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Malcolm Hanson - Skipton tourist guide

Malcolm Hanson



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This Frightful Town, extract from Mike Priestley's  report:

Malcolm is something of an expert on spooky Skipton, as well as just about every other aspect of the town’s history.

The former rock musician and promoter (he was the man behind Bradford’s Battle of the Bands rock contests some years ago) has turned himself into a local historian and guide whose Skipton Experience tours of the town have become increasingly popular as word has spread.

By all accounts, he’s a lively and amusing storyteller on these tours – which is easy to believe from the tone of his new book This Frightful Town (which was John Wesley’s verdict on Skipton) and its predecessor The Gateway Walk.

He relates tales from the past in a chatty, modern style that makes it all come splendidly alive.

There are characters galore in this booklet, among them Thomas Grisedale who, as new superintendent of police, tried to ban Bonfire Night in 1872. The independent-minded people of Skipton were having none of that. Trouble erupted, and Grisedale ordered his constables to draw truncheons and charge. It was indiscriminate, taking in innocent townspeople trying to go about their normal business as well as the troublemakers. A full-scale riot ensued and eventually the police retreated, only for Grisedale – who was expecting more bother – to turn up the following evening with the chief constable and 100 officers.

Malcolm Hanson reports: “However, much to the satisfaction of the townspeople – and to the embarrassment of our ‘Little Napoleon’ – the chief constable sided with the crowd and after listening to their complaints drummed the somewhat deflated policeman out of town.”

And he adds: “Let that be a lesson to us all – never tell a Skiptonian what to do!”  

This Frightful Town, extract from THE UPDATE (published by George Fisher Limited, Keswick, Cumbria):


Take a short walk with Malcolm Hanson’s book…and you’ll soon bump into the bizarre…

Malcolm, who is a Skipton Experience tourist guide, has uncovered some very strange and fascinating things about Skipton:

Look at the east end of Christ Church, to the left of the entrance to the crypt, and you will see several tombstones set against the wall. The largest of these has a very interesting inscription which reads:- ‘In memory of Edwin Calvert, known by the title of the Commander-in-chief, being the smallest and most perfect man in the world, being under 36 inches in height and weighing 23 and one-half pounds.

If it’s ghosts you are looking for, then try the Woolly Sheep... Over the years a regular procession of psychics, ghost-hunters and lunatics have spent the night here and most have left with a chilling story to tell...

Manby’s Corner was once visited by an exceptionally cruel ‘show’ starring ‘Seequaw the Indian Tooth-puller’... It would later be revealed that Seequaw was none other than one William Hartley - a councillor from nearby Silsden...

Holy Trinity Church has a wealth of curious stories and traditions...

Cresap Gardens on Coach Street, is probably closest to where Skipton’s ducking stool once stood...

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The Dark Side of Town, extract from Mike Priestley's  report:

MIKE PRIESTLEY dips into another volume of tales from Skipton’s past

Former Bradford rock music promoter Malcolm Hanson struck a rich seam when he moved to Skipton some years ago and metamorphosed into a tourist guide.

The town is packed with history, legend, characters, ghosts and good yarns. There’s masses of material for someone who knows what to do with it.

And Malcolm does know. He’s not only incorporated all the information from his extensive researches into the various walking tours he runs but has also assembled it in a series of books.

The Gateway Walk and This Frightful Town were published in 2001 and 2002 respectively and now comes this year’s slender but packed offering The dark Side of Town which is, as he puts it, “more ghosts, murders (and murderers!), riots, head cases, mysteries, myths, traditions and ‘off the wall’ history…”

He retells the story of the Chartist riot of August 16, 1842, when more than 3000 men and women took part in what became known as the great “Annahills Fight”. He paints a broad picture of the to-ing and fro-ing of the battle for control of the town but lightens it with comic details, such as the report of the sighting of a one-legged man who got his stump caught in the mud and had to be pulled free by soldiers. “His peg-leg was so stuck fast in the mud that it was embedded there. He was last seen hopping over a ditch cursing all and sundry!”

There are ghostly goings-on in the book, including the story of a traveller who rode in the stage coach that never was and the new mystery of a photograph taken in Holy Trinity Church which appears to show a number of figures where there are none - including a Christ-like figure with the head lit up in a halo effect.

Then there was Dwafton, a leadmill worker who often umpired cricket matches at the Craven Heifer. Reports Malcolm Hanson: “At one particular match between Lead Mill and Dewhurst someone shouted ‘How’s that?’ Dwafton ruled ‘Not out’ but by way of an afterthought added: “Though if t’clever bugger does it again he will be!’.”

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A Skipton Anthology, extracts from Mike Priestley's report (Telegraph & Argus 06.11.2004)

"Medicine man of Manby's Corner. Mike Priestley discovers some strong links between Skipton and North America ..."

Having your teeth extracted isn't something to be enjoyed even today. It was even less so in the days before anesthetics. But as a spectator sport it was pretty good fun. Manby's Corner in Skipton was were a supposed native American Indian called Seequah used to set up his stall in the 1890s, complete with an accompanying band. "It was this travelling 'medicine man's' claim that by the use of ancient spells he could perform the painless extraction of teeth, and ... all human traffic would be brought to a halt as news of this amazing man's arrival travelled like wildfire throughout the surrounding area," reports Skipton expert and town guide Malcolm Hanson in his new book A Skipton Anthology. "Anyone daft enough to take up the offer of a painless tooth extraction would be charged a shilling, strapped into a chair and attacked by a pliers-wielding Seequah. At the very moment the pliers took hold, the band would strike up a lusty tune (more than enough to drown the agonising howls coming from the chair) and much to the hilarious baying of the crowd, tooth would be parted from jaw..."

This 100-page volume is in fact a collected version of Malcolm Hanson's three earlier publications - The Gateway Walk, This Frightful Town and The Dark Side of Skipton - updated and in part re-written, with some new stories added, and put between glossy covers. It's altogether a more substantial publication than its three component parts to justify the price of £7.95, and it's packed with good tales entertainingly told.

...A more lowly Skiptonian, one who stayed at home but nevertheless made a big impression on all who encountered him was Piggy Sam, who lived on Mill Bridge . Malcolm Hanson reports: "Whenever Piggy was spotted on the High Street he was given a very wide berth on account of the wonderful smells that he carried around on his person. This was not due to a body odour problem, but more to the fact that he kept a herd of pigs in his house!"  

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Keighley's Darkest Secrets, extract from Mike Priestley's report (Telegraph & Argus 02.07.2005)

"Mysterious case of secrets and pies...ghosts, battling heroes and a woman who turns into a be-whiskered man...they're all in a new book about Keighley from a Craven historian..."

Did the author Bernard Cormwell base his famous Sharpe novels on the exploits of the landlord of a Keighley pub? Craven historian Malcolm Hanson thinks it possible. In his new book, Keighley's Darkest Secrets, he quotes the inscription on a grave in Utley Cemetery which reads: "In memory of the late Christopher Ingham, landlord of the Reservoir Tavern, Keighley, who died September 9th, 1866, in the 80th year of his age. He was one of the heroes of the Peninsular War. For having served in the 95th regiment of Foot, for which he received the silver medal and 9 clasps for the engagements at Toulouse, Orthes, Pyranees, Vittoria, Salamanca, Badajoz, Ciudad, Rodrigo, Fuentea, D'Oner and Busaco. He also received the medal for Waterloo."

Asks Malcolm Hanson: "Christopher Ingham really was an all-action hero, wasn't he? All those battles and wars he took part in. He must have been one of Keighley's greatest unsung heroes when he returned from his adventures. You would have expected him to have received a parade and a reception, yet it seems he went off quietly to run the Reservoir Tavern...There are claims that the best-selling novelist, Bernard Cornwell, after paying a casual visit to the cemetery and noticing the inscription, based his famous Sharpe novels on the Keighley adventurer."

Another grand Keighley name was James "Pie" Leach, who acquired his name because of his many careers including pie-making. This industrious Victorian was also a handloom weaver, woolcomber, coal-pit sinker, beerhouse keeper, spoon maker, horse and cart driver, gambler, hawker, travelling showman, docker, nightwatch man and - in the latter part of his life, politician. At least, that's the way Mr. Hanson tells it in this extremely readable collection of facts and anecdotes about Keighley's characters, eccentrics, ghosts and murderers.

There's an odd little suggestion in the book for an experiment that I must try sometime. If you visit Cliffe Castle you will see a room which there is a portrait of a lady who is looking right at you. Says Malcolm Hanson: "Now move very carefully backwards into the corridor, keeping your eye on the portrait all the time, until the natural light from the east-facing windows is cast upon the picture. If you are standing in the right position, then as the light grows more intense, the lady will disappear - to be replaced by a be-whiskered, balding gentleman." No, it isn't me. And he hasn't a clue how this trick of the eye is done. But I shall stay away from Cliffe Castle for awhile, for fear of being reversed into by people staring intensely at a portrait and awaiting its transformation.

There are plenty more mysteries and bizarre tales in this book...

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