Mixing it up for the Mayor

Margaret Watson with her new book, Dewsbury in food and photos. (d08021245)
Margaret Watson with her new book, Dewsbury in food and photos. (d08021245)

PAST and present melted into one as Margaret Watson was writing a book which brings old Dewsbury to life.

As she compiled a proud and unique mix of traditional Yorkshire recipes linked to pictures of the long-ago town, history was by her side.

“It was as if those women who made such wonderful meals were at my shoulder,” said Margaret, former deputy editor of the Reporter whose book Dewsbury in Food and Photos was published this week.

The book has been a labour of love which first took root in Margaret’s mind 40 years ago when she read a book called A Taste of Ireland, containing old Irish recipes and pictures from the past.

Margaret said: “I thought: if it could be done for a country, why not a town?

“I started to think about it more seriously when I retired. I have all these pictures of old Dewsbury and I wanted to give them back to the townspeople.

“As women’s editor, I had also collected many recipes from readers and I kept them. This was the taste of Dewsbury. The town I grew up in.”

The catalyst which spurred Margaret on to finally produce the book was Dewsbury East councillor Eric Firth (Lab) becoming the Mayor of Kirklees and naming the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice as his civic charity.

“I decided to write the book to raise funds for the cause,” said Margaret, who got sponsors to ensure a quality product.

Writing the book opened the floodgates of memory for Margaret herself. “It all came back,” she said. “The Sunday afternoons my mother would make feather cake for us all. It brought a lump to my throat.

“I wanted people to remember traditional food and the wonderful women who nourished us in more ways than one.“

Not all of the recipes are tried and tested by Margaret though.

“Some I couldn’t bring myself to try – such as pig’s head,” said Margaret. “But they all involve simple ingredients.

“Then there is the social history behind it all, how we lived, what we ate. Some of us have lost touch with all this. I am giving back the pictures and recipes which belong to Dewsbury. I don’t want them to just drift into obscurity.”

And from Margaret, perhaps the most telling recommendation? “It’s a book I would like to read myself.”

l The book has a limited edition run of 2,000 copies. It costs £10 and is on sale at the Reporter offices, Wellington Road, Dewsbury; Dewsbury Minster; WH Smith; Dewsbury Museum and the Women’s Centre in Wellington Road. Those who want the book to be delivered should email mwrecipebook@gmail.com.