Review of ‘My Darley and Beyond : The Journey of a Lifetime’, by Lewis Jackson

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 4th December 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

The Journey of a Lifetime
by Lewis Jackson
Published by Country Books
ISBN 1-901214-72-9 (2006)

Lewis Jackson has lived in Darley Dale for just short of 80 years. His first book, Darleys in the Dale, has sold in its hundreds and has just been reprinted. This sequel, the story of his own life and times, already looks set to enjoy the same success.

A hint of things to come appears early in the book, going back to the 1930s 'When I was young ...', says Lewis, and 550 men worked locally on the railway, 300 at Stancliffe Quarry and some 500 at Millclose lead mine and smelter. Whether Lewis has kept a diary he does not say but otherwise his memory is a gift to posterity. His boyhood lay in the days of close neighbourliness and the thrills and spills of being part of a gang whose territory stretched up onto the moors. In summertime, grass verges on the hillside were kept neat and tidy by grazing cattle.

Wartime interrupted the idyll, in a minor way when school lessons had to be taken outdoors to make room for young evacuees, but with truly tragic repercussions for local families including the Jacksons. Lewis, at 13 years old, tried to do his bit by taking on the job of target marking for Home Guard rifle practice. Teenage days were soon to bring the excitement of the 'monkey-run' but also the ensuing risks of making a date in the pitch darkness of blackout.

The author's fondness for social history weaves in and out of his professional life. Today he looks back with pride at having worked on construction sites from a massive sewerage scheme to the present Highfields Upper School, estate houses at Hurst Farm, chapels, churches, rectories, factories and various stately homes. He paints a colourful scene from half a century ago of Bakewell cattle market during one of the last horse fairs. In the same era Lewis worked on a job at Enthovens lead smelter, where a few years earlier he had 'saved' lead bullets from the smelter in favour of a useful life as catapult ammunition. He went on to become infatuated with multi-ton 'toys for boys' long before the phrase was invented.

Lewis has many reminders of his love affair with Darley Dale (second only to his 'wife in a million'); from his days as a Co-op grocer's apprentice he can even produce a watertight bag from a plain sheet of paper. In retirement, he takes enormous pleasure in something he waited 25 years to build, nothing more ambitious that his large garden shed. His declared favourite subject is 'putting the world to rights' - there is brief reference somewhere to 'trouble with the natives'. Backed up with previously unpublished photographs, the sheer number of names and local characters in My Darley and Beyond will delight anyone with family connections.

Review by Julie Bunting

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