I am summoned urgently to the reception in my office by a flustered personal assistant . Apparently, there is a postman in reception demanding money. This can only mean one thing ,my eagerly awaited copy of Julian Cohen’s “ Surely not in Buxton! ” has arrived. For some reason , I have to pay Euro 4.54 to release it , well actually five Euro since the postman ( as is the norm in Italy) has no change . Since the postage is correct , I can only assume that this is some Brexit related outrage , a 40% import charge on a book. Now that Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton is back ( albeit temporarily) in a job, I shall send him the bill. I shall add it to the notable amount he cost me tanking sterling as a result of the you know what. Bitter I am not ! , but “David you can have my IBAN!”.
Anyway, back to the more wholesome subject of Julian’s book . Firstly, I should declare an interest, myself and father get a mention in the credits, and Julian did , with my full blessing use some of my material and I read those chapters in advance. So any mistakes in those bits, are my bad not Julian’s. It is an eclectic survey of people, places and businesses in Buxton, many of whom/ which you have probably never heard of. I love this type of thing . I studied history at the University of Lancaster with the wonderful , Dr, John K Walton, who wrote books on Blackpool Landladies and the History of Fish and Chip shops. Doubtless such stuff is frowned upon by the purveyors of top-down history based on the theory of “great men” who make history. As an antidote to that sort of thing, Julian has assembled a wonderful collection of Buxton people and places and rescued them from obscurity. Every town should have a Julian Cohen to do the same for its lesser-known residents. There is a considerable body of work in most towns on the built environment and Buxton is very lucky in having some rather lovely buildings, ( well those that have not been thoughtlessly demolished) . But in the end , it is people that make places and ordinary people at that. A trained chimp or indeed AI could probably / allegedly produce a volume on so- called Victorian Titans and we have probably had quite enough of those, but Julian has done something far more worthwhile and brought together some interesting and original people and places-which tell an original story about Buxton.
In terms of people , the book covers a variety of people who either lived in or went to school in Buxton. How many people have heard of Frank Soo, the only footballer of Chinese heritage to have played for England ?. He lived in Buxton and played for Buxton FC as well and Julian tells his story. Hopefully a future historian will do the same for Diego Girolamo, the Italian international who plays /played for Buxton. I remember passing through Tottenham Court Road underground station in the 1980s and 1990s , when it still had Si Eduardo Paolozzi’s murals . Who knew that Paolozzi was connected with Buxton and got some of his inspiration in Buxton library. If you are of a certain age , you may well remember the Disney classics “Mary Poppins and “Herbie Rides Again”, you may even have seen them at Buxton Opera House when it was a cinema. Guess what, they were directed by Robert Stevenson – born in Buxton! I could go on , but you have to read the book .
After people , Julian looks at Sport and Leisure and Places of Work. He covers the somewhat obscure history of curling and tennis in Buxton and the Pavilion Gardens. There are some great photos too, Lord Roberts ( no relation ) of Kandahar handing out tennis cups in Buxton in 1913. Whoever knew that Lord Bobs, Britain’s preeminent Victorian General had visited Buxton to present tennis cups, he died the following year, which I think I mention somewhere on this site with reference to the Prince of Wales on the Western Front. For workplaces, Julian covers Duron Brake Linings, the Health and Safety Executive. the Mushroom Farm, IXL laundry and Cooper’s Corset Factory.
Finally, it is worth mentioning Buxton Rock Festivals. Yes, the Beatles actually played the Pavilion Gardens twice in 1963, I could add to my credibility in claiming to have been there, but alas I was six months old at the time. The 1970s Buxton Rock Festivals were characterised by rain, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry and Hell’s Angels. Sort of Altamont Speedway without the murders, although the weather was similar to Woodstock. I once worked with a chap who had been to Buxton Rock Festival, I had no reason to disbelieve him , while apparently 100,000 people or more allege they saw the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, nobody was going to say they were at the Buxton Rock Festival unless they actually were!. So well done Julian for keeping Buxton on the map. I am sure there is enough material lurking for a second volume. Meanwhile hopefully in the spirit of local competition, somebody in Matlock, Ashbourne or Belper will do the same thing. I give them a head start, only one of you can boast of a future James Bond going to school in your town !. Or maybe likeminded people in Buxton , Maine, Ontario, South Africa , Guyana and Australia could do the same. Finally. all the profits of Julian’s book go to support Buxton Civic Association , so if you buy the book you are supporting Poole’s Cavern, Grinlow Woods and 200 acres of woodlands as well as being entertained. If Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton , would like to buy a copy of the book and donate the sterling equivalent of five euro to Buxton Civic Association, I am sure it would be most welcome and contribution to his redemption arc
All the best from Italy.