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Old Haunt

March 31, 2013

In 2009 I was one of many who wrote a poem to commemorate the centenary of our wonderful Northwich Library.  Our verses were displayed on their poetry board.

The present building was built in 1909 to replace an earlier one, which collapsed in 1907 due to brine subsidence.  The new black-and-white, timber-framed library was donated to the town for free public use by the chemical industrialist and local MP Sir John Brunner.  Originally named ‘The Brunner Library’, it is known today simply as Northwich Library.

For me, the library will always recall the late great children’s author Robert Westall, who I’d see there from time to time choosing or studying books.

Following early retirement from teaching in 1985, Bob opened an antiques business in Davenham, just down the road from my home village of Moulton, and I enjoyed visiting him there for a chat. 

An unforgettable character, a true original, larger than life, I can still see Bob prowling the library, or sitting at the window of his small sale room surrounded by clocks.  Sadly, Bob died at the early age of 63 in 1993 having written over forty books, which went down a storm not only in the UK but around the world in translation.  His many prizes and awards included the coveted Carnegie Medal, which he won twice – in 1975 for The Machine Gunners and in 1982 for The Scarecrows.

Bob’s imagination was weird and wonderful, and perhaps something of this coloured my thinking when I wrote my commemorative poem…

Happy Easter, everyone.    




C’mon, Bob,

Help me out here,

A few lines for this library of ours.


You haunt the place still:

I hear your limp,

See your fingers flick the shelves;


See your fierce goat face

In the leaded window light,

Calm now in study.


Aye, but didn’t your voice boom,

At war with the pindrop silence,

Now gone?


Didn’t you save it to P-drive?

Confound these new-fangled screens,

This mouse!


Yet such a boon, surely,

This wizardry would have been,

Making your books.


Ghosts, war, cats, antiques:

You populated the shadows

With your fancy.


And roam here you will,

Whilst the place stands,

As it has these last hundred years:


The Brunner Library,

Proudly serving this old salt town.

Thank you, Bob.


Paul Beech 


© Copyright Paul Beech 2013


From → Poetry

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