Tag Archives: Poetry

Remembering John Waddington-Feather (1933-2017)

Some reflections on the life of a good friend of ours, John Waddington-Feather, who died on 28 April.  His funeral is being held in Shropshire this afternoon (18 May).

Born in 1933, John grew up in the Lawkholme area of Keighley and studied at Keighley Boys’ Grammar School.  He received his B.A.  in English (with Italian and History) from Leeds University in 1954.  John took a particular interest in dialect studies, an area in which the university had considerable expertise.  He recalled his fieldwork:

‘I remember being pushed in the direction of an elderly farmer above Haworth – a real old Joseph – and his door opened about an inch. His gnarled face peered out and he eyed me suspiciously a while before asking, “Are ta frae t’tax?’ (Fees, 1991).

Intelligence corps rugby team July 1956

Intelligence Corps winning tug-o’-war team  at the Intelligence Corps depot, Maresfield Camp, in Sussex, July 1956.  John Waddington-Feather is second from left on the front row.  Copyright holder unknown.

John’s ‘post-graduate education’ included three months as a ward orderly at a tuberculosis sanatorium near Ilkley and national service in the Intelligence Corps and as a paratrooper.  ‘I needed compassion and a good stomach in the one; and in the other low cunning and native guile!’.  An enthusiastic sportsman, John played rugby union for Crowborough and Sussex.

After national service, John studied medicine for a year, but failed Chemistry, which put an end to his medical career.  He decided to use his English degree as a teacher on HMS Worcester, where he met his future wife.  They moved to Yorkshire where John took up a post at Salt Grammar School, and three daughters were born.

In 1969 an eventful trip across North America on Greyhound buses changed John’s life.  He was mugged, but found unexpected help: ‘I sat next to two ex-convicts newly released from penitentiary, who regaled me with a string of stories about life in prison and looked after me as I recovered’.  On his return to England, John became a prison visitor, wanting to give something back in return for the help those men gave him.  He found the work rewarding, and later decided to become a priest, thanks in part to the suggestion made by a young prisoner.   After studying theology at St Deiniol’s Library, he was ordained in 1977.  The role of non-stipendiary Anglican minister was ideal as he could continue to teach.  He retired from teaching in 1995 though continued prison visiting until very recently: ‘I believe I’m the oldest working prison chaplain in Britain, with more ‘time’ behind me than any of the men I visit.’

However, Special Collections knew John best as an author and as a J.B. Priestley enthusiast, Chairman Emeritus and Vice-President of the J.B. Priestley Society.

Like JB, John was a prolific and fluent writer, and experimented with many genres: scholarly articles, poetry, verse plays, history plays, children’s books, detective stories, historical romance and more.  Following the removal of his one, cancerous, kidney in 2001, John had to spend many hours a week on dialysis.  Writing was, as he said, a lifeline for him during these difficult times.  He used writing as a lifeline for others, for instance, encouraging prisoners to reflect and improve literacy via Poetry Church magazine, which he founded in 1997.  John’s works are characterised by his concern for others, his faith, and the inspiration he continued to draw from his Yorkshire childhood and his wide experience of life.

Wadd_1_QUI. Waddington-Feather, Quill's Adventures in Kangarooland, cover

Quill’s Adventures in Kangarooland

 

Witness the Quill the Hedgehog series, for children (and grown-ups).  Quill and his friends fight to save their world from the destructive evil of Mungo the alleycat and his armies of rats, a parallel to the fate of the West Riding’s countryside during the Industrial Revolution.  Quill’s Adventures in Grozzieland was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 1989.

Wadd_1_All. Waddington-Feather, The Allotment Mystery, cover

The Allotment Mystery

John was early to see the value of online platforms to authors and publishers, creating ‘waddysweb’ to publicise his imprint Feather Books.  More recently he found the Kindle format attracted many purchasers of his Blake Hartley mysteries, (3000+ sales per month).  The mysteries are classic light detective fiction, featuring Inspector Hartley and Sergeant Khan, up against sleaze, crime and red herrings in ‘Keighworth’.

To sum up, it was a privilege to know and work with John.  We are proud to be the home of his archive and book collection, which will ensure his works are remembered and enjoyed for years to come.

References

Fees, Craig (1991).  The imperilled inheritance : dialect & folklife studies at the University of Leeds 1946-1962 Part 1, Harold Orton and the English Dialect Survey.  Folklore Society Library.  In Special Collections, or online on the author’s website.

Quotations are taken from two essays by John, Autobiography (2009) and Post-graduate education (2012), sent in digital pre-publication form.

Links

Waddington-Feather books and archive collections in Special Collections.

100 Objects exhibition article on the story behind Quill Hedgehog.

Obituary in the Keighley News, by Ian Dewhirst.

Advertisements

Brontes, Bollywood and JB: welcome to the Lit Fest!

Did you know Bradford has its own Literature Festival?  Over a hundred events celebrating the written and spoken word, from 15 to 24 May 2015, in a host of venues around the city.

The Festival has a distinctively Bradfordian flavour:

7015044601_a35090975d_z

Bradford Reflections, by Tim Green – licence CC BY 2.0

  • Venture into the Undercliffe necropolis – at twilight …
  • Rediscover famous Bradfordians Humbert Wolfe and William Rothenstein and the city’s forgotten Jewish heritage
  • Explore the incredible textiles of India and the riches of Urdu poetry
  • Find out how Bollywood films portray male (often shirtless) beauty and style

Not to mention colleagues from Peace Studies at the University sharing their fascinating research: Dr Munro Price on Napoleon‘s downfall and Professor Paul Rogers discussing the rise of ISIS.

For venues, prices, tickets etc and many more events, check out the full programme on the Festival website.

Collections of the Month: Poems in the Reading Room

For National Poetry Day (6 October), some poetic links for Special Collections at the University of Bradford. The poets whose work we hold were inspired by the wider themes gathered by Special Collections, such as Yorkshire scenery, anti-nuclear campaigning, and archaeology.

Title page of Airedale in ancient times, by John Nicholson (London: 1825)

Title page of Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson (2nd ed, London: 1825)

Jacquetta Hawkes was inspired by the past and nature to write many poems during the 1940s.  In particular she turned a mystic experience into a marvellous poem, Man in Time.

J.B. Priestley was not (he felt) a natural poet, but his first published book was actually a collection of what he later called “dubious verse”.

We have plenty of poetry with a Yorkshire flavour.  The Archive of Yorkshire author, John Waddington-Feather, includes work inspired by Yorkshire and the natural world.  The Rev. Waddington-Feather also donated volumes of Yorkshire dialect verse by John Hartley, Ben Turner, F.W. Moorman and more.  More local verse can be found in the Local and W.R. Mitchell book  collections, including Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson, shown above.

Reflective and campaigning verse appears throughout our peace-related archives, see for example the Archive of Adam Curle and the Papers of Sarah Meyer.

The Mitrinovic Collection includes plenty of classical and modern poetry valued by Mitrinovic and his circle, in many languages notably Greek and Serbo-Croat.  Try a Classmark search for ML/C on the library catalogue to see the poetry and other language/literature works in this collection.  I particularly like a copy of Edith Sitwell’s Bucolic Comedies which she inscribed to Mitrinovic.

The Peart-Binns Christian Socialist Archive includes material on poet, entrepeneur and pacifist Tom Heron.

Finally, an update on the Sounds of Science Poetry CompetitionSee the winner, Emily Fioccoprile, reading her poem on Youtube. The entries and publicity will be added to the University Archive soon: it is fascinating to see how the authors interpreted the idea of science and the different kinds of poems that resulted.  There is also a display in the J.B. Priestley Library of the winning poems.

Enter the Sounds of Science

Bringing science and the arts together is one of the things we like in Special Collections.  Witness the work of Jacquetta Hawkes, who turned archaeology and geology into poetic journeys, or J.B. Priestley’s turning cosmic themes into compelling plays for stage and screen.

Staff, students and alumni at Bradford University are invited to enter a new competition to show how science can inspire their creative response.  As part of the Bradford Science Festival, the J.B. Priestley Library is organising a competition for the best poem on a science theme.  Closing date 13 June, poems must be under 40 lines.  How to enter.