Crime Fiction and Reality

How do you write a prison based novel when you have never been inside yourself?

How do you help prisoners to aim for better lives when they come out of prison?

How do you research local history for novels set in previous decades?

Which prisoner covered himself in butter to fight, and delay his slippery arrest, after his football team lost a game?

These are just a few of the questions that were answered during the course of last Saturday afternoon with our two brilliant local authors and speakers – Frances Brody and Veronica Bird OBE.

You may know of the acclaimed author Frances Brody, as she is very well known for her very popular Kate Shackleton mysteries, some set in Yorkshire, including Haworth and Saltaire but you may not have heard of Veronica Bird OBE who was the first female governor of HMP Armley in Leeds and of her aptly named autobiography, Veronica’s Bird.

This dynamic duo who met through Frances’s research into her new series of novels, the Brackerley Prison mysteries, thoroughly informed and entertained their large audience. As well as the writing of her novels and her characters, Frances also spoke about local history research and the use of news cuttings in libraries including the valuable collection in Keighley Local Studies. She also included notes on the craft of creative writing and very helpfully to budding authors in the audience, gave some really good advice on making a start at writing a story or novel, overcoming writers’ block and on how to find interesting minor stories to set within the main plot.

Veronica spoke about her deprived upbringing and subsequent hard won career in some of Britain’s most challenging prisons. She also highlighted the lack of literacy amongst at least 50% of prisoners with consequential feelings of hopelessness and sadly an increased chance of re-offending on release. Both Veronica and Frances support the Shannon Trust that helps with learning to read and improve other basic skills so that prisoners, “can pursue wider opportunities and thrive in the community”. Veronica also told us some amusing stories of what can happen when the occasional slip-up in prison guard vigilance occurs such as the attempted sale of prison knickers at a local market stall. Never destined to be a best seller, however, not one pair was sold.

Veronica, now retired but still working with prison inmates, also works for various charities including Ukrainian refugees, and was awarded her OBE for her charitable works. On Saturday, both speakers raised funds for their chosen charities and Frances Brody very kindly donated to Bradford Libraries two large print versions of her novels, including A Murder Inside (the first prison based novel), as well as an audio version of A Mansion for Murder, her latest Kate Shackleton mystery.

We thank them both for a great afternoon of information, education and entertainment and thank Alice and Felicity, the volunteers who so efficiently supervised refreshments.

Keighley Local Studies Team

Unfamiliar Females: Keighley Movers & Shakers

Unfamiliar Females: Keighley Movers & Shakers

11 March

Keighley Local Studies Library – 10 – 11 am FREE

Discover the woman who owned the first ‘Dalton Mill’ and fought off intimidation; another who championed the first children’s allowance, now Family Credit; why a female councillor resigned from the Labour Party in 1947; who stood up to Lord Reith as one of the first woman members of the BBC Board; which Keighley lass wrote The Feminist Movement – way before the 1970s -and more anecdotes along the way.

Join writer/historian Irene Lofthouse as she shares stories about some of the lesser-known women of Keighley, their achievements and legacies that still resound today. Then visit the exhibition of portraits by local artist #SophiePowell.

A Sleigh Full of Health and Wellbeing. HOME TOWN SOUNDS –The Haleys and John Drury play Keighley Library

Santa came early to Keighley Library bringing the precious gift of Live Music on Friday night, 2nd December. A growing atmosphere of happy anticipation and pure joy filled the room as first John Drury and then the Haleys took to the library floor to thunderous applause – and we are not joking here or being Charles Dickensy just for the season. The gigs at Keighley Library, that pay for themselves incidentally, have become so popular locally that tickets sell out literally within hours. Glastonbury eat your heart out!

It is a truth universally recognised that listening to music improves mood and promotes feelings of wellbeing. Music shared combats loneliness and creates a sense of community spirit.  In the words of the legendary John Denver, “no matter what language we speak, what colour we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: we are the same.”

This month’s gig was no exception as regular library borrowers, friends, family, fans and first time library visitors queued for a big slice of communal wellbeing and musical magic. A performance of this scale and calibre to be held, for the very first time in the evening, added to the Christmassy getaway feel that, for some local people this year, could well be limited to this library experience and the books borrowed to escape into over the holiday.

John Drury is a singer songwriter from a London-Irish background who now hails from Oxenhope.  His songs have been described as ‘poetry with music on top’.  He writes about the little as well as the big things in life, and believes deeply that ‘we are all in this together’.  Friday night though was all about the cover versions with a couple of his own compositions thrown in for good measure.  He proved to be the ideal ‘support’ act and from the off had the audience in the palm of his hand, clapping and singing along, troubles of the outside world forgotten for the time being!

What to say about the Haley Sisters? The sisters were born and raised in the village of Harden near Bingley and from a very early age they followed in their parents’ footsteps. The siblings have appeared alongside many respected artists since launching their professional career back in 1989, Freddy Fender, George Hamilton 1V, Raul Malo, Nathan Carter and Daniel O’Donnell.  On 28th May 2017, they performed to a sell-out audience at the London Palladium and in April 2018 they were the opening act for the first of its kind, the Roy Orbison ‘In Dreams Hologram Arena tour’.

 Becky and Jo-Ann are now award winning vocalists who could easily sell out the Grand Ole Opry in good old Nashville, Tennessee. Think a female version of the Everly Brothers with a magical natural blend of vocal harmonies with Becky on rhythm guitar and Jo-Ann on bass.  The third member of the group is Becky’s husband, songwriter and steel guitarist, Brian ’Smithy’ Smith.  Brian has worked on many recording sessions in Nashville including Crystal Gayle’s ‘Three Good Reasons’ album. 

Proving that music really is in the genes, we were also treated to a song or two from 80-year-old Pa, Tony Haley, who taught us how to yodel with a rousing version of the Frank Ifield classic which earned him a standing ovation led by our very own Town Council Mayor.

Our other guests included Trevor Simpson and his wife Denise.  Trevor is a former FA Premier League and international football referee, the author of two bestselling music books ‘Small Town, Saturday Night’ and a walking encyclopaedia on anything to do with Elvis.

Regular library customers still discuss gigs of years’ past and this will no doubt be one of them in the future. We will now let the music do the talking, see for yourself below and rock on 2023!

Keighley Local Studies Library.


An amusing and informative mixture of dialect storytelling and talk on Yorkshire dialect and the Yorkshire Dialect Society. A talk by Rod Dimbleby.

Tuesday 18th October

2.00pm – 3.00pm

Free event. Booking essential.

Rod Dimbleby is chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, Yorkshire dialect storyteller and author.

Please telephone or email Wibsey Library to book a place


Tel: 01274 435446

The Mother of the Brontës

A large audience at Keighley Local Studies Library on Saturday 18th January was treated to a wonderful talk by author, journalist and screenwriter Sharon Wright about her recent publication: ‘The Mother of the Brontës.

Sharon Wight display


It was a joy to welcome Sharon back to Keighley where she started her journalistic career at the Keighley News.

Sharon Wright library steps

In the talk Sharon shared her journey of discoveries about the mysterious Mrs Brontë through her thorough original research which took her to many locations from Cornwall to West Yorkshire. The historical detail and the compassion for the Cornish gentlewoman who fell in love with the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë and gave birth to 6 children was enlightening. The joy of finding new discoveries in the story of Maria Branwell was an inspiration.

Sharon wright talk

‘The Mother of the Brontës: when Maria met Patrick’ is published by Pen and Sword, ISBN: 978-1526738486


The Mother of the Brontës: when Maria met Patrick

The Mother of the Brontës: when Maria met Patrick.

An illustrated talk by author, journalist and scriptwriter Sharon Wright.

  • Keighley Local Studies Library
  • Saturday 18th January
  • 10.30am

Free event, all welcome


Keighley Local Studies Library will host a talk by author, journalist and scriptwriter Sharon Wright about the subject of her recently published book ‘The Mother of the Brontës: when Maria met Patrick’.

The book tells the previously untold story of Maria Branwell from her early life as a well-to-do lady of Cornwall, to her life in Apperley Bridge, Thornton and Haworth. The author explores the enormous, often overlooked influence that the brave and intelligent Maria Branwell had on her daughters Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

Sharon Wright, who now lives in London with her family, started her journalistic career as a reporter at the Keighley News. She has since worked as a writer, editor and columnist for national newspapers, the BBC, Disney, Glamour, Red and the New York Post. Her first book, ‘Balloonomania Belles’, was published last year.

The venue for the talk, Keighley Local Studies Library, is home to an excellent collection of Brontë literature, critical works, articles and news cuttings. The history of the collection dates back to the nineteenth century and includes the archives and some book stock from the Keighley Mechanics’ Institute, of which Patrick Brontë was an active member, and where the family attended lectures and gained some art tuition.

This is a great opportunity to meet Bradford-born bestselling author Sharon Wright in the historic cultural setting of Keighley Library and to find the exciting discoveries that can be made through a well researched and illustrated book on a fascinating local subject.

This month marks the bicentenary of the birth of Anne, Maria’s last child on 17th January 1820.

The talk will be held on Saturday 18th January at 10.30am on the first floor of Keighley Library.

This is a free event and all are welcome.

For more information contact Keighley Local Studies Library on 01535 618215 or email

Trace your Family Tree

Have you ever wondered how to get started with researching your Family Tree and using the array of records available?

Or have you already started your quest and reached a point where you need a helping hand?

Wherever you are on your journey into your past, the friendly helpful experts from Bradford Family History Society will be on hand in Bradford Local Studies Library to give help and guidance with this fascinating and rewarding pastime.

Thursday 28th November.

Drop in anytime between 10.00am and 12 noon.

Secret Ilkley Book Launch

Ilkley Library was the venue for the launch of a new book by local author and historian Mark Hunnebell.

Mark, of White Wells, gave a talk about his new book Secret Ilkley and also signed copies.

Launch2 (2)

Mark Hunnebell

Secret Ilkley goes behind the façades of the familiar to discover the lesser-known aspects of the Ilkley’s long and illustrious past.

The inspiration for this book originally came from an information card available for visitors to White Wells in the 1950’s. The card was produced by the Ilkley Gazette office and provided a useful guide to some of the prominent features that could be seen in the valley from White Wells on the moors above the town.

Mark writes in his introduction:

‘This book is a record of many of the developments and changes that occurred in Ilkley during the second half of the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century, much of the information being sourced from efforts to compile an index of the Ilkley Gazette for my own interest in local history. Many of the articles referred to have not seen the light of day since their original publication and the details simply lost or forgotten. I am grateful that the Ilkley Library holds old copies of the local newspapers.”

In the book, Mark takes the reader on an enlightening and entertaining journey through the past, delving beneath the surface to reveal dark deeds and strange tales with long-forgotten facts and amusing stories. This book lifts the lid on the hidden secrets that even most local people don’t know.

Supporting Mark at the book launch were his parents Edwin and Margaret Hunnebell and his partner Joanne Everall. Also there was Sally Gunton who kindly supplied many images for the book.


Frazer Irwin, Mark Hunnebell, Edwin Hunnebell, Margaret Hunnebell, Sally Gunton, Joanne Everall

Mark said: “It was very well attended and was a pleasure to talk about “Secret Ilkley” to so many familiar faces. And thanks to everyone who bought a copy too!”

Secret Ilkley by Mark Hunnebell: ISBN 9781445684475

Celebrating Louise Carnegie

Thank you to Irene Lofthouse for her wonderful portrayal of Andrew Carnegie’s most trusted confident, his wife Louise Carnegie, in Keighley Local Studies library on Saturday 12th October, given to a packed audience. This event in our historic Carnegie library marked Libraries week and 100 years since the death of Andrew Carnegie in 1919.

Here are some photographs of the event and a short biography of Mrs Carnegie.


Louise Whitfield was born in Manhattan on March, 7, 1857. Her parents, John and Fannie, descended from families that emigrated from England in the 1600s… Louise’s father was a textile merchant. As he prospered he moved the family from Chelsea to Gramercy Park (where one of Louise’s playmates would be Teddy Roosevelt) and finally to a comfortable brownstone uptown on West 48 Street and Fifth Avenue—two blocks away from the Windsor Hotel. Andrew met John Whitfield through a mutual friend and enjoyed his company. He made frequent visits to the Whitfield home; during one of those visits, he met Louise.

Mrs Carnegie

Louise Carnegie

They shared a love of riding horses and he invited her often to Central Park. During these rides, she let it be known she didn’t want to marry someone who was already successful, but rather help a husband to succeed. He let it be known that he had no intention of holding on to his fortune, but rather wished to give it all away…

…Louise realized that Andrew would not marry while his mother was alive; four years after their meeting, the engagement was called off. But not the friendship. After nearly a year of corresponding, they decided to renew their engagement, but kept it a secret from Andrew’s mother.

Mr Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

In the fall of 1886, Andrew contracted typhoid fever; inconceivably a week later, his brother Tom became ill with pneumonia. While Andrew’s condition fluctuated, Tom’s rapidly deteriorated and he died on October 19 at the age of 43, leaving behind a wife and nine children. Margaret, already ailing, could not bear the news of the illnesses of her two sons and died three weeks later on November 11 at the age of 77. She was not told of Tom’s death and Andrew was not told of his mother’s death for nearly three weeks until he was fully recovered.’

The couple married in 1887 and, unusual for the time, they signed a pre-nuptial agreement, in which Andrew stated that he wanted to give away the bulk of his fortune. They were married for 32 years, had one child named Margaret, and Louise was an influential member of the board of The Carnegie Corporation until her death in Manhattan on June 24, 1946, at the age of 89.

Outstanding community benefits for the time

Significantly, the Carnegie Institute in New York City hosted events and meetings for the American Women’s Suffrage Movement. Similarly the Carnegies’ libraries were accessible to both sexes, all classes and all ethnicities. In fact, the Carnegie Library in Washington was the first public building that was non segregational.

Keighley’s Carnegie Public Library


Mrs Louise Carnegie was also ever present as a guiding hand with the arrangements undertaken with Sir Swire Smith for the gift of £10,000 for the building of Keighley Carnegie Public Library. This was the first library in the whole of England ever to be financed by Andrew Carnegie. The money was gifted to the people of Keighley by the Carnegie family because of the wonderful achievements of Keighley’s students, from all backgrounds, studying at Keighley’s Mechanics’ Institute. In the above photograph, Mrs Carnegie is seated with Andrew on her right and Sir Swire Smith, the champion of Keighley Mechanics’ Institute on her left. Mrs Louise Carnegie later attended the ceremony with her husband for the conferring of the Freedom of Keighley to Mr Carnegie and it was she who distributed the prizes to the students on that day, 25th September 1900.

Keighley Library view c1929corespondence 1899

The Carnegie Corporation of New York

Andrew Carnegie established this in 1911,

“to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding,” it is one of the oldest and most influential of American grant-making foundations

“The Corporation has devoted unremitting effort toward the two issues Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace and the advancement of education and knowledge.”

The Carnegie UK Trust

Established in 1913 by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie:

“We have sought to deliver this mission in a number of ways over the past 100 years – investing in libraries, public space, further education, social work, children’s rights, rural development and many more…”


Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies Library

Late to the Game

robgrilloOn Saturday Bradford Local Studies Library hosted a talk by Rob Grillo, author of several sporting histories. His new book ‘Late to the Game’ covers the introduction to and early years of football in Bradford as it took over from rugby as the main winter sport. However it took the round ball game a long time to come to the West Riding and to Bradford in particular. The book is the sixth in a series of volumes in the Bantamspast series published by John Dewhirst who introduced the talk.

In his talk Rob explained how Bradford had many early failed attempts to create a successful soccer team in the late 1880s and how the current Bradford City AFC was founded in 1903. In the book there is a section on the women’s game and the reporting of early exhibition games before the FA banned women from playing on FA grounds in 1921. The book covers the successful Bradford schoolboys team, English champions in 1916 as well as details of all of the teams around the city including Bingley and Shipley.

A big thank you from Local Studies to Rob Grillo for a great morning and for sharing his expert knowledge and detailed research in this often neglected area of Bradford’s social history.

‘Late to the Game: The origins of association football in Bradford and the story of its pioneering clubs’ by Rob Grillo (bantamspast 2019) 9780956698490