An Emotional Meeting

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Post by Chris Butterfield.

My main reason for creating the Alfred Wainwright Books & Memorabilia group on Facebook four years ago was to engage with, and learn from, other Wainwright enthusiasts.

Many of the group’s now 8,900 members have been collecting far longer than I have. Long-time member and friend, Shane Wilkinson from Huddersfield owns a vast Wainwright collection. He acquired a signed No.6 of the 1,000 limited-edition Westmorland Heritage printed in 1975, which was quite a find.

Shane knew I owned the signed No.1 book, and suggested we meet up with our iconic single numbered books at Wainwright’s Yard in Kendal, near where they were originally produced. I thought it was an excellent idea, as this would be the first time the books have been reunited in 46 years.

Prior to the meeting I spoke with Andrew Nichol and asked him if he would like to come along, and he agreed. I thought it would make the day more memorable for Shane to meet my surprise guest!

With Shane Wilkinson at Wainwright’s Yard.

Andrew was the Westmorland Gazette‘s former general printing and book publishing manager. He was directly involved with the production of Westmorland Heritage and stored all 1,000 of them in his office until Wainwright decided who should have the No.1 book.

On the day, Andrew and I arrived in Kendal early. The blazing sun beat down on us, as we made our way to Wainwright’s Yard. I was due to meet Shane by the green Wainwright plaque that was pinned to the Gazette’s wall by the Kendal Civic Society.

As I entered the narrow yard the cool shade was instantly refreshing. Andrew waited on the corner of Stricklandgate and would join us a few minutes later. I immediately spotted Shane, and we greeted one another: two Wainwright enthusiasts together, who shared the same passion.

Suddenly, from behind us, a soft voice spoke “are you Shane Wilkinson?” Shane looked up in disbelief. “Yes. Is that Andrew Nichol?” Shane couldn’t contain his excitement and we were soon deep in conversation about Wainwright. Shane revealed his copy of Westmorland Heritage. Andrew held it securely. “Very nice. Your signed No.6 copy is in great condition and probably worth a small fortune”.

Rare books protected in the shade.
Single digit numbers.

Finally, I brought out the signed No.1 book. It was like a family reunion, having the two books together with Andrew outside the Gazette after all these years. All his memories from that time came flooding back and it was quite emotional for him.

Wainwright gifted the No.1 book to Paul Wilson, the Lieutenant of Westmorland, along with a personal letter thanking Paul for giving him the idea of Producing the Westmorland map in 1974, which in turn led to the book. Shane was fortunate to acquire an exceptionally rare first edition map signed by both Wainwright and Paul. It became a poignant moment for the three of us, remembering these two gentlemen who are no longer with us.

Shane’s Westmorland map signed by Wainwright and Paul Wilson.

We then had lunch at Booths café, which incidentally was the original site of the Gazette’s printing works, where all the Pictorial Guides were printed and bound.

After we had eaten, Andrew recalled many stories from his Gazette years. He would point out certain areas of Booths where the books were printed, bound and stored, including the location of his own office. It was like going back in time.

Andrew Nichol reunited with two copies of Westmorland Heritage.

Andrew is a very modest man, but he should be proud of his achievements. He helped put Wainwright back in the public eye and saved many jobs in the book publishing department. He felt honoured to have been given the opportunity to work with Wainwright for nearly 10 years until his death in 1991.

Before we parted, Shane pulled out his own copy of Andrew’s 2012 book, Behind the Scenes with Wainwright. Andrew gladly signed it for him, which was the perfect end to an enjoyable day.

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