Just after the end of the war it was announced that a new free public lending library was to be opened in our little town. This announcement sparked off a great deal of argument
and indeed one might say contention. My Mum and Dad were strongly in favour but my Mum’s brother, Uncle Jack, and many others were equally strongly opposed saying that people should pay for their pleasures and if books were going to be free why not cinema seats. If it was going to be seen as a help to education why should it not be funded by the Education budget. However, after a while tempers cooled somewhat and a general consensus was reached that perhaps a library was evidence of a more cultured society appropriate to the development of a growing urban area after all the rigours of the war. So a vote was taken and the measure was passed with a comfortable majority.
The next stage was that an old office building was donated by one of the local ‘grandees’ and the necessary building work to convert this edifice into a library was initiated. Finally it was finished and the opening date was announced. The children’s library was to be opened a day later after school at 4 pm. A vast number of us kids, all excitement and eager anticipation, gathered outside and eventually the doors were opened. I was swept up a steep, narrow staircase and I don’t think my feet touched the ground until I arrived at the actual library crammed with shelves. I could not turn my head to actually see the book titles properly and as my nose was clamped between two books and my arms were pinioned by the boy behind me, who couldn’t move either, so I could only extract one, unknown, book. I hoped it would be a ’Biggles’ action packed story or perhaps one of Fennimore Cooper’s western adventures or even some of Captain Marryat’s tales of battles at sea. Eventually I had my loan recorded and exhausted I staggered back home keeping my treasured volume safe in my school bag.
My Dad was sitting in front of the fire reading. “Did all go well son? What have you borrowed on your first expedition to our new centre of learning? Oh yes a very good choice, ‘What does Science offer us’, so much better than those silly ‘Biggles’ books I find in your bedroom. How can anyone take seriously a person with such a ridiculous name?”
I recalled that my Dad had spent many a wet Sunday afternoon telling me tales of his favourite hero, Dick Turpin, the highwayman who was eventually hung at York. I recalled that a remote relative of my father’s was also hung as a ‘gentleman of the road’, at Caernarfon Castle in 1822. What a blotch on the family escutcheon and who could take seriously a name like ‘Dick Turpin’. ‘What goes round, comes round’.