Philanthropists? Are there any left?

In today’s world, filled with hate and division, often fostered by a cynical media to sell more of their product, it would be easy to think philanthropy is dead. Far from it. Looking at a list of people on both sides of the Atlantic, who are happy to pay their luck and good fortune forward, there are more than one would think. To mention but a few, in America, Michael Bloomberg has given, among other donations, £1.1 billion to the John Hopkins University. Sir Ganesh Dutt gave all his earnings to charitable works. Bill Gates is known for his charitable trusts.


And, the person I must single out, Andrew Carnegie, an American born in Scotland, who funded libraries for all. One of his most famous quotations is No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit. On this side of the pond, we have Sir Tom Hunter, Gordon and the late Anita Roddick, the late George Michael, J K Rowling and, perhaps a little surprisingly, Sir Elton John.


But where did it all start? Mostly with Quakers in the 19th century. Caring factory owners who had made their money in industry and wanted, initially, to make life for their workers happier and healthier. Thus, we have Port Sunight in the Wirral, built by Lever Brothers, Richard and George Cadbury in Birmingham, who built most of Bournville for their employees, Titus Salt in Bradford, Joseph Rowntree in York and James Reckitt in Hull, among others.


This last one is very close to my heart, because it was at Reckitt & Colman in the late 1990s I met my husband. I was the R&D Librarian, he was a senior formulation and analytical chemist – in fact, Paul’s name is on the patent for Gaviscon Advance. James Reckitt, son of the original factory owner, built Garden Village to the north of the city and a public library close to the factory. My husband can remember a time when there was a swimming pool on the factory site for the use of the employees! I can remember the bank, open on a Friday morning, so none of us needed to go into the city centre.


It can be no surprise then, that given the opportunity to put Reckitt & Sons in a book, I grabbed it with both hands when I wrote Sherlock Holmes and the Oakwood Grange Affair. In the story, Reckitt’s starch plays a central role in the plot. I foreshadowed the building of Garden Village by twenty years, but I am sure James Reckitt’s son was carrying out his father’s wishes.


Hull gets such a poor and, in my view, wholly undeserved press, that, in 2017 when it is the City of Culture, I am pleased to have brought some true feelgood history to the table, even if it is in the middle of a Sherlock Holmes story!

You can find Sherlock Holmes & The Oakwood Grange Affair  here.

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Sometimes, it takes a long time to keep a promise…..

new-sherlock-cover  When I did my first library degree in the 70s, part of the process was a ‘half degree’ in either English Literature or Statistics. As the only thing I knew about statistics was that you could make them support any argument you wanted, I opted for English Literature.

I must have been a bit of a rebel even then, for, of course, as well as a librarianship dissertation, I also had to write one the for English Lit side. Other students were opting for subjects like Poe’s tales of ratiocination et al. I decided to forswear the lure of Austen, Hardy, Dickens and Eliot; to bring things a tad down-market and look for something in Arthur Conan Doyle’s very popular Sherlock Holmes stories. However, I still had to make it sound ‘literary’. After all, I wanted to enjoy the thing – and get the degree!

After a fair bit of digging – that’s the thing about librarians, we don’t have to know anything, just where to find it – I came across an opinion by Conan Doyle’s biographer John Dickson Carr about the change in the imagery and tone of the pre and post Reichenbach Falls stories. This change JDC put down to three life-changing events in Conan Doyle’s life after he had, he hoped, consigned Holmes to history. The death of his father, the terminal illness of his first wife and the fact that he fell hopelessly in love with Jean Leckie whilst his wife was ill. Having been brought up by a mother who majored on the ideals of chivalry and honour and also having been educated by Jesuits, there was no way he would even consider being disloyal or leaving his wife for his new love. All three events caused him immense heartache and this is reflected in the language he uses in the stories after Holmes was resurrected. My dissertation finally had its subject.

Because the study text was so unusual and after I had given a talk to my fellow students on Holmes, tutor Sheila Apted made me promise that at some point in the future, I would publish something about the world’s first consulting detective.

Fast forward to the new century when I kept the promise. I wrote and published The Oakwood Grange Affair in 2009 as part of the Legend Press/YouWriteOn scheme. I have learned much about my craft in the past eight years I decided to revise and edit the story. One of the difficulties I did not imagine I would encounter is that, having written books in my voice for the past eight years, it would be so difficult to revert to writing in Conan Doyle’s voice. However, Sherlock Holmes & The Oakwood Grange Affair is ready.

I was also amused by how many times Holmes assured his client that Watson was an utterly dependable lieutenant when the reader knows only too well that, given half a chance, Watson will make a complete dog’s breakfast of his task. The term epic fail could have been written for him. I also sniggered at how frequently Watson needed feeding allied with surprise that Holmes hadn’t collapsed and died of a smoking related illness and/or starvation. Of course, Conan Doyle only put a couple of idiosyncrasies into each story. It is only when you are writing a pastiche of a style and with such a well-known protagonist that you realise how many quirks Holmes possesses and how bloody annoying he is. That said, I well understand why these stories are so popular and just how very clever Mark Gatiss et al have been bringing Holmes’s incredible intellect into the 21st century.

You can find Sherlock Holmes & The Oakwood Grange Affair  here. – –

And more about me here –

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