FORMER Keighley MP Ann Cryer has had a long relationship with the Settle-Carlisle line.

A first date with her future husband and stalwart rail campaigner, Bob Cryer, introduced her to the area of the Dales and she then helped him fight against its closure over 20 years later.

Mrs Cryer was a stoic Labour MP for Keighley and Ilkley between 1997 and 2010. She has been a vice-president of the Yorkshire Dales Society - now named Friends of the Dales - and also a member of their council and policy committee for many years.

Here she writes of her connection to the line, which become an important part of her life many decades ago, and of the bond which remains today.

I WAS born and raised in Lancashire. That's quite an admission, given the likely readership of this piece.

Yorkshire seemed a faraway place during my early years, with just brief visits to Fountains Abbey, Knaresborough and a Bradford Alhambra pantomime.

Much later, in 1961 at the Annual Labour Party Conference in Blackpool's Winter Gardens I met the Shipley delegate who told me of his ambition to preserve a railway.

I was quite amazed. People didn't preserve railways at that time, mainly because they weren't being closed.

The young delegate was called Bob Cryer who in 1963 became my husband, and the railway was of course the Keighley and Worth Valley branch.

On our first date, we had met at Horton-in-Ribblesdale. I travelled by train from Darwen, via Blackburn and Skipton.

Bob arrived in his two-tone green Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, from Saltaire. We drove for lunch in Grassington.

Thus my first experience of the Settle-Carlisle Railway and the Yorkshire Dales. I was impressed by both, not to mention the car and driver.

Later, we, as a family, continued to enjoy the Dales and the Settle Carlisle line. After my father-in-law's death in 1974, the year when Bob was elected twice to Parliament, we frequently took Nana (Gladys Cryer) on the line, with our children John and Jane to Carlisle.

From 1981 a disturbing story started to permeate railway circles to the effect that our wonderful Settle-Carlisle line was under threat of closure.

This newspaper, among other Yorkshire-based media outlets, played a large part in reporting events, from the early decision to re-route the Nottingham to Glasgow service, away from Leeds, Skipton, Settle and Carlisle - probably investigative journalism at its best, which eventually led in 1989, to such a public outcry that the Government refused consent for British Railways to close the line.

My late husband was, for much of these eight years, an MP or MEP and used his elected positions as platforms to argue against Government and British Railways activities, helping the many who fought to save "England's greatest historical scenic route" and the "most magnificent main line in England". Here I quote from James Towler's excellent book "The Battle for the Settle and Carlisle", published in 1990.

Following Bob's death in a road accident in 1994, I got together a book - "Boldness Be My Friend, Remembering Bob Cryer MP" - an anthology of memories and tributes by his family and friends. It was published by Bradford Libraries.

Our very longtime friend and local journalist Alan Whittaker wrote an excellent chapter for our book entitled "Transport of Delight" regarding Bob's abiding interest in various forms of transport.

An extract reads: "Bob's unshakable belief in railways as a vital part of the country's transport infrastructure remained throughout his life and he did not restrict his activities simply to preservation and the past.

"He was one of the leading campaigners in the long fight to save the Settle-Carlisle Railway, about which he had written and filmed a documentary for BBC Look North in 1973.

"He gave evidence at the public inquiry where he scornfully dismissed BR's feeble case for closure and also bombarded the then Transport Secretary, Paul Channon, with questions about the future of the line in the House of Commons, thereby ensuring the debate remained in the public eye."

My relationship with the Settle Carlisle Railway didn't end with Bob's death. Due to the generosity of members of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society, I am extremely proud to be their president.

Due to this I represent the Society in a variety of ways. My most recent and extremely enjoyable outing was due to an invitation from Keith Whitmore, chairman of the Bahamas Locomotive Society, to travel behind Bahamas from Oxenhope to Carlisle, on Saturday, February 9. It was a wonderfully enjoyable, but an extremely wet day.

May I thank the Craven Herald for giving me this opportunity to put into print my long relationship with the Settle-Carlisle line?

Also to express my thanks to the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line for tolerating me as a vice president and for their sterling work in helping to keep this much loved line in operation. Long may they continue.