by Andy Bull
Published December 12 – pre-order now
Just saying the name conjures up the golden age of motoring: a time when the open road spelled freedom and adventure, and when driving was fun.
Once, The Great North Road was spoken of as the UK’s own version of America’s Route 66: the Mother Road, threading its way across this green and pleasant land, linking the capitals of London and Edinburgh, taking in the great cities of York and Newcastle, numerous market towns and villages whose old coaching inns now catered for a new, romantic breed: the motorist. But all of that has long gone. Hasn’t it?
Isn’t the Great North Road now dead: buried by the A1, with its motorway-grade stretches and ubiquitous town by-passes?
Not a bit of it. Because the A1 is not the Great North Road. Realignment, renumbering, re-routing and extensive upgrading have meant that it bears little relation to the original highway. No more than a quarter of the modern A1 follows the route of the true Great North Road.
So, has that evocatively-named highway been wiped off the map? Actually, no.
These days it is hidden, renumbered as, among others, the B197, the A602, and the B656, but often still known locally as The Great North Road. All it has lost is the traffic that grew and grew until it clogged this great national artery.
That old, original route can still be driven the 400 miles from capital to capital, on a journey that does indeed have much in common with cruising America’s Route 66.
Driving the Real Great North Road is travel writer Andy Bull’s account of doing just that.
It’s also about re-living a time when the road, in the words of JB Priestley, cut through towns like a knife through cheese; when it guided stars from Sting to Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler to Eric Burdon, to fame and fortune; when Dorothy L Sayers found a road “that winds away like a long, flat, steel-grey ribbon – a surface like a race-track, without traps, without hedges, without side-roads, and without traffic.”
All you need to do is find the old road first. Let Andy show you how.
(…and other puzzles in rugby history)
By Tony Collins
ON SALE DECEMBER 12 – PRE-ORDER NOW
Did a schoolboy named William Webb Ellis really invent rugby two hundred years ago in 1823?
It’s a myth – but has always been a major part of the game, emerging in the culture wars that led to rugby’s great split of 1895.
The debate between league and union is endless. Which rugby code can claim to be the authentic version? Who has rightful claim to the original British Lions? Why did rugby league become the dominant code in Australia? How come it isn’t the premier code in Wales?
There are endless puzzles on the pitch too. Why does union follow football and have a throw-in? What’s the role of the drop-goal in the modern age? And what are the reasons for the decline of scrums?
In Who Framed William Webb Ellis?, award-winning professor of history Tony Collins uncovers and explains these and many more such enigmas surrounding rugby.
He reveals, for example, that rugby was once far more popular than football, that Manchester was a hotbed of the oval ball, and that Leeds United owes its existence to a rugby league club.
So what did happen that meant soccer and not rugby ultimately became the world game?
Based on episodes of his Rugby Reloaded podcast, Collins also explores the culture of rugby, and looks at Tom Brown’s School Days, the 19th-century equivalent of Harry Potter, 1960s kitchen sink movie classic This Sporting Life, the mysterious ‘Battle of the Roses’ painting, and even a Sherlock Holmes detective story.
If you’ve ever had a question about rugby history, then this is the book you need to read.
From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight
by Sir Rodney Brooke
“Few, if any, public servants can match Sir Rodney Brooke’s 60-year record … six decades of unbroken service across local government, the NHS, education, utilities and beyond surely give him a unique perspective…” – The Guardian
Sir Rodney Brooke has had an eventful life at the sharp end – thanks to a career that led him from 15-year-old school-leaver in Yorkshire to the corridors of power at Westminster… and all points in between. In The Winding Stair, his sparkling collection of memoirs, he takes readers through its highs and lows – beginning as a reporter on his hometown Morley Observer newspaper and ending with a CBE, knighthood and honours from five more countries. In so doing, he reveals hitherto unknown details behind six decades’ worth of controversial headline moments and colourful personalities.
As a former chief executive of West Yorkshire County Council, he shares fascinating background into the mysterious death of Helen Smith in Jeddah; the Bradford City fire, in which 56 people were killed; and the handling of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.
As Emergency Controller in the event of nuclear war, he was told to shelter in a Pennine underground lair – and restore order as Geiger counters said to emerge. Read how Halifax invented the guillotine; why dogs could bark at night in Otley but not Ossett; how the law told householders in Huddersfield to whiten their doorsteps before 8.00am or be fined five shillings; and why the press camped on his Ilkley lawn after he resigned over the notorious ‘Homes for Votes’ episode – when Dame Shirley Porter was surcharged £42.5m.
Accounts of how he organised the final reading of the Riot Act and interviewed a talking dog with Mrs Thatcher’s press spokesman, Sir Bernard Ingham, are found among tales of Princess Diana’s underwear in Roundhay Park, Princess Margaret and the cakes at Leeds/Bradford airport, sex and the Poll Tax, the murky Dolphin Square scandals and how Trafalgar Square very nearly became Nelson Mandela Square. For anyone interested in current affairs and the reality behind politics, The Winding Stair – From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight is not to be missed.
By Neill Hargreaves
Beyond a Little Learning is a collection of biographies of 25 of the most distinguished Old Boys of Leeds Grammar School, charting their education there as the foundation for the impact they have made nationally and internationally in later life. Written by the former English teacher and senior librarian at the school, Neill Hargreaves, who is currently the joint-archivist of its successor GSAL – where the motto is ‘Be Inspired’ – this is a collection of lives humbling and inspiring in equal measure.
The book covers such fields as medicine and engineering, science, politics and law, the military and religion, art and music, literature and journalism. From John Harrison, John Smeaton and Field Marshal William Gustavus Nicholson – who all have school Houses named after them – through Barons and Knights of the realm, to entertainers Barry Cryer and Ricky Wilson, all aspects of the school’s 450 years of known history are celebrated in these pages. The portraits – encompassing astonishing feats that include lighthouse building, composition, horology, heart surgery and intelligence – offer fascinating insight into a group of men of vision, entrepreneurial spirit and deep-rooted commitment to others. Every one of these Old Boys of Leeds Grammar School made an impact that was – and is still – felt far beyond the boundaries of Leeds.
by Steve Boothroyd
From the early Cup-winning Bramley National and Hunslet Carr teams, through some outstanding Hunslet and Leeds representative sides, to the modern-day national girls’ champions from Corpus Christi, there is a rich and proud history of schools’ rugby league in the city of Leeds.
The History of Schools’ Rugby League in Leeds catalogues the story of the game in words and photographs – reflecting on the changes, highlighting influential teacher-coaches and administrators, and of course focusing on the many schools and teams that have played the sport since the first organised competitions in the early part of the twentieth century.