A CONNECTION with the Brontes leads Bill Mitchell to consider another Dales writer, dubbed A Man of the Moors.

I HAVE for long been fond of visiting Haworth. An ancestor of mine, the Rev William Cartman, was an Anglican minister who moved to a parish adjacent to the one that was occupied by the Brontes. He got to know them well, had tea with the girls and, in due course - with the vicar of Bradford – officiated at the funerals of Charlotte and her father. He was also a Victorian headmaster of Skipton Grammar School.

I have followed the Bronte trail to Top Withens and chatted with a characterful old farmer about the lives of moorland sheep.

When Haworth and moorland are mentioned I also think, with great fondness, about the life and writings of Halliwell Sutcliffe. This interest began during the Second World War.

I joined the editorial staff of the Craven Herald and became acquainted with Harry J Scott. He had started a monthly magazine entitled The Yorkshire Dalesman in April, 1939. Among his Dales friends was Norman Thornber, whose family had a corn merchant service based in Settle.

Norman also became a great friend of mine through our passion for talking about life in the dale-country. He had a special fondness for caves, potholes – and the novels of Halliwell Sutcliffe.

In the Herald days I became familiar with Linton-in-Craven, where Halliwell Sutcliffe and his wife had eventually settled. I bussed or cycled into Craven villages for news or lists of mourners at funerals. In those days everyone who attended a funeral got a mention in the newspaper.

In 1939, Norman contributed a piece about Halliwell Sutcliffe to the first volume of the Dales magazine. Henceforth, I looked with special interest at the attractive house by the beck which was the Sutcliffe home.

Years later I had the joyful experience of making a brief visit to what had been the stylish residence and workplace of such a well-known novelist who was referred to at the head of the article with the sub-title of A Man of the Moors.

Norman Thornber noted that Halliwell Sutcliffe’s novels had made the Yorkshire moors known, not simply as tracts of waste land or purple heather, but vibrant and living, in turn somnolent, repellent, fascinating and bound up with loves and hatred. Sutcliffe was born just outside Bradford.

This man of the moors must have had a strong Bronteish streak for he claimed to have been born at Lee, near Haworth. The family lived here. He attended the village school which was kept by his dad. Haworth was regularly re-visited by father and son.

The family home had shifted to Bingley, where Dad had achieved a headship. Walkwise, Bingley and Haworth were nobbut five miles apart. Halliwell Sutcliffe became steeped in Haworth, the Brontes and the Moors.

His name began to appear on the title pages of books but writing them, in the early days, involved hard work. They were a struggle. Norman Thornber mentioned in his Dalesman article: “Once a few of his books had been accepted then the going was much easier.” A book written by Sutcliffe was published in 1893. Thereafter they flowed from his pen with an easy grace. London was his home when this literary life began but he returned to the Yorkshire Dales, his first home being at Embsay.

Halliwell Sutcliffe moved to what he re-named The White Abbey at Linton in 1907. He designed and constructed a fine rock garden, spending days tending it. A good deal of his literary work came from feuds set in the Yorkshire Dales. Beside writing 30 novels, Sutcliffe penned some delightful verse. He also wrote several pageants, notably those for Lancaster and Bradford. I had been told that he worked chiefly at night, retiring to his study at about 8.30pm.

Norman mentioned the correctness, geographically, of the novels. The best proof of this is in Pam the Fiddler. A man who was a stranger to the district found the story so enjoyable that, following the book, he was able to journey to Thorpe, near Linton. The radio based at Leeds broadcast Ricroft of Withens in six instalments.

Halliwell Sutcliffe adored the moors and dales. He often visited them. He wrote about them. And at times he would show visitors and clubs his favourite tracts. He died in the January of 1932. Burnsall Church was packed with friends and admirers. When the service was over, the ashes of Halliwell were taken to a moorland location.