Week by week, we will be delving into the back stories of some of the greatest Yorkshire companies – finding out about the people behind them, their humble beginnings, how they became household names, and where they are now. Today we take a look at the Dalesman, finding out how a Quaker from Plymouth became one of the biggest voice for the Yorkshire Dales.
Born into a Quaker family in Plymouth in 1903, Harry J Scott moved with his parents to Leeds as a young boy, with the family soon settling in the Hyde Park area of the city. Having been prevented from a career in architecture due to the cost of training, he went into accountancy, before becoming a journalist with the Yorkshire Evening Post then the Yorkshire Post.
Harry soon settled down to raise a family with his wife, Dorothy, bearing two children – Martin and Margaret. They were both great lovers of the Dales, and each summer would rent part of a farm at Folly Hall in the Washburn Valley. While staying there, Harry would still travel to work in Leeds. As they had no car, he had to walk into Otley in order to get the bus. It was during this time that he started taking notes of everyday Dales life, local customs, and the interesting folk he met, along with their equally interesting tales. Around this time he failed to get a job with Robertson Scott – founders of the Countryman magazine in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
This setback prompted Harry to decide that he would like to start his own magazine in the Dales for the people who lived there. He discovered an advertisement in the Yorkshire Post for a little house to rent in Clapham at the foot of Ingleborough. His previous accounting experience came to good use here, for he realised that by earning £3 a week in Leeds, he could easily afford the 10 shillings a week rent. They fell in love with the property and moved there immediately, with Harry making the daily commute to Leeds by train.
At the start of 1939, Harry showed his shoebox full of notes to a few journalist friends, such as Linton Andrews, then editor of the Leeds Mercury (and later editor of the Yorkshire Post. He gave Harry a loan of £50 to begin the project .Boosted by similar loans from six other friends, he was now in a position to be able to start his magazine. He set about putting together the first edition in the front parlour of his house, which they had named ‘Fellside’. Having hand-set the 28-pages himself in March of the same year, he had the Yorkshire Dalesman magazine printed by Lamberts of Settle at a cost of £25 for 3,000 copies.
Realising he would have to win over an entirely new readership, he included the following statement in that first issue:
“Although it may require a word of explanation, the appearance of the first number of a magazine devoted to the Yorkshire Dales needs no apology. The surprising thing is that Dales lovers should have lacked a magazine for so long […] It is to serve the interests of this great community that “The Yorkshire Dalesman” has been founded […] On this programme, I offer this first number of ‘The Yorkshire Dalesman’ for your consideration, pleading only for its many shortcomings that no magazine reaches maturity in its first number.”
The first issue also featured a letter from Bradford born Playwright J.B. Priestley, who gave a shining endorsement for the new publication, stating “I am glad to learn that our beloved Dales are to have their own magazine and I wish the venture the success it deserves”. Many of the popular features of the magazine today were included such as ‘A Yorkshire Dalesman’s Diary’ and ‘Reader’s Club’.
Despite increased readership over the first few months, during World War Two, production was limited to no more than 4,000 copies, with fewer pages, on poor quality paper. Although times were tough, the family business survived; and in 1947, due to increased pressure from readers, coverage was expanded from just the Western Dales to the whole of rural Yorkshire – from Cleveland and Teeside in the North East to the Pennine valleys of the Yorkshire-Lancashire border in the South West. In 1948 it was renamed simply The Dalesman, and in 1955 with a circulation of over 25,000 moved to new premises in Clapham, where it remained until a move to Skipton in 2000.
Today, along with The Dalesman magazine, the company is also one of the North of England’s biggest publishers of books and calendars; and has a number of sister publications including the Countryman which declined Harry J Scott employment in his early career. The magazine is also one of the biggest regional publications in the North. In 2011 The Dalesman had a readership of over 140,000 worldwide and continues to entertain its loyal band of followers with stories, competitions and features from all the Ridings.
In 2014 it celebrated 75 years of publications, with endorsements from both the Queen and David Cameron. The magazine continues to publish monthly from its headquaters in Skipton.
In the next post in this series, we will look at Cats Eyes.
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