Book Review – Alfred John Brown, Walker, Writer and Passionate Yorkshireman

Alfred John Brown: Walker, Writer and Passionate Yorkshireman,
by John A White (Author)

Readers of our blog may recall that in August 2015 we featured an exhibition in Burley library about local poet and writer Alfred John Brown. Now a new book about ‘AJB’ as he was affectionately known, has been published by John A. White.

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The author, John Anthony White was born in 1945 in Bradford where he attended St. Bede’s RC Grammar School. He took retirement from an academic career in 2003 when he developed an interest in the Yorkshire topographical writers, discovered Alfred John Brown and spent several years investigating his life and works, which culminated in this biography. He now has a renewed interest in rambling, an activity he first enjoyed in his former scouting days, and has often toured around Yorkshire in his renovated VW camper van to follow in the footsteps of ‘AJB’.

Alfred John Brown, ‘Yorkshire’s Tramping Author’ was a Bradford businessman living in Burley who began writing while recovering from illness during the First World War. He is best known for his classic topographical books about walking in the Yorkshire Dales but he also wrote semi-autobiographical novels, personal stories and verse.

Bradford Local Studies library has a good collection of his books including ‘Tramping in Yorkshire’, ‘Striding through Yorkshire’, ‘Poems and Songs’ and ‘Broad Acres’ as well as ‘Four Boon Fellows’ about a 100 mile weekend walk one Easter weekend from Barnard Castle to Ilkley.

This biographical account tells the fascinating story of this prodigious walker, prolific writer and passionate Yorkshireman who became a cult figure with iconic status in his day. It portrays the details of the intriguing life events which influenced his literary works and describes the complex character of one of the most widely read authors about his beloved Yorkshire.

Below is an extract from the book:

‘Alfred regarded ‘God’s Own Country’ of Yorkshire as more of a kingdom than just a country, and was of the opinion that: ‘If you took all the best parts of every country in England, and put them together, you would have something resembling Yorkshire.’ He was the most robust of walkers and covered almost the entire length and breadth of his beloved country on foot.’

 Finally a few words from ‘AJB’ himself:

‘…always one must keep one’s eyes fixed sharply on some directing point on the horizon, and reach it, or risk being benighted in the high secret places. In these wild delectable places, the difficulty is not where to go, but where not to go, once you are in the high places. As like as not, you will find yourself torn asunder with doubts and conflicting desires; like me, you will want to walk north, south, east and west at the same moment, and in such crisis the best way out is to shut your eyes and let your legs decide.’  (Alfred John Brown, Twin Joys’)

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