s to say that the same won`t happen to Chap O`Keefe ? Time will tell. 

Friday, 7 January 2011

Ironworks Revisited Again

We`ve looked at the issues surrounding the Stanton and Butterley Ironworks before ( A Tale of Two Ironworks, this blog, 6 February 2010 and Ironworks Revisited, this blog, 21 February 2010 ).

Now there`s further news on the fate of the Butterley Ironworks site, a place with a long and unique history (built in 1790) that takes in the Napoleonic Wars, the Pentrich Revolution and the building of  St Pancras Station !

I`ve touched on the underground wharf that allowed raw materials to be delivered by narrowboat, with finished products being lowered down a shaft to be distributed in the same way.

We`ve also looked at the presence of  inspectors on the site after demolition work by the site`s former owners, Coast Properties (a company that has now gone into administration, I understand),  caused complaints.

It now seems that English Heritage are likely to recommend to the minister that the site be
given special protecton as a scheduled ancient monument.

Friends of Cromford Canal (FCC) welcomed the news, commenting that "the wharf is a unique structure in the UK".

English Heritage expect to make their recommendations during February. FCC have indicated that they are "very happy and very hopeful" at that prospect.


Andrew Polkey - The Civil War in the Trent Valley - Walk & Write, Darley Dale, Matlock, Derbyshire -

Born and raised in Derby, Andrew Polkey worked as a teacher in Nottingham before transferring to Burton and setting up home on the banks of the Trent.

For years, he waited for someone to write the story of the Civil War locally, but nothing was forthcoming. Deciding to unleash his passion for penmanship upon an unsuspecting world, he produced a published paperback, a picture of which you see above. Polkey`s persistence had paid off !

Ignore my awful aliteration, the truth is, in my opinion, we wrongly neglect key areas of our history such as the Civil War, Runnymede / the Magna Carta etc. Clearly, there is a lot of interest in local  / regional history wherever you go in the UK, and if Polkey can bring the two things together in a readable fashion, I`m all for it.

The Civil War in the Trent Valley is at 3778 in our listings.