Love Dickens at Christmas!

We always look forward to the Christmas decorations going up here at Bury Libraries! And Library Staff have really made this year’s display look especially festive by creating strings of beautifully crafted snowflakes to drape across the Children’s library; lovely twinkly lights, a Christmas tree and Santa’s little helpers have transformed the space into something quite delightful.  Why not come along to our Winter Wonderland where you can choose a book to read over the Christmas holidays?!


Chiming nicely with the festivities in the library, Archives have another treat in store for our customers! Right next to the Christmas tree in the Search Room we have our newly installed Christmas Display cabinet which contains … wait for it the genuine signature of Mr Charles Dickens!! This is held within a Victorian autograph book which forms part of our Hutchinson collection. Dickens just loved performing and regularly journeyed throughout Britain and beyond on reading tours in which he would read sections of his writings to what must have been an enthralled audience. Presumably, it was from one of these Readings where the signature was obtained.



Published in 1843, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol  became an instant bestseller and sold 6,000 copies on Christmas Day 1843. It would certainly have been a favourite amongst the many people who attended Dickens’ Reading Performances. Sadly (for me anyway who reads the novel every year!) the quote accompanying Dickens’ signature and photograph is not from A Christmas Carol but from The Old Curiosity Shop. Some may be moved by the lines quoted, others may think they are overly sentimental but we are absolutely thrilled to have on view the ‘death of little Nell’ written so beautifully by the hand of the great author himself!



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Radcliffe Library Archive Display


Here in the Archive department, we are always really pleased when we find a way to display the Borough’s historic documents within the communities where they were originally created. This month we have had the opportunity to temporarily transfer one of our Heritage Lottery funded – Bury Remembers WW1 – cases to Radcliffe Library; to display some letters from the WW1 period.



Received by Close Methodist Church; the letters express the gratitude  of local soldiers for parcels and correspondence sent to them by the congregation. The display case houses only a few examples of over one hundred letters that have been donated into the care of the Borough’s Archive.

You may notice that the documents on display are copies, rather than the originals. The Archive’s principle aim is to protect and preserve all documents that help to tell the story of the whole Borough. As this moveable, temporary display case does not provide enough protection for original documents; we have produced high quality ‘like for like’ surrogates to enable the display to be installed in their home town. As with all handwriting, some is easier to read than others, so we have produced transcriptions of all of the letters on display to accompany the case. We have included a transcription of one of the letters here;  if you can’t get in to Radcliffe library and wish to have a copy of them all please email:


Dec 8th 1915

Dear Mr. Charles,

Please convey my heartiest thanks to the members of the Sunday School and Church for their splendid gift of socks, mits etc., also for the Season’s greetings, which I most heartily reciprocate.

Trust you are in the best of health.

Kindest regards,

Yours very sincerely


In future months we will share more of this collection of letters with you. We will be using different themes to guide the our choice of items for display. This time we were lucky enough to have an example of some knitting produced by Alma Gardner, a proud resident of Radcliffe Hall for her whole life, 92 years. Sadly Alma passed away in October 2015 so we have worked with her daughter, Carol Kemp, to choose letters from 1915 that mentioned the packages and the knitted items that some – perhaps all – local soldiers received.


Archive volunteer Carol Kemp and her mum Alma Gardner

We hope you enjoy this display. Let us know your feedback or ideas for future displays, by commenting on this blog, sending an email to or by having a chat to the library staff.



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Elvis has left the Building …

The last days of Save Records

Bury Indoor Market recently bade farewell to Lawless’s, an indoor market institution since the 1960s, and on 29 October another long-serving market trader pulled down the shutters for the last time.  Save Records, since 1968 the purveyors of all things recorded, be it vinyl, cassette, CD and DVD, will, like a Betamax video, be no more.




Here at Bury Archives we believe that it’s really important to continue to capture and record what is happening in and around Bury right now, as one day in the future someone will be looking back on 2016 as “olden times” and maybe wondering, “…what were these places called shops?”



In 1968 the first Save outlets were opened by footballer Simon Jones, a goalkeeper (hence the name!) on Rochdale and Lincoln indoor markets.  In 1974 Save Records opened in Bury’s indoor market, where it has remained up until the present day.   Maxine began working there in 1978 and has seen numerous stalls around it come and go, like the changing fashions in music-lovers’ listening habits as records and tapes (and the 8-track cartridge, anyone?) gave way to CDs and MP3s.

img_0634‘Elvis’, the portrait by local artist and music-lover Eddie Kilner, was commissioned by Simon.  A painter of landscapes, Eddie was apprehensive about painting a portrait.  However, as we can see, his worries were unfounded and the portrait became an integral part of the stall’s identity.  Despite several offers, Maxine is keeping him!

img_0627The stall built up a regular and loyal following, many of whom have been coming here over the past few weeks to reminisce and grab a bargain amongst the well-stocked racks of vintage vinyl, which are being continually topped up.




Maxine and I reminisced also, about other record shops of Bury that have come and gone: Javelin, Disc and Tape Exchange, Muse, Vibes (where I spent many a happy hour loitering on a Saturday afternoon back in the 1980s) and Our Price and not to mention the well-stocked record departments of our local Boots and NSS Newsagents.   Of all of them, just HMV remains.  Maxine’s own musical tastes vary  “…from Celine Dion to Def Leppard” – which would be a perfect name for a record store!




By one of those happy coincidences, during our visit, a presentation of flowers, balloons and gifts was made to Maxine by other stallholders as a mark of their appreciation.




In recent years, Save’s other outposts have gradually disappeared, with just the Bury branch flying the flag since the closure of its Rochdale stall in 2005.  Ironically Save’s closure comes at a time when good old vinyl is enjoying something of a comeback, with recent initiatives such as ‘Record Store Day’ attracting wide media coverage.


Cherish your local record shop!










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Access Free Online History Magazines Thanks To Bury Libraries!


Bury Archives and Local Studies are proud to be part of Bury Libraries and a fantastic new online magazine offer – provided by Bury Libraries – may just help to give your local and family history research a boost; whilst also saving you pounds to boot!




There are loads of e-magazines now on available for library members to access free of charge. In amongst the huge array of titles there are quite a few that will interest amateur historians as well as local and family history enthusiasts. There is even something for younger history readers! Each title has the up to date issue, as well as back copies, available to download.




In order to access this fabulous resource you just need to be a member of Bury Libraries and then follow the instructions on the Bury Council web site.

Happy reading!



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Photograph of the Month: The Derby Hall

Last week we were approached by Nick Smale, Marketing Manager for The Met in Bury, who wondered whether we had any historic images of The Met building under its former name, The Derby Hall. Nick informed us that The Met refurbishment is almost complete and thought that some framed pictures of the original interior of the building would look fabulous on the walls of the newly transformed theatre.


We came across this magnificent image of a group of gentleman, dressed in their finery, getting ready to dine in The Derby Hall. The wording on the reverse of the image states that the picture was taken in 1910 and the event is described as ‘Lord Derby’s Rent Dinner’. Lord Derby is seated at the top table underneath the balcony with a plant and menu in front of him; he’s the one with the darker hair and suit!


We’ve produced a copy of the photograph and, along with images of the original plans of the building from 1849, are ready for Nick to collect. We can’t wait to see them framed on the walls of The Met when it reopens in a few weeks’ time.





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Manchester Voices comes to Radcliffe

On a sunny Saturday morning at the end of August, I travelled to Radcliffe Library to record the visit of the Manchester Voices project, this being the ‘umbrella’ term for a series of research projects investigating and celebrating the accents and dialects of Greater Manchester.


Dr Rob Drummond (second right) and his team


Manchester Voices is the idea of Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Erin Carrie from the Department of Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University.  They aim to capture the different dialects of Greater Manchester by asking people questions about their different accents and dialects, and how they feel their accent shapes their sense of local identity.  Over two weeks Dr Drummond, Dr Carrie and their two MMU student assistants toured around the region in their splendid red van, enticing people aboard with the prospect of their voice being captured for posterity, as well as supporting academic research into understanding how the way in which we speak helps to make us who we are.


Ready to go…


Carol Kemp, Bury Archives Volunteer

As Archivist and keen advocate of the preservation of local customs and heritage, I duly clambered aboard to record my contribution.img_8865Once settled in with just Chester the talking laptop as my guide, I tapped the screen and began to speak… The questions posed concerned identity, belonging and how I felt about my accent and where I lived.  It’s hard not to feel a little self-conscious, with the awareness that I was occasionally lapsing, Hyacinth Bucket-style, into my ‘posh telephone voice’.  I soon snapped out of it however, and began to relax and enjoy the interrogation!  I recalled when, whilst briefly living ‘down South’ in the late 1980s, I reduced the office to hysterics when I asked if anyone wanted ‘a brew’.  “Ooh you sound just like someone off Coronation Street” they said!  This was an interesting observation to me as I had never thought of my accent as being particularly broad (although on several occasions I have been asked if I am from Blackburn).  To this day I am also unsure as to which Coronation Street character I reminded them of…


Captured for posterity!

The second part of the project will be the creation of a Greater Manchester Dialect Map, an interactive resource whereby people can describe their own dialect and how they think people speak in other areas.


Next stop Abraham Moss!

For more information about the project and to contribute to the Dialect Map, visit




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Donald Jack Display

Following on from our post about Radcliffe-born author, Donald Jack, we are very pleased to tell you that our display is up and running!

It was a pleasure to welcome Gordon Hale as one of the first visitors to view it – he was really thrilled to see the photos, particularly as they were taken way back in 1962 when Mr Jack had his first novel published. In addition to the display, we have copies of Donald Jack’s novels for you to browse.


Please note, if you are a library member you can borrow the first volume of The Bandy Papers and discover for yourself the comic genius of its author!


And here are a few images from Gordon’s visit last Friday:




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Acknowledgement Of Great Customer Service


Working-Class Capitalists

It is always nice when someone is happy with the service that they receive here at Bury Libraries. So it was especially thrilling when the Archives and Local Studies department found out that our Reference Librarian received a dedication of thanks in a customer’s Ph.D. Thesis.

Adam Carter is personally mentioned in Mr P. W. Hampson’s thesis ‘Working – Class Capitalists’. In recognition of the help given to him by Bury Libraries, Mr Hampson has kindly donated a copy of his work to the Local History Service for use as a reference document. Some of our fantastic library team came together for a small handover ceremony to mark the occasion; it was of course a great excuse for tea and cake!

Mr Hampson, Elizabeth Binns (Head of Bury Libraries) and our great team.

Mr Hampson, Elizabeth Binns (Head of Bury Libraries) and some of our great team.




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Three Cheers for Radcliffe-born Donald Jack!

It’s usually quite challenging (but always fascinating) when a person visits The Archive and Local History Service armed with a specific enquiry. TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? Make it look easy – like the answer is neatly boxed away and all we have to do is don white gloves, open the lid and out it pops! The reality is very often quite different and offering any sort of answer might need hours of careful research.

Yet I felt differently when Gordon Hale visited the Search Room back in February this year; his enquiry gave me confidence, I felt sure I would be able to provide him with all he wanted to know in a flash just like TV land! This was because his enquiry contained the magic phrase ‘local author’ – of course I’d know, I work in a library, I love books, we have a Lancashire authors collection; we’re bound to stock books and store media articles and photos, just give me the name and I’ll bring it all out!

The next sentence had me stumped, ‘… his name is Donald Jack and he was born in Radcliffe…’ I looked at Gordon in dismay, I’d never heard of him. A quick check of the library catalogue and then the archives catalogue backed me up: we held nothing; knew nothing! I had to tell Gordon, ‘computer says no…’ Of course Gordon might be mistaken, I thought, was he sure that Donald Jack was from our Radcliffe? Might it be another Radcliffe somewhere else in the country or world even? Gordon was sure and he’d wanted to know more about Donald Jack ever since he’d discovered his ‘hilarious’ novels back in the 1960s. I better let Gordon tell you his story …


One lunchtime in 1964 I was sitting in the Drawing Office with a colleague, eating our sandwiches as we read. On the next board to me was Harry who was clearly enjoying his book as he was convulsed in laughter every few seconds. In the end I had to ask him what it was called and all he said was, ‘This is so good. You’ll have to read it yourself…I’ll pass it to you when I’ve finished it….’

The book was ‘Three Cheers for Me’ by Donald Jack, and, when I read it I found it to be special. Set in World War One (The Bandy Papers. Vol.1) is a fictional tale about one Bartholomew Bandy, the son of a Canadian vicar who with his regiment goes to France in 1916. He is unable to see himself as a funny, naïve, accident and confusion prone character that progresses by a series of what would be backward steps through a military and diplomatic career. The author is clearly a sensitive individual whose attention to details in describing war and those involved is evident and engrossing.

I bought a copy of the book, and then the second volume (That’s Me in the Middle), later adding a third ( It’s Me Again) which was spotted, to my total surprise, on a Church Christmas Fair stall. The fourth (Me Among the Ruins) was a well-thumbed copy from a friend.

The first volume described Donald Jack as Canadian, but, in the second he is English, settled in Toronto. He is well-known in Canada and USA, having won the Stephen Leacock Award for humour on more than one occasion. Then I read that he actually came from Radcliffe, Manchester in England. I live in Bolton but worked for Bury MBC from around 1970 and couldn’t find anyone who had even heard of Donald Jack.That was a surprise as Bury was justifiably proud of the achievements of Richmal Crompton (Just William stories) and Victoria Wood (Actor and Playwright).

My interest seemed to be justified, but, where to find out more…?

I felt that this itch really needed to be scratched; the tenuous and frustrating link from a few words at a workplace lunch at a drawing board in 1964, followed by steady curiosity to 2016 could soon be forgotten as I seemed to be the only person interested in what was fast becoming a wasted exercise.

Early in the New Year I paid a visit to the Archives in Bury hoping to find someone who would see this writer from Radcliffe as someone of whom we should be proud and was worthy of some recognition. I was introduced to Wendy Gradwell (Archives Assistant) and sat down to tell my story….


Gordon’s enthusiasm for Donald Jack’s novels was infectious and I promised him I would do all I could to find out more. With help from library assistant, Christine Moran, who has in depth knowledge of Ancestry, we were able to discover that Donald Jack left England for Canada on the 22nd November 1951. Further research on the internet took me to the University of Calgary in Canada where Donald Jack’s papers are housed. I contacted them immediately and was rewarded with a speedy reply from a member of staff from Archives and Special Collections named Allison, who happens to be a big fan of Donald Jack! Allison’s help has been invaluable and the articles and information she has provided, together with research carried out here at Bury Archives and Local Studies, have all helped to piece together a brief synopsis of his life:


Christine Moran  and Gordon Hale carrying out research on Donald Jack through

Donald Jack was born on the 6th December 1924 at Rock House, Stand Lane, Radcliffe. His father, Robert Jack, was a Doctor originally from Scotland and his mother Sarah Lamont had been a nurse in Canada. A search through our own archives reveals Robert holding the post of Medical Officer for Bury from 1936 – 1943.

Donald Jack was educated at Bury Grammar School and later Marr College in Troon, Scotland which gained him enough qualifications to study at London University. He served in the RAF from 1943 – 1947 and although it’s not clear what his next occupation was we do know he moved back home to Radcliffe as he appears in the 1948 electoral register for Radcliffe alongside his parents and also his sister, Marjorie. An obituary written for The Toronto Globe in 2003 suggests Donald Jack did make an attempt at writing but ‘thought he lacked talent’ and after his mother asked him in 1951, “Isn’t it about time you left home?” he emigrated to Canada.

In 1952 Donald Jack attended the Canadian Theatre School in Toronto and discovered that acting was definitely not one of his strong points! Another shot at writing produced his first professional work: a full length stage play, Minuet for Brass Band, which received glowing reviews. Another stage play followed and as a result of this success he took the post of script writer with Crawley Films Ltd, Ottawa. After writing numerous documentary film scripts for Crawley and various other film companies, he then became a freelance writer and by 1962 had written over 40 television and stage plays.


Donald Jack April 1962/Image courtesy of University of Calgary Special Collections

Donald Jack’s first novel, Three Cheers for Me, (known later as Volume 1 of The Bandy Papers) was published in 1963 and word of his success very soon reached his home town in Radcliffe! An article printed in the Radcliffe Times on June 14th 1963 shows real pride for a local boy whose writing style had been compared with P G Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis.

By the late 1980s, Donald Jack had published his eighth novel in The Bandy Papers series and had become three-time winner of Canada’s prestigious Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. During the early years of the 1980s, Donald Jack and his wife, Nancy, made the journey back to England to be near their family. At the time of his death, in June 2003, Mr Jack was working on his ninth volume of The Bandy Papers. A report of his death was published in the Radcliffe Times on Thursday June 19th with the headline, ‘Prolific writer dies following a stroke’.

Having been introduced to Bartholomew Bandy through reading the first book in The Bandy Papers series, Three Cheers for Me, I can well understand Gordon’s quest to find out more about his creator, Donald Jack. It takes a certain kind of genius to create a character who appears so artlessly comic even when finding himself in the horror of the trenches and it’s wonderful to know that this same comic genius was born in Radcliffe.


Gordon enjoying ‘Three Cheers for Me’ in the search room

Please watch this space for the announcement of an exciting new display featuring books, photographs and documents about Donald Jack – all available to view in our Archives search room!



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Memorials of Bury: South African War Memorial

In The South African War (or Second Boer War) 1899 – 1902, over 200 Lancashire Fusiliers lost their lives. Unveiling the statue and the ceremony which took place to commemorate those who died must have been a momentous occasion for the many who gathered in the Market Place that day. As remarked by a reporter in The Bury Times on 18th March 1905, “…the soldiers whose memory is to be honoured this afternoon were in many cases lads whose deaths have left a blank in Bury homes.”


The unveiling of the South African War Memorial by the Earl of Derby in March 1905

The striking bronze figure mounted on the stone pedestal is an interesting one: executed by George Frampton, R.A., it depicts a victorious Fusilier who is waving his busby high in the air with one hand and holding his rifle butt to the ground with the other hand. Up until then, most figures on war memorials in Britain would have been represented in repose to depict a soldier mourning the loss of his comrades. Frampton clearly had a different idea and is quoted in the Bury Times saying: “When cannons roar and rifles crack and sword and bayonet are red with blood, the soldier thirsts for battle … there is little chance of his mourning for a dead or wounded comrade. Instead he will raise a cheer of triumph for duty nobly accomplished and to inspire his fellows to fight on for King and country.”

During 1920, a decision was made to transfer the Fusilier Memorial from the Market Place to occupy the place where it stands today in Whitehead Gardens. It is not completely clear why this decision was made. However, entries in the Council Minutes Book from March 1920 suggest the tramways committee had plans to build a tram shelter in the place where it once stood.






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