Review of ‘Around Rushton’, by Sheila Hine

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 30th January 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Sheila Hine
Published by Churnet Valley Books
ISBN 1-904546-28-5 (2006)

This is another delightfully nostalgic compilation from Sheila Hine, who this time takes the reader back in time into the north Staffordshire hills and border country around Rushton and Heaton, touching on Rudyard, Bosley and Swythamley.

Sheila has gathered recollections from over 30 people, not as young as they were but with clear memories stretching back over the past century. In some ways these stories could apply to many a country village but they also conjure up some truly unique images. Hard as it is to believe now, 21 steam trains a day used to pass through Rushton Spencer, and we are shown stationmaster Mr Jefferies posing like a king on his wooden throne. A brief selection of the numerous photographs extends to an oil rig on Gun Hill, assorted May Queen and well dressing processions of the early 1900s, the local lord with his pet monkey, ice skating on the lake and chapel ladies in their Sunday-best brimmed hats, lisle stockings and shiny buttoned shoes.

Front Cover

A special mention goes to the tales of farming life, supported by rare family photographs showing the last generation to work with horses on the farm. A mass of childhood memories are as diverse as the delights of eating raw pigeon eggs, or recollections of the world's largest non-nuclear explosion when one farm 'just vanished, parents, grandparents, livestock, everything.'

One contributor survived a dose of the 1918 flu pandemic, while a further topical reference comes from a poultry farmer's daughter who around 1950 was hospitalised after coming into contact with 'fowl typhoid'.

Others remember hiding from the German wartime pilot who flew low enough to wave to children in the schoolyard. A school, by the way, where girls were caned for giggling and the ex-army headmaster, who 'took snuff and wore spats', expected his pupils to salute him. Perhaps the real local hero, though, is the postman who walked an astonishing 197,600 miles in the course of his duties amongst these lovely hills and villages 'Around Rushton'.

Review by Julie Bunting

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