Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Read in 2018 - 6: A Boy*s Own Dale

A Boy's Own Dale
Terry Wilson

This is another of the books I bought last summer at The Little Ripon Bookshop. I am such a slow reader these days, it takes me almost a year to get through a small pile. That has to do with two things: 1. My eyes are not as good anymore as to allow me hours of reading before lights out. 2. I read on my kindle while on the train or elsewhere, and physical books are mostly kept for bedtime reading.

"A Boy's Own Dale" consists of Terry Wilson's memoirs, describing his childhood in the 1950s in Settle, a small town in Yorkshire.

Many people see this now as an enchanted time, a "golden" past where and when everything and everyone was, somehow, simpler and therefore better.
Of course we all know it wasn't like that; there was no such thing as the good old times.
For many who lived their (adult) lives in those years, post-war Britan (like most post-war countries in Europe) largely meant hard work for little money and conservative role models to adhere to with hardly any personal free time or room for the individual life styles we so appreciate today.
Still, for a little boy like Terry, it was his childhood, and a good one at that.

Yes, he worked hard at school, especially once he became eligible for the prestigious school in the next town. "Not the gas works for him", his Grandma said when he passed the entrance exam.
But Terry loved the outdoors, and outside school, nearly all his activities are set there.
He often went out on his own, disappearing all day until tea time, and nobody was worried - different times indeed.

Unlike many children nowadays who spend more time indoors than out, either watching TV or playing computer games, with sports often happening only in the organised manner of a club or at school, Terry was always out and about. He shot, he fished, he grew his own vegetables (and fetched prizes at local shows for them) and did a hundred other things without ever getting bored.
I bet he was not overweight and plagued by allergies like so many children today.
It was an enjoyable read, easy to imagine the places and people the author described, without making me want to turn back time and live in those days.

Terry Wilson died in 2015 at 84.


  1. I agree with your crit of the book - a lovely gentle read. The area around Settle is still just as beautiful today.

    1. Yes, just right for a relaxing read after a busy day at work. I don't think I have ever been to Settle, but I imagine it as beautiful as other small towns in the Dales.

  2. You are right about unhealthy kids today. We had a great nephew here for lunch recently who wouldn't eat the food I prepared and insisted he only ate apples on Tuesdays, he was 5 years old. Kids brought up in the 50s as I was wouldn't have dared speak like that, or need to be entertained at the table with games on a mobile phone.

    1. When I was a kid (in the 70s), we played outdoors as often as possible. Our indoor toys such as lego and books were for rainy days, and if we wanted to play inside on a nice day, our Mum would shoo us out. TV was limited to a few hours a week, there were only 3 channels in Germany and they did not operate 24/7.

  3. It sounds like a nice, gentle read. I think I would enjoy it.

    As for kids these days, it's so novel so see one outside in our neighborhood riding a bike or playing that when the rare ones appear Gregg and I always remark on it..."Look, there's a little girl on a bike!" It's so sad. And spending all that time indoors staring at screens is not doing today's children any favors.

    1. The chapters in this book are like little vignettes of Terry Wilson's life in his childhood and youth, there is no ongoing storyline you have to remember when you next pick up the book. That adds to it being such a relaxing read.
      My neighbours have three little boys (6, 3 and 1 years old). They often play in their garden, but there is always an adult around, either their mother or father, or grandmother. I wonder whether they will be allowed to play on their own once they are a bit older.