Keighley Library remembers Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE (1936-2019)

This January, Keighley Library marks the saddest loss of Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, former Lending and later Reference Librarian, renowned local historian and speaker. We continue to miss him in Keighley itself but especially in the library that he so loved and continued to visit regularly and support up until his death on 20th January 2019.

This time, we thought that we would let this very popular raconteur speak for himself. The quotes are taken from some reminiscences that he wrote for the library when aged 64. We have added library photographs and photographs from Ian’s archive, details given where possible.

Leisure and professional interests

“As regards my interests, I am a total non-sportsman but have always been a walker, both as a daily non-driving pedestrian and as a hiker.”  

These photos include Fellsman Hike, 1970 and Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, 1991.

“However, my main interest is local history from the point of view of original research, writing and lecturing. I average about eighty talks a year, have contributed a weekly feature to the local newspaper for the last nine years, have written hundreds of magazine articles and several books … I also make occasional television appearances, usually on Tyne-Tees and Yorkshire TV.”

These photos include the Brontë Conference, Haworth 1980; the Yorkshire Ridings Magazine Christmas dinner, Hebden Bridge 1989 and some of the many published works by Ian.

Here’s Ian with Khalid Aziz of Look North and John Noakes, Blue Peter presenter, looking at Knurr and Spell equipment, c1970s.

To see a demonstration of the game follow this link, filmed in 1972 at the very lively world championships held at Greetland.

For an updated history, please see Robin Longbottom’s recent Down Memory Lane:

Keighley Library

“From 1965-1967, I was Lending Librarian, then in 1967 I became Reference Librarian, remaining in the same post until I took early retirement in 1991.”

These photos include Ian’s early days in Lending c.1966; during Keighley Library’s alterations June 1984 and Ian at his retirement in 1991 in the Library theatre.

“As a career it was not perhaps very exciting, but from my point of view being Reference Librarian with oversight of a large and growing Local History collection, dovetailed admirably with my personal interests. I was never sure where my work ended and my hobbies began, and vice-versa, and I think both benefited as a result.”

“I count myself fortunate in that I was able to survive until 1991 as basically an Edwardian Reference Librarian (I could scarcely be one now, when a row of Internet screens occupies a prominent place in my former place of work). Granted, microfilm readers and photocopiers became increasingly important, but they were advantages. I remain dubious, however, about technology replacing the human touch.”

 “If this is progress, I am not impressed.” (For one time only, Ian looking at an old Keighley News on the scanner for film viewing, Keighley Local Studies, 2018)

As a speaker

“Whatever the audience – whether it be chapel retirees or an Antiquarian Society – they want to be entertained. It’s a case of getting one’s main serious points over while leavening the subject with humour.” From “The funniest man in Britain” by Christopher Phipps (The Dalesman, Oct 2016 p.60) Photo from a 2017 event in Keighley Local Studies.

Despite professing not to know much of popular music, Ian certainly did not lack some appreciation. We found this picture of Ian getting into the groove at a work’s do in 1974. When Janet Mawson asked him to give a talk in August 2018 at a Musical Heritage event, alongside the Presidents and the Doveston Brothers, he gamely obliged and true to form, he really enjoyed it and gave of his best.

The Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE Memorial Collection, Keighley Local Studies

Here is the Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE library and study corner in Keighley Local Studies that showcases his many interests including amongst many subjects: art, literature, American history, Yorkshire and the countryside. The books and magazine collection were very kindly donated by Ian’s family as part of the archive bequest in 2019.

Keighley Library Customer Support Assistants, January 2022

One thought on “Keighley Library remembers Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE (1936-2019)

  1. Ian truly was a treasure. He was ever self effacing but always interesting. Spending an afternoon listening to his reminiscences was a delight. We still miss him.


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