YDS President

The Yorkshire Dales Society’s President is the celebrated Dales author and historian W.R. (“Bill”) Mitchell MBE.

Bill Mitchell was born in Skipton over 80 years ago and became a reporter on the Craven Herald & Pioneer in the town, meeting Harry J. Scott who founded The Yorkshire Dalesman (later The Dalesman), in April 1939.

After two years national service in the Royal Navy, Bill was offered a job on the Dalesman and during most of his service with the magazine, edited it single-handed, with the riposte, ”I could not afford to be ill!”, holding the job till his retirement in 1986 and completing 60 years’ association with the Dalesman Publishing Company. In addition Bill also delivered several thousand talks and slide shows, including some memorable ones to the Yorkshire Dales Society, and contributed countless newspaper articles. A recent anecdote from the Country section in the Yorkshire Post gives the flavour. A librarian from one of the Dales mobile library vans was taking a heavy pile of books across a dales farmyard, when he was confronted by a fierce farm dog ready to fly at him. His rescuer proved to be rather surprisingly another farm dog who pinned the other animal firmly by the ear, allowing the nervous librarian to reach the safety of the farm house.

Bill from 1951 added the editorship of Cumbria, a magazine with its main focus in the Lake District, to his other regular commitments. Presiding over an area from Solway to Humber, and from Tyne to Hodder, nevertheless he managed to keep separate on one desk items for each magazine.

In 1996 Bill was awarded the MBE for his services to journalism in Yorkshire and Cumbria, and he was also admitted by the University of Bradford to the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters during the same year. In 2008 came further recognition for his many talents with a major award by the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild with Bill cited as one of the founding fathers of outdoor writing – a superb accolade.

Bill is a consummate professional in everything he involves himself in, his 160 books plus are always immaculately researched and presented, exceedingly readable, with a superb ear for dialogue and the idiosyncrasies of human nature. He writes with warmth, wit, compassion and scholarship. As a Methodist lay preacher of 40 years standing, his knowledge of dalesfolk is formidable, and likewise of the chapel pulpits throughout Dales and Bowland.

Bill’s connection with the Yorkshire Dales Society goes back to its early days when he became friendly with Colin Speakman after editing Colin’s first book, “Walking in the Yorkshire Dales” which was published by Dalesman on 1967. Bill joined the YDS and in 1996 his Honorary YDS membership cited “in recognition of your services in protecting the environment of the Yorkshire Dales.”

More recently Bill has become a member of the YDS Review editorial team and offers us many useful insights as well as producing excellent articles with the utmost promptitude. In response to our query as what role he saw for the Yorkshire Dales Society, he replied: “To be elected as President of the Yorkshire Dales Society was an unexpected delight. I have been impressed by the courageous way in which the Society speaks up when the Dales landscape or way of life is being threatened by alien ideas, and how the Society helps to sustain a delicate balance between conservation and the provision of facilities that enable worthy folk to enjoy their Dales heritage.”

Page Author : Fleur Speakman  -  Page last updated : 11th October 2011