This green book (it’s much greener in real life!) sat on the small bookcase in our living room when I was child. It’s called Blackburn – The Evolution of a Cotton Town and was written by Geo. C. Miller. It’s inscribed to my late father, I think by the author, but he didn’t sign it.
I don’t know if anyone else ever read it, but I took it down from time to time and turned the pages. The writing was all grown up and not very interesting then, but I liked the pictures of how Blackburn used to be.
When I began my new project – The Cotton Town Trilogy – I took it down from where it now lives on the bookshelf in my office. I knew that it was going to be a good resource for my historical saga, which begins when Titus and Jennet Eastwood are forced to move from their former life in the countryside into Blackburn to find work in the mills.
The book was written in 1951 to commemorate the Centenary of its Incorporation and covers many of the events that transformed Blackburn from a small market town into one of the most important cotton manufacturing sites in the country. There’s an old saying that Britain’s Bread Hangs By Lancashire’s Thread. But that transition was never easy and the book charts the many hardships that Blackburnians had to face along the way – poverty, starvation, riots, the fight for decent working conditions, illness, cholera, the fight for Reform and for the voices of working people to be heard in Parliament. It’s fascinating history and rich pickings when you’re writing a family saga!
George Miller has been an admirable research assistant. He’s done a lot of hard work for me by gathering accounts from old newspapers and contemporary journals.
If I have any criticism of him it’s that the book is focused firmly on men’s history. For example, he never mentions Mrs Alice Kitchen who was responsible for the first Female Reform Union in the country.
Little did I realise as a child how important this book was going to be. I wanted to be a writer back then. I’ve always dreamed of publishing success! Yet, now it’s been the most useful research book I’ve found and sat on my desk every day as I wrote the first book in the trilogy – Paradise Lane. And it will stay there as I write the next two.
Thank you, Mr Miller!