Reminiscences and Writings of a once Keighley News roving reporter

It is not that often that an enquirer of Keighley Local Studies Library on a Keighley history subject, comes ‘right back atcha’ with a casual, “I am researching an autobiographical work coming out soon” but occasionally they do. Don Chapman enquired earlier this year about Keighley baths and his new book that includes sketches of the Keighley he came to know and love, surprisingly as an in-comer from Oxford and its University, is published now and in due course will be in Keighley Library.

When he became a graduate trainee with the Bradford and District Newspaper Company in 1956, it was the landlord of his first digs in Keighley who took the tops off the bath taps. He went to the public baths down the road fearing the worst. Hence the title of his tongue in cheek memoir featuring some of the wackier articles he wrote in a 40-year career in journalism, A Tenpenny Dip in Paradise and other flights of fancy. In it, Don Chapman hopes that he has captured some of the “banter and bonhomie I shared with my colleagues at the Keighley News”, that he remembers most fondly.

Just a few of his Keighley memories are quoted here:

“I’m not sure I even knew where Keighley was when the Westminster Press told me I would be starting my career as a graduate trainee reporter there in September, 1956. Before I took up the post, I decided I’d better take a look.

I arrived by train from Oxford shortly after 2pm. The hotel at the bottom of Cavendish Street had stopped serving lunch and everywhere else was shut. It was early closing day. Eventually I stumbled on a workmen’s café and a satisfying plate of bacon and eggs, served with a large mug of Yorkshire tea, somewhere in the back-street.”

“I quickly grew to love Keighley. The flowers in the front windows of those who hadn’t got gardens. The washing in the streets between the back-to-back houses. The rich array of cakes and savouries in the bakery shop.”

“The war years and the period before them had left their mark on the town. Sooner or later, chaps I met in the pub would start rueing the privations of the 1930s Depression: an economic downturn Lord Nuffield’s Cowley car factories had protected Oxford from.

Although premier Harold Macmillan was telling people they’d never had it so good, many in Keighley were still struggling. At the Mechanics Institute Saturday night hop, on more than one occasion the manager said to me: ‘See that couple there, Don, they’re on their honeymoon!’”

The book is out now and available online and from bookshops. It will also be in Keighley Library soon.

Gina Birdsall
Keighley Local Studies

Left to right: Don Chapman (bottle of Taylor’s Yorkshire Ale in hand!), Peter Cook (Yorkshire Post), Eric Lund (Keighley News reporter), Jack Broadley, Keighley News reporters: Eric Walker, Brian Smith, David Waterhouse and holding my hand Trevor Atkins.

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