Lancashire’s literary legend

PHOTO: NEIL CROSS'Ron Freethy - Book Signing at Waterstones
PHOTO: NEIL CROSS'Ron Freethy - Book Signing at Waterstones

RON FREETHY is one of Lancashire’s best known and most prolific writers/historians. He explained his many interests to HELEN LINDSAY

with more than 40 books to his name, you would expect Ron Freethy to have spent a long time writing!

But with the word processing knowledge of his wife, Marlene, together they keep producing local and natural history publications faster than you can reach for the blotting paper!

Married in 1962, it was always a match made in heaven.

Ron had a long held fascination with industrial history and Marlene’s family had been mill workers for years.

Her father worked at Stanley Mill, Burnley, all his life and his father was the mill manager.

“She can still remember taking her dad his butties to the mill every day. We often make a point of driving past just to have a look, ” Ron said.

A biologist by training, Ron was born in Barrow-in-Furness in 1936.

Originally unsure of which career path to pursue, he decided to keep history as a hobby, but something told him it would one day become more important to him.

During the 1980s, as his career flourished Ron branched into broadcasting and worked for Granada TV, presenting documentaries and the children’s programme “The 8.15 from Manchester”.

“But I stopped when I got a face for radio, ” Ron jokes.

Meanwhile his work as a biologist was taking him all over the world and he worked on numerous river clearances in Australia.

But this didn’t mean a long-distance relationship. “I was offered the chance of business class travel, but gave it up for two tourist class tickets so Marlene could travel with me,” he said.

It was during this extensive period of travelling that Ron found he had the time to start documenting his experiences.

He stated: “Sitting on a plane for 24 hours gives you time to write. I kept a diary and that is where my books come from.”

From these diaries came books on birds, plants, rivers and country walks.

But as his career slowed, he began to return to his old love of local and industrial history.

He wrote books ranging from the eccentric collection of “Lancashire Privies”’, in which he took “a nostalgic trip down the garden path”, to the slightly more literal “Lancashire v Hitler – Civilians at War”.

His most recent publication, however, charts the rise of the cotton industry in his home-county: the mills, the men, the machines and the impact cotton had on people’s lives.

Ron said: “I wanted to write about the people who worked in the mills, what it was really like and the lives they led.

“We hear a lot about the squalor and the poor treatment of the workers, but people always remember the good bits. They may have been hard up, but they weren’t starving and maintained their humour.”

Ron found the book as good as compiled itself ,as he had collected a large number of old photographs during his research.

However, Ron said: “These personal memories are invaluable and I want to document them.

“Every time an old person dies, a library closes.”

The Garstang Courier / Longridge News has copies of several of Ron Freethy’s titles to give away.

Up for grabs are “Memories of the Lancashire Aircraft Industry”, “Kiddiwalks in Lancashire” and “Memories of The Lancashire Fishing Industry”.

If you would like to win a copy simply put your name, address and contact telephone number on a postcard or back of a sealed down envelope, along with the title you would like, and send it to: Freethy Book Competition, Garstang Courier / Longridge News, 7 Pringle Court, Park Hill Road, Garstang, Preston, PR3 1LN.

Get your entry to us by noon on March 14, 2012.