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back to Book Reviews

Behind the Scenes with Wainwright
A Publisher’s Perspective of a Reluctant Celebrity

by Andrew Nichol

ISBN 978-0-7112-3382-9
Published by Kirkland Books Ltd

Very few people visited AW at his home and even fewer did so on a regular basis. Of those who did, how many are still alive and, further, kept a diary from which they could draw information about their dealings with him? If anybody other than Andrew Nichol falls into that category, I’d be very surprised.

Andrew Nichol is the person who showed AW and Eric Robson around the Westmorland Gazette’s printing works in the Striding Edge video ‘Wainwright’s Lakeland’. He was the one who told the story of the farmer who painted the green gate black in an effort to keep Wainwright walkers off his land.

Andrew was born in 1932 and since leaving school aged fourteen had always been employed in the newspaper trade. He joined the Westmorland Gazette in 1969 and in 1982 succeeded Harry Firth to become General Manager. Harry had regular twice-weekly meetings with AW at his home at Kendal Green to discuss progress on books going through production, sales and future publications. Andrew took over this responsibility and so began a relationship in which he describes AW as an ‘associate’ and which continued until AW’s death in January 1991. This association must have become very close to a friendship because Andrew and his wife accompanied AW and Betty on a holiday to AW’s regular destination in Wester Ross and the book includes several previously unpublished photographs taken on this holiday.

One often has cause to thank people we admire for leaving behind a legacy for others to enjoy: AW was one such person, leaving a wonderful collection of poetic writings and drawings. But then we find we want to know more about the person. This book helps us further in that regard and takes us inside 38 Kendal Green to be with AW and, at times, Betty, and to ‘see’ his house and studio and ‘hear’ him talking to Andrew, Betty and Betty’s friends. The book also gives some insight into family relationships – there are contributions from AW’s nephew, Jack Fish, and Doreen (wife of AW’s son, Peter).

This book arrived for review during the Olympics and although being virtually glued to the television I switched it off and began reading immediately. Wainwright books have that effect on me and with this being a slim volume I finished reading it in one session and so, I suspect, will most readers.

Andrew Nichol tells us that he is not a writer: however, the style is far less important than the content. The few minor errors are of no importance either – we should simply be grateful that Andrew has taken the time and trouble to place the memories of his dealings with AW in the public arena so that they are not lost forever.

John Wadsworth - Member No 166