The Scribe, The Poet and The Artist

Elizabeth Shorrock
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Recently the North Craven Heritage Trust published a booklet Images of Dales Life in the 1930s. It comprised excerpts from the diaries of Joseph Norman Frankland (1904-1995). From boyhood Norman was very interested in natural history and especially botany. He was born in Hellifield and lived at various times in Kirkby Malham, Stainforth, Ingleton, Austwick, Horton in Craven and Giggleswick. He left school at the age of 14 and worked on a farm until he was 21. Working for a living as a woodworker, he spent his spare time reading botany books, corresponding with experts, mounting pressed flowers, and in summer walking long distances seeking out specimens. One day he went to explore the Ainsdale Dunes at Southport and met Fred Holder bird-watching for the RSPB. They became firm friends for the rest of their lives.

They made a pact to write essays about their experiences of natural history and they had them bound as a series of books. Fred Holder wrote about the Southport area and Norman Frankland about the Yorkshire Dales - the handwritten essays being intertwined in the books. Their writings also concerned their daily lives, boyhood memories, many personal events in their lives and philosophical thoughts, enhanced by photographs, sketches, poems and paintings of flowers. Together they form an interesting record of ordinary domestic life in the 1930s as well as a record of local botanical and ornithological matters.

I met Norman when I became interested in wild flowers at the time he came to live in Giggleswick. He was very helpful in developing my own understanding of wild flowers. He gave me the diaries, field notes and other records to preserve for posterity. The books have now been photographed in part - with emphasis on the writings and pictures relevant to Craven rather than Lancashire (there are over 2000 pages in total). The digital photographs are in the care of The Museum of North Craven Life at The Folly in Settle and the original books are now in the care of the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton.

The pair gave each other nicknames - Fred was The Scribe and Norman was The Poet. The paintings of flowers in several books were done by Miss B. Miller of Southport (’Trissie’) who naturally became referred to as The Artist. A further friend was known as The Microscopist and the Birdwoman was Fred Holder’s wife (Gertrude Agnes Langdon, daughter of the Head gamekeeper of Martin Mere). The name of the Microscopist is not known but he worked at Liverpool Museum and then went to Leicester Museum as a botanist.

The first book was for 1933, followed by 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937. Further unbound diary volumes written by Norman are for the years 1938 to 1944. There is a ‘Flora of Skipton’, field notebooks, diaries for 1938 - and other papers (not photographed).

Six volumes are entitled Yorkshire Dale and Lancashire Plain, with indexes:

Volume 1 1933 edited JNF and FWH 424 pp
Volume 2 1934 edited JNF and FWH (not paginated)
Volume 3 1934 edited FWH 250 pp
Volume 4 1935 edited JNF 472 pp
Volume 5 1936 edited FWH 516 pp
Volume 6 1937 edited JNF 500 pp

Another volume is entitled ‘A week in Craven’ by Fred Holder 171 pp (fully photographed).

Two volumes are entitled ‘A week on the West Coast’ by Norman Frankland, containing nine paintings of flowers by Miss Miller and two by Norman.

This note should allow this important material to be more widely known for those involved in natural history studies and the social history of the North West.