As a boy in the 1850s, Ernest Dewhurst's great-grandfather was dispatched by train from Bolton to Colne in Lancashire. The label pinned to his jacket read 'Anyone can have this lad who wants him'. Thinking about the harshness of his great-grandfather's childhood prompted Ernest to examine his own upbringing, and the comparative cosiness of an isolated Pennine farm between the Pendle 'witches' country and the Bronte moors. The personal narrative is affectionate and self-deprecating, describing the author's earliest memories of life at home and on the farm, of family, relatives and friends, school and chapel, and the excitement of travelling fairs and Christmas 'do's'. On leaving school, Ernest became a local newspaper reporter, against the backdrop of impending war: the Home Guard 'invades' Burnley and he and his father are mistaken for spies. The book ends as he is called up 'to hinder the Royal Navy'. Set in a sunlit clearing between two world wars, 'A Pennine Childhood' - with its memories of cotton mills, milk rounds and markets, chapels and chip shops, gaslight and gossip, cowboys, comics and classrooms - will bring back many memories for anyone who lived through this period, especially in the north-west of England, and will also be an eye-opener for younger readers.
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