The A-Z of curious Nottinghamshire - strange stories of mysteries, crimes and eccentrics Frank E. Earp- a book review

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A bookview by R B Parish

Some Nottingham based readers may be familiar with Frank Earp’s regular ‘to be perfectly Frank’ series in the Nottingham free paper The Topper. However, Frank’s contribution to the world of local history and folk lore is far greater than that and goes back much farther and further afield. One of the founding members of what was to become earth mysteries, a regular contributor to Mercian Mysteries and Northern Earth, a long time Morris man and mummer, it is great to Frank’s considerable knowledge being distilled into a more mainstream and accessible media.

Taking on a much understudied county such as Nottinghamshire, compared to others perhaps would mean that such a abecedary is not so much a challenge. Yet although naturally with a topic such as this there are bound to be familiar stories and topics here, for example the oft told Murder stone story of Mansfield Road. There are of course accounts of Nottingham’s caves, St. Ann’s Well and Robin Hood, all common themes in Nottinghamshire local history works. However, the later is a good example of the value of the book for rather than go over familiar ground, a useful gazetteer of place name sites with a pen portrait of each is provided. This entry is a good example of the author’s skill taking familiar subjects and giving them a different spin, write from a different angle and provide new facts. This is the sign of course, of both of a good researcher and excellent raconteur. Indeed, Frank gives some very interesting and unique explanations to his accounts, a feature often missing from similar volumes.  

In such abecedary works one is always interested to see what is covered in those truculent letters, X and Z. Frank here is skillful or quite lucky by selecting a piece about Frank Robinson, the well known Xylophone man busker (although he is quick to tell us it was a metallophone!) and Zoo, a little known and fascinating facet of Victoria Hotel, Beeston, which would have made having a beer more exciting I am sure!

There is much for the well read local historian for Frank has delved through his considerable collection of notes and personal observations to provide some little known legends and tales. How many readers would be aware of William Wallett the last Fool of England or the inspiration of Oliver Twist, Robert Blincoe?

Perhaps the greatest asset the book has is to put into print a number of personal encounters.  The Canal Boggart tale being particularly enthralling as is his firsthand account of living in a haunted house. Although, the cynical reader might take these with a pinch of salt, there is no denying that they are delivered both by sincerity and in an engaging fashion

All in all, clearly if you have anyone who has a connection to the county, I wholeheartedly recommend the book, it is essential, but as a contribution to a countrywide consideration of folklore it is equally a worthy addition to anyone’s shelves. 

This page was added by R B Parish on 25/07/2014.

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