Review of ‘Darley Dale Remembered’, by Keith Taylor

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 18th November 2002, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

DARLEY DALE REMEMBERED:
THROUGH 50 YEARS OF WAR AND PEACE

by Keith Taylor

This book has your attention from the very first full page photograph, indeed all the illustrations are of exceptional interest far beyond local level, showing a way of life which is gradually passing beyond living memory. Many of the 400 pictures have been loaned to author Keith Taylor by appreciative readers of his two popular books on neighbouring South Darley, co-authored with Trevor Brown.

As with those titles, full tribute is paid to the local men who gave their lives in both World Wars. Illustrated with evocative family photographs, one or two pages of text is allocated to every man so that we can read how they lived and died. Says Keith Taylor, 'Their story is part of a wider shared sense of history that has shaped our age and merits the respect of Darley folk in the 21st century.'

With almost 450 pages, this book also contains an enormous variety of information about Darley Dale in peacetime. We can see for ourselves pictures of the horse-drawn grass cutter, the Laburnum Inn at Hackney as a working farm, Dad's Army, 'Big Bertha', the Rum-Tum Band, and the swimming pool in the Whitworth Institute - on one page full of water and swimmers and on another as a converted Red Cross hospital ward for wounded soldiers. Another unusual scene shows Christmas time in Darley Telephone Exchange just 50 years ago, enjoyable as much for the accompanying text telling how the system worked. Who today would put up with the operator cutting in every three minutes?

Schoolday memories come thick and fast, recalling lessons on 'the Empire and Patriotism' on Empire Day and schoolrooms decorated with oak on Trafalgar Day. But then there were pupils excluded from school on account of ringworm, and large numbers of boys playing truant to work in James Smith's nurseries, from where countless boxes of lucky white Scottish heather were despatched every year - to Scotland!

Darley Dale has been a hive of industry in the past century with businesses great and small, from the record-breaking Mill Close leadmine, the railway, quarries and flour mills (turning out 'Ladygrove' porridge oats and cattle food) to farms and family undertakings like the pop factory in Ladygrove, a wartime eiderdown factory and many a front-room shop. Almost all gone now. Even the weather has changed. Who can remember when top-hatted attendants swept the surface of the frozen lake in Whitworth Park, keeping it clear for skaters to enjoy themselves into the evening, gliding along by lamplight?

'Darley Dale Remembered: Through 50 Years of War and Peace' will be appreciated for generations to come, and deservedly so. Published by Country Books at £9.50, on sale locally or to order by quoting ISBN 1-898941-79-3

Review by Julie Bunting


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