Moorlands, Memories and Reflections
My latest publication is Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (now available). A hundred years ago, Allen Clarke brought out his Lancashire classic, Moorlands and Memories. My book is a celebration of this unjustly neglected work which extolled the beauties, history and people of the West Pennine Moors. Clarke’s book was conversational, philosophical, entertaining and lyrical. My book covers some of the ground that Allen Clarke wrote about –handloom weavers, dialect writers, the Winter Hill ‘mass trespass’, links to Walt Whitman and that fearsome Lancashire creature, the boggart. He discusses Clarke’s links with Tolstoy and his attempts to ‘get back to the land’ and the great Barrow Bridge picnic in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen in 1901.
Clarke was both a keen cyclist and walker. His original book includes rides and rambles through Rossendale and Pendle as well as around Rivington, Belmont and Edgworth, with associated tales. Paul adds in some stories from the last hundred years including ‘summer evenings with old railwaymen’ at Entwistle and Gandhi’s visit to Lancashire. And there’s lots more. If you love the Lancashire moors, its history and culture, you’ll probably enjoy this. It includes a foreword by Maxine Peake.
It’s now available price £21 plus £4 post and packing (but free delivery if in the Bolton area). If you prefer to support local shops, see the list of retail outlets in ‘Buying my books’ page or download an order form here:
Also on kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Moorlands-Memories-Reflections-centenary-celebration-ebook/dp/B08XQVQ5CT/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Moorlands%2C+Memories+and+Reflections&qid=1614855534&s=digital-text&sr=1-2
The Works (on special offer at £6)
My novel The Works was published in March 2020, to coincide perfectly with the country’s lockdown. It’s set in the small Lancashire town of Horwich, mostly in the former railway engineering factory where I (briefly) worked. Much of the action takes place in the 1970s and 80s but the story is taken through to post-Brexit Britain in 2025. It’s about life in a traditional factory facing closure – the tensions and fears of being made redundant, as well as everyday life in a working class community. But it’s also about modern railway ‘politics’ and the potential for Chinese involvement.
It’s written, mainly, in the first person. The narrator is a union activist and communist. Part of the story is about his relationship with ‘Midge’, an office worker at the factory whose late husband died in an accident in the Works.
In ‘real life’ the Works did close and (February 2020) is being demolished. In the novel, the factory is saved by a workers’ occupation and buy-out, with a scene where the riot police try to break the occupation. The novel links the fictitious outcome at Horwich with the actual occupation and buy-out at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, Glasgow. Some of the dialogue is in Lancashire dialect, reflecting shop-floor culture at the time. There’s a glossary to help readers unfamiliar with ‘Lanky’.
Please go to Order Form (above) for details of how to buy. It’s on special offer during January and February 2021 for just £6.
Not so recent….
Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15 – can now offer it for £10 plus postage. But there’s very few left. It outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.
With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Normal price £10.00 plus post and packing, available now (to 1/3/21) for £6 or 3 for £15. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.
Northern Rail Heritage. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching. Currently being updated, a few copies of the old edition left.
Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896. Hidden supplies discovered! The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896 is remarkable. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Price £5.00 plus £3 postage. Sales go to Bolton Socialist Club.
Socialism with a Northern Accent (2010)
Railpolitik: Bringing railways back to the community (2012)
Both published by Lawrence and Wishart www.lwbooks.co.uk
For 2021, an idea that’s still evolving. Broad Lancashire – a series of linked essys on Lancashire as it was, is and might be.
And finally, I’m hoping to write another novel. Current ideas include life in a Lancashire industrial town in the 1890s and the rise of ‘ethical socialism’ and the Clarion cycling movement, but bringing the story to the present day. And/or a novel set in Farnworth – its rise, fall and rise. Watch this space and keep your chain well oiled.