Legends of Wood & Ink
Local author and Land of Oak & Iron volunteer Val Scully, began reading Tales of Derwentdale in February this year – a book which was first published in 1902 by local legend J.W. Fawcett. He captured stories of local myths and legends passed down the ages from generation-to-generation by word of mouth. Inspired by the tales, Val embarked on a mission to find out more about the man behind them.
Val said: “The riches of Land of Oak & Iron lie not only in fertile soil, mineral wealth, invention, industry and a history that goes back to the Romans. Its greatest wealth lies in its people, and people love stories. Teeming with local myths and legends about devils, boggles, witches, giants and marauding moss-troopers, J.W. Fawcett’s book Tales of Derwentdale conjures the magical mysterious past of our farms and villages.
“However, it turns out the author himself was a mystery, and some of his best stories were about himself. Traveller, adventurer, naturalist, linguist, historian and writer he certainly was. But was he also an intelligence officer working closely with Lord Kitchener during World War One? Did he really enter Khartoum immediately after the murder of General Gordon? Was he shipwrecked three times and rescued by gunboat? All these questions and more inspired me to find out more about J.W. Fawcett and include his own stories into the reprint of Tales of Derwentdale.”
The re-worked masterpiece has been carefully illustrated throughout using Thomas Bewick prints. A world-renowned wood-engraver and natural history author born in Land of Oak & Iron in 1753 he is best known for his A History of British Birds, which features many intricate wood engravings.
The books are available to purchase from our Heritage Centre at Winlaton Mill for £10 and make an ideal Christmas present for anyone who loves the wonderful Derwent Valley.