Schooldays inspire mum-of-two’s debut novel

Catherine Simpson.
Catherine Simpson.

Catherine Simpson’s schooldays played an important part in her life.

The former Winmarleigh Primary School pupil is ending the year on a high note after publishing her debut novel Truestory.

Catherine Simpson - circa 1972/73  front right on the photograph embroidering a 'tray cloth'

Catherine Simpson - circa 1972/73 front right on the photograph embroidering a 'tray cloth'

Although her home is now near Edinburgh, with journalist husband Marcello and her two daughters, her Lancastrian roots are never far from mind.

She was brought up on a Winmarleigh dairy farm, attending the village school, the local secondary (now Garstang Academy) and Preston’s WR Tuson College, which is now Preston’s College.

Catherine, now 51, then worked as a civil servant before retraining as a journalist at the former Preston Polytechnic, (now encompassed into the University of Central Lancashire) later taking a degree in journalism in Birmingham.

She recalls: “Life at Winmarleigh Primary School in the late 60s/early 70s was life in another era. We worked at wooden desks with ink wells. We had long blue quills to dip in the ink wells and an ‘ink monitor’ to fill them.

“When you needed a new piece of pink blotting paper you lined up at Mrs Darlington’s desk with the old piece to show every inch had been used.

“The girls were taught embroidery. If the back of the sewing wasn’t as neat as the front you were told to unpick it and start again. We didn’t do foreign languages or team sports or science, but boy could I do a Lazy Daisy Stitch.”

There were only 45 pupils in the whole school while she was a pupil now the school is even smaller with a little over two dozen the roll.

However,the most singular important thing about Winmarleigh School for Catherine was the love of storytelling.

She says: “Every morning we were told a story from the bible which we then had to retell and illustrate in our jotters. We were encouraged to write a diary and to make up our own stories.

“I remember my best friend, Alex, and I staying in at playtime to create scrolls of ghost stories on rolls of paper towels! Before home time we were read to by Mrs Darlington. I remember her cut glass tones reading The Water-Babies and Aesop’s Fables and Beatrix Potter’s The Pie and the Patty Pan.

“This love of storytelling never left me and I eventually trained as a journalist. When I was in my mid-40s I studied creative writing and in 2015 my first novel, Truestory, was published – it’s based in a village similar to Winmarleigh!

I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life for it to suddenly come true when you are 51 is quite hard to believe!”

Catherine’s stories have been included in anthologies and she has performed at a number of festivals, including Edinburgh.

International Book Festival.