Book Review by John Burland (founder of the Wainwright Society):

Encounters with Wainwright, compiled and edited by David Johnson

For a man who sold more two million copies of his Pictorial Guides to the Lake District fells, Alfred Wainwright was quite a shy person, did not court publicity and for many years could be downright rude to journalists and others who wanted to interview him. However, to like-minded individuals with a love of the fells and walking, and also animal lovers, he did correspond regularly and would also arrange to meet depending upon his schedule at the time.

Now, for the first time, a collection has been put together of people who actually met Wainwright during his lifetime, and has recently been published under the title of Encounters with Wainwright. Some of these encounters are very brief one-off meetings, whilst others are from people who worked with him at the Town Hall in Kendal, his publishers, his relatives, and others who had a friendship with him over a number of years, myself included.

The book has been put together and edited by David Johnson, the current editor of the Wainwright Society Magazine, Footsteps, and is a fascinating publication that has taken over two years to compile.

Initially it was David’s intention to put these encounters with Society members and others into the quarterly magazine featuring two or three encounters in each issue, but it soon became apparent that there would be so much material that this would have taken up several years’ issues and David and the Society’s committee decided to go ahead with a formal publication and include all those people who had contacted David with their stories.

David has travelled up and down the country meeting these people and obtaining their recollections.

Altogether there are a total of 120 contributions from people throughout the country who had met Wainwright and who wished to contribute following a plea in both the society magazine and also in various newspapers throughout the north of England. Many contributors were located following research by David. Included in these contributions are a number of people from West Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales area including Derry Brabbs from Knaresborough who was the photographer for half a dozen of Wainwright’s “Coffee Table” style books, Sue Gudgeon from Settle and also Mike Harding the singer and writer from Settle.

The late Bill Mitchell, former editor of Dalesman and Cumbria magazine, also made a contribution before he died last year.

There are also memories from: Matthew and Melanie Bayes who run the Penyghent café at Horton in Ribblesdale; Roger Ratcliffe, a reporter with the Yorkshire Post; Bob Swallow, who was one of the marketing team at Leeds Building Society who persuaded Wainwright to supply some drawings for a marketing promotion for the company; and Philip Tordoff from Halifax and myself, who knew Wainwright from the late 1970s through to his death in 1991.

I thought prior to reading this book that I knew Wainwright quite well from our meetings and also from talking to Eric Robson, the Wainwright Society Chairman, who made various TV films with him and Hunter Davies, his biographer and author of The Wainwright Letters.

However, from this new book I gleaned much more about AW (as he was known to friends and correspondents) than I had known before and found it an absolutely fascinating read. Many thousands of people have used Wainwright’s guides whilst walking in the Lake District and I am sure that they too will learn much more about him from this most interesting book.

All profits from the book, which is available from The Wainwright Society, will go to Animal Rescue Cumbria.

John Burland