Wednesday, 16 March 2011

George Eliot and the Silas Marner Anniversary

One of the best things about life as a bookseller is the opportunity it provides for coming into contact with interesting people and learning of their actvities.

In 2009 we heard from musician Joe Jorgensen who had recently finished a book on Bob Marley, and also heard from  Ross Bradshaw of Nottingham-based independent publisher Five Leaves (though in fact I already knew him) about his bookish tendencies.

In 2010 we heard from poet and academic N S Thompson about his book Letter to Auden and some readings he was giving.

Earlier this year we heard from journalist and author Keith Chapman, formerly of the Sexton Blake Library and Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, about his past dealings with Walter Tyrer and his current involvement with the Black Horse Westerns series.

Today, I was lucky enough to hear from John Burton, chair of the George Eliot Fellowship concerning his organisation`s plans for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Silas Marner this year.

They are planning a series of events and actvities throughout the year,  including a George Eliot Weekend (21/22 May), a series of walks (June - Sept), a play (November), a Silas Marner Festival/Annual Lecture (October), a birthday luncheon (November) and more. These events seem to be centred around the Nuneaton/Bedworth/Bulkington area. Ask them nicely and they`ll e-mail a copy of their newsletter to you.

For anyone wanting more information,  the group`s website is at . 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Brinsley Headstocks Revisited Again

Brinsley Headstocks is the name given to the set of restored 1875 tandem headstocks on the site of the former Brinsley Colliery.

The site is now a very attractive nature area. It also has it`s own special claim to fame in that D H Lawrence`s uncle Jim died in a rockfall there, an incident referred to by Lawrence in The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd and An Odour of Chrysanthemums.

These are my most recent attempts to capture the wonderfulness of the headstocks. I do not know much about photography. Shutter speeds and all the other stuff are a complete mystery to me. On the other hand, I do have a cheap Argos camera and plenty of enthusiasm !

I`ll admit to being quite proud of these pictures, but there`s only so much here I can take credit for. When I took the first two the sun was dazzling me, so I had no real idea how they`d turn out !

My approach to local history is similar. Others may favour a more methodical approach, but I often just pick up stray facts haphazardly as I go along. 

This can lead to odd gaps in my knowledge. Here are a couple of questions relating to the Brinsley site that I`ve sometimes wondered about.

I understand that D H Lawrence`s Aunt Polly lived in a white cottage very close to the old colliery. I have always understood this to be a quite large white building, currently unoccupied, adjacent to the path leading from the car park to the site itself. This puzzles me a little, as I would have thought the building in question would have been rather grand for a family of miners from the Eastwood/Brinsley area. Maybe someone can cast light on this ?

I`ve also wondered whether Polly was the wife/widow of the ill-fated Jim, or a different Aunt altogether ? No doubt someone will know.

Long Eaton Library Revisited

Following on from my earlier posting on the subject, we return to the story of my bookish ancestor, Arthur Hooper.

Arthur, it turns out was my great-grandfather on my mother`s side of the family. He was apprenticed in the boot and shoe trade (manufacturing ? repair ? the details are unclear) in his native Worcester but moved to Long Eaton to set up his own business as a cobbler.

In that time and place, people were reluctant to throw away a good pair of boots if they could be repaired, and business prospered. Arthur became friendly with a number of local councillors and other civic-minded individuals, including his good friend Samuel Clegg. Arthur was to credit Samuel as the driving force behind the introduction of a free library in Long Eaton.

Here are a couple of  pictures of the library that I took on a recent visit to see my great-grandfather`s papers.  The frontage of the building is something of a photographer magnet, so you may like to look at the many images there are on the web.  Some are older and show a slightly different appearance.

I now have the text of two talks gven by my great-grandfather on the movement for free public libraries. Hopefully, I`ll be posting something about these in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, here`s a picture of the inside of the library as it appeared in my great-grandfather`s day.

More articles on libraries and library-related matters appear elsewhere on this blog and on , though you may have to search about a bit. Hopefully, I`ll be returning to the subject fairly soon.