Sunday, 5 June 2011

Encyclopedic and entertaining

Richard Wilcocks writes:
The encyclopedic and extraordinarily entertaining Ian Dewhirst MBE gave the Saturday morning talk. He is far from being a romantic, and keen on facts, most of them the product of his own extensive research at a local level. Equipped with a well-thumbed collection of notes and extracts, he put the Brontës in the context of a Haworth which was often malodorous, where many were poverty-stricken in a way which is often nowadays linked to 'the developing world' and where people usually died long before before their three score years and ten arrived. Children were lucky to reach the age of five. The doctor (and what did he know anyway?) was called as a last resort, if at all, so perhaps Emily's refusal to see one as the consumption took a final hold of her on the couch was not that unusual or remarkable.

He covered well-trodden ground to some extent, but introduced a series of interesting anecdotes and snippets which made this talk more than a sociological excursion through dry statistics and cold statements. For example, in his search for original sources he has browsed through the record books and crumbling ledgers of old mills, the ones that remain that is, because many of them were pulped during the Second World War as part of a government plan to produce more paper, and found all those small things which connect us to real, 'ordinary' people.

He read from letters which were often full of misspellings and without any punctuation, and also from poems: apparently Haworth was packed with people writing in their spare time, and the Brontës must have read at least some of their efforts, the quality of which ranged from the extraordinary to the awful. He found one poem by a local man which was no less than three hundred pages long, but not up to Brontë standards: he got as far as page two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Dewhirst is obviously a great intellectual asset for Keighley and the surrounding area. Let us hope and trust that he will be invited to address a gathering at the AGM weekend again.