Hail to thee, blithe spirit! It was with these memorable words that the founder of the Dalesman, Harry J Scott, greeted a fifteen-year-old William Reginald Mitchell as the wide-eyed teenager embarked on what was destined to become a remarkable career in journalism.
“Always remember,” Harry told him, sagely, “people are more important than things”. The words stayed with Bill all his life. He recalled the conversation when we met at his home in 2012, just a few days after I had been appointed as the sixth editor of the Dalesman.
As I had headed to Giggleswick in the magazine’s little blue van, driven by my predecessor Paul Jackson, I was a bag of nerves. It felt like a deeply symbolic moment, as though the mantle was being passed down, but I had no reason to be nervous. Bill was gracious, warm-hearted, good-humoured and full of encouragement. As he bustled around the kitchen, making cups of tea, he regaled us with stories from the golden era of journalism. I was enthralled.
Before we left, he thrust a copy of a book he had taken from a bookcase into my hand. A typically generous act from a true gentlemen. Showing us to the door, Bill noted our van. “That’s a bit posh,” he remarked with a twinkle in his eye. “In my day we had to make do with a wheelbarrow!” I drove away with a smile as wide as Bill’s beloved Ribblehead Viaduct.
The first words of W R Mitchell’s first article for the Dalesman, in October 1949, were “Yorkshire folk are the best in the world.” They are, and Bill was one of the very best.
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