Willie Riley circa 1900
We are delighted to announce that the Archive of Willie Riley is now catalogued and available to readers. The Archive is rich in detail about 19th and 20th century Bradford and district, Lancashire, Methodism, and the life of a professional author. We have already seen glimpses of the stories it has to tell e.g. Three Yorkshire Romances, Sweet Memories of Chamonix.
Willie Riley was born in Bradford in 1866. After a business career involving wool and magic lanterns in particular, he turned to authorship, writing the delightful Yorkshire tale Windyridge to entertain friends who had recently been bereaved. It was a great best-seller, leaving its traces in the names of houses across Yorkshire. Riley followed it up with over 30 other books, characterised by his love of Yorkshire, his ability to tell a good story, and his religious faith. He lived in Silverdale, Lancashire for the latter part of his life: he died in 1961. He fell out of fashion recently and was almost forgotten even in Yorkshire. However he is now being revived and Windyridge is back in print!
The Archive catalogue and more information about Riley can be found on the Archive webpage. The website created by Riley fan and scholar David Copeland is also packed with useful detail about this intriguing writer.
Sadly a few items in the Archive were badly water damaged during their history and are too fragile to make available without further treatment. But everything else is freely available … please contact us if you would like to use it.
I am delighted to announce a new website devoted to Willie Riley, author of Windyridge and other popular tales of Yorkshire life. The site was created by David Copeland, who has studied and written extensively about Riley for over 20 years, recently completing an M.Phil at the University of Bradford on his life, works, and legacy: “From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”. The website includes some of David’s key discoveries, including a detailed account of Riley’s fascinating life, a bibliography, and photographs. Riley’s Archive, much of it unearthed by David during his researches, is being donated to Special Collections at the University of Bradford.
“Windyridge”, the best-selling novel of Yorkshire life by W. Riley, is to be republished on 12 April by Northern Heritage Publications, thanks to David Copeland, who rescued Riley’s archive and has been researching his life and works. Further detail about the new book and David’s work in this Telegraph and Argus article.
In honour of the Winter Olympics, and my recent holiday in Chamonix, this month’s images have an alpine theme. They are taken from the W. Riley Archive (RIL) and the Peart-Binns Collection.
Chamonix, the Mer de Glace
Willie Riley, later to write “Windyridge” and many other novels of Yorkshire life, visited the Alps in July 1911 with his wife Clara and two friends Florence and Ethel Bolton. The Boltons had recently lost their parents and a sister, and spent much time that year with the Rileys. It was to help cheer these two the following empty winter that Willie began “Windyridge”. The Alpine visit was a tour arranged for the party by Continental Travel. It included Basel, Lucerne, Andermat, Zermatt, Chamonix and Geneva. This image shows the Mer de Glace (France’s largest glacier) at Chamonix. This along with many other photographs were collected into an album by Willie along with postcards and ephemera of the journey, and labelled “Sweet memories of July 1911”.
Cover of Encore Villars!
Christian socialist writer Maurice Reckitt and his brother Geoffrey became involved in amateur theatricals while holidaying in the Swiss town of Villars-sur-Ollon. In particular, they took part in the Villars Revue, first held in 1914 in imitation of successful ragtime revues, and revived 1920-1931. Maurice Reckitt wrote lyrics and performed on the piano. Souvenirs of the revues were privately printed as Hullo Villars! Encore Villars! and Au Revoir Villars! , each featuring a retrospective by Reckitt. The performances were rich in ski-themed parodies of popular songs e.g. “You made me shove you” (a skating duet), “Let’s do it (let’s go and ski)”.
Posted in Image of the Month, Literature, Riley, Willie
Tagged Alps, Chamonix, Mont Blanc, Reckitt, Riley, Ski-ing, Switzerland, Theatre
New on Special Collections web: the Joseph Riley Archive. Joseph Riley (1838-1926) came to our attention as the father of Willie Riley, author of “Windyridge” and other popular novels set in Yorkshire, but his archive is fascinating in its own right, full of detail about Bradford life and the Methodism that was so important to him. His career took him from poverty (he started work at seven) to great success in the stuff trade and magic lantern business, but he faced many setbacks, and ultimately bankruptcy. The global nature of the Bradford wool trade and the resulting cosmopolitan attitude of Bradford business is reflected in Riley’s account of a business trip to Constantinople.
Posted in Bradford, Collection of the Month, Literature, Religion, Riley, Willie, Yorkshire
Tagged Archives, Autobiographies, Bradford, Diaries, Families, Journals, Magic Lanterns, Memoirs, Riley, Windyridge, Wool, Writers