Goodnight to Flamboro’

Another link with Yorkshire composer and pianist William Baines (1899-1922)Alan Cuckston’s 1990 recording of a selection of his piano music is the only CD that I’ve ever provided the cover artwork for; a pencil and watercolour of one of Baines’ favourite places, drawn on location at Flamborough Head.

The centre piece of Cuckston’s recital, recorded at Leeds Grammar School on a Steinway piano, are two sea pieces, published as Tides (1920):

“Tonight I have written a lovely mind’s-eye impression. . . Goodnight to Flamboro’. The waves persistantly roll on the rock and in the caves. . .  A beautiful ecstatic sorrow surrounds everything about. . .”

William Baines, 1/7/1920

“This is an important disc,” Baines biographer Roger Carpenter tells me, “because it includes several items not otherwise issued commercially, such as Glancing Sunlight and Island of the Fay.”

At the Grave of William Baines

In 1995 Eric Parkin recorded a CD of the Piano Music of William Baines, which includes the Seven Preludes (1919) and Twilight Pieces (1921).

There’s a Baines connection to the music included on Robin Walker’s CD, I thirst. His piano piece At the Grave of William Baines was composed in 1999 to mark the centenary of Baines’ birth in Horbury. Walker writes:

“He was a composer who lived in his own reality, was solaced by Nature, and composed with a wild spirituality that always retained musical integrity.”


Alan Cuckston’s Goodnight to Flamboro’ on Music Web

Eric Parkin’s Piano Music of William Baines in the Gramophone

Robin Walker

William Baines Leaflet

Following a discussion on the Horbury and Sitlington History Facebook page, I looked out a copy of my leaflet, The Yorkshire of William Baines, produced as part of my Major Project on the Communication Design (graphic design) course at Leeds College of Art.

The project grew and grew until it included an exhibition and a recital by pianist Eric Parkin at the Harrogate Festival in August 1972, followed by another recital in Horbury, Baines’ home town, in the November (the 50th anniversary of his death, aged just 23), when Parkin was joined by contralto Caroline Foster, who performed five songs by Baines. I transcribed the songs from copies of the original manuscripts but fortunately pianist and singer were able to perform despite my inevitable errors.

Since my degree show days, my enthusiasm for pen and ink drawing and my interest in local history remain undiminished, but I’m so glad that my struggles with Letraset Times New Roman are a thing of the past. Letraset was rub-on lettering supplied on a plastic sheet, which was almost impossible to apply successfully. I wish that I could have had access to a time machine to pop forward 46 years to set up the project on my current iMac!

Victor Ambrus

My pen and ink style was heavily influenced by Victor Ambrus, at that time a prolific illustrator of history and children’s books, and later a regular on Channel 4’s Time Team. He incorporated finger prints into his drawings, so, so did I. I felt that if I could use the same pen and the same paper as he did, I might be able to achieve the assured springiness of his line.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask him about his technique when he did a session at a Children’s Book Fair in Leeds. I remember him telling me that he used layout paper for pen and ink work, and some readily available dip pen nib (if I remember rightly, he didn’t use a mapping pen).

Gathering material for the leaflet, I borrowed photographs and drawings from residents and former residents of Horbury and ordered copies of documents and photographs from the Baines archive in the Additional Manuscripts department of the British Library, which was then housed in the British Museum.

The publication was to be a booklet, but one of my graphic design tutors, John Daffern, persuaded me at a late stage to try something more adventurous, so it became two broadsheets in a card cover plus a facsimile of a career-changing telegram that Baines received from composer Arthur Eaglefield Hull. All this in a decorated envelope, that I sent out mail order, stamp stuck over the price tag – 5p – in the top right-hand corner.

The leaflet is currently available from the Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury.


Rickaro Bookshop

Horbury and Sitlington History Page Facebook group

Green Fire

hawthorn leaves‘Time still weaves its web. Cold winds blow across the country – but blue sky, the occasional sight of flowers are the essence of future hope. Soon the green fire will be bursting from all the hedgerows . . . and the stagnant pools will become animated with life . . .’

William Baines
William Baines

The letters and diaries of William Baines (1899-1922) reveal the way the composer drew his inspiration from the Yorkshire landscape. His impressionistic piano pieces conjure up pictures of coast, woodland and moor.

The Yorkshire of William Baines, my final project for a Diploma in Art & Design course at Leeds coincided with the 50th anniversary of his death. I started by talking to his surviving friends and relatives and went on to produce a publication, two concerts and an exhibition that at the Harrogate Festival in 1972. As a result of all this work, Roger Carpenter invited me to provide the illustrations for his biography of Baines, Goodnight to Flamborough.

Periwinkle climbing through the hedge.
Periwinkle climbing through the hedge.

I’m reminded of that ‘green fire’ quote when the hawthorn leaves start to appear in the wintry hedges. This winter was the warmest on record for central England, and records begin in 1659 so, uniquely as far as I remember, we’ve had a few green leaves in the hedge throughout the winter.

Link: William Baines, composer and pianist 

The Baines Family, 1912

Baines family
The Baines family, c. 1912; George William (who would then have been 39), William (13), Edward Henry (5) and Mary Alice (37).

plaque2While researching the life of composer William Baines for a college project in 1972, I was lucky to be able to interview a number of his contemporaries including a friend of the family, Nora Naylor.

Mrs Naylor who lived at 45 Cooperative Street, Horbury gave me this photograph of the Baines family, sent as Christmas card c. 1912.


It looks to me as if William has written the Christmas message as I’m sure that I recognise that handwriting from his early manuscripts and possibly the ‘To Nora Radley’ (her maiden name) in pencil.

Born in 1908, Nora told me that she remembered William and his tragically early death on 6 November 1922. Just as she was telling me this, her aunt, then aged 96 walked in and said ‘I remember when his parents were married.’

In the 1911 census, Nora’s aunt, then 35, is listed as a yarn reeler at a worsted manufacturer. Nora’s father, a widower aged 34, was an iron turner at the railway wagon works.


I didn’t keep meticulous records but I’m pretty sure that this photograph of Alice and George William was also given to me by Nora. It might have been taken at a roadside or railway cutting somewhere near Horbury – or perhaps on an excursion to the coast?

In the 1911 census the Baines family were living at 16 Church Street, Horbury, since demolished. He described his occupation as ‘Grocer and Music Teacher’. Considering their modest circumstances, I was surprised that the family employed a domestic servant; Annie Elizabeth Bradbury, 17, who was born at New Whittington, Derbyshire.

William Baines

William evidently learnt his musical skills from his father but I get the impression that his creative side owed a lot to his mum.

From these photographs you can also see that William inherited a certain sense of style from his father. In the earlier photograph George William reminds me of Pagget’s illustrations of Doctor Watson in the Strand Magazine.

Stan Barstow

WRITER Stan Barstow died yesterday, aged 83. Recalling his early life in an obituary in today’s GuardianIan Haywood quotes him as having said: “There were no writers in the family (there were, in fact, few real readers).” Haywood continues:

Barstow began to feel the real frustrations of his regional and cultural isolation. He regarded these feelings as symptomatic of the exclusion of the working class from literary tradition: “We had the temerity to think we could write but [had] no teachers and no models.”

I was lucky because, growing up a couple of decades later in his hometown of Horbury, we had Stan himself (left in my illustrated diary for Sunday, 4 June 1972 ) as a role model; a local writer with short stories, novels, television series, radio plays and one movie, John Schlesinger’s production of his novel A Kind of Loving, to his credit.

As a final year student at Leeds College of Art, researching my degree project about Horbury composer William Baines, I called on him (cycling down Hall Cliffe with my research in a hold-all hanging from the handle-bars, in the sketch in my diary, right).

His son Neil (left, who later read the part of William Baines in my Radio Leeds documentary about the composer) asked me to call back the next day when I chatted with Stan for some hours about Baines and ‘all sorts of local things’. On the Monday I popped down again and saw Stan’s wife Connie (right) to leave him a copy of Eric Parkin’s record of Baines’ piano music.

Here’s the piece he wrote for my leaflet on The Yorkshire of William Baines:

‘I was born a few doors along from William Baines in Shepstye Road, Horbury; but he had been dead for six years by the time I arrived on the scene. He was, in fact, exactly contemporary with my mother and it’s odd to think of her still alive and William dead all those years. But consumption and the like nipped off many a young life in those days: my mother’s talk of her youth is full of references to parents who “had eight and buried three”.  And, of course, it’s tempting but futile to speculate upon how Baines’s talent might have developed had he survived and been with us, in his seventies, today.

‘I probably saw William’s father, though I doubt that I ever heard him play the organ, for I went into the Primitive Methodist Chapel no more than a couple of times. The Highfield Methodist Chapel was where I spent the Sundays of my youth. There were four Methodist chapels within a couple of hundred yards along Horbury High Street in those days: the two I’ve mentioned and the Wesleyan and the Congregational. What their precise differences in belief andform of worship were I never knew, but it was only much later, after the Second World War, when their separate congregations began to fail, that three of them (the Congregational holding on to its independence) amalgamated for survival. A supermarket stands on the site of the Primitive Methodist Chapel now.

‘How quiet Horbury must have been in William’s day. I remember it as quiet enough in mine, for although I was born into the age of the internal combustion engine it was half a lifetime before bypass roads and six-­lane super highways. An attractive little town at that time, compact, stone-built, sitting on the hill above the Calder, with green fields all round it. In the evening a one-armed lamplighter made his rounds; in the early morning you would be stirred out of sleep by the clatter of colliers’ clogs passing under the window. Not much different, one imagines, from William’s time, for although his youth and mine were separated by a terrible war, change came much more slowly than in the years since 1945.

‘A puritanical town, of course. What other could it have been under that great weight. of Methodism? Drink was a blatant evil, sex a vast unmentionable mystery. It’s perhaps fortunate that William was a composer, rather than a writer, for music carries few of the moral associations of literature. He’d have had a hard time putting the truth on paper in those days. His departure from his birthplace was not the kind of exile D. H. Lawrence had to seek from a not dissimilar environment, and his future, had he lived, would surely not have been plagued by the kind of persecution Lawrence suffered. But that is speculation again, and we should be grateful for what, in his short life, he left us to enjoy.’

Memorial Park

Today the last of those Methodist churches is surrounded by a cordon of wire fencing panels and scheduled for demolition. The Baines memorial plaque that hangs there will be moved to the former Primitive Methodist church hall. Plans to rename Horbury War Memorial Park, otherwise known as “Sparra’ Park” in honour of Stan are currently stalled.

Stan gave me so much encouragement and down to earth advice about writing and publishing. He wrote the introduction to my first book A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield, published in 1978.

A Twinkle in the Eye

In the 1980s I helped out at a Save the Children craft fair, organised by Connie at Flanshaw, drawing portraits of people in conté crayon on Ingres paper. Stan volunteered to be drawn and I suggested that he should use the finished sketch as the frontispiece for his collected works.

He drifted back 20 minutes later: ‘Richard, can you make a change to this? – You’ve missed out the twinkle in my eye.’

I added a highlight in white crayon. Sure enough, the portrait needed that twinkle. That’s how Barbara and I always think of him – with a twinkle in his eye!


The Literature of Stan Barstow