'These are Mum's memories – her life's work. When I read it now, I can hear her voice'
PHILIP Law remembers his mum as someone who could "turn her hand to anything".
Mary Dickinson, who died in November 2011, was a published poet and a seamstress.
But the book that was to mark her life's work – an evocative account of her wartime childhood – languished as a computer file following her death.
That is until Philip, of Cottingham, decided it deserved a wider audience.
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Alandale, named after the west Hull terrace where Mary grew up, is a recollection that veers between warm memories, including Mary and her best friend, Beryl, fishing for tiddlers in Pearson Park pond, to the darkest moments of the Hull blitz.
"The seed for this was sown almost 30 years ago," said Philip, who runs a vintage motorcycle business.
"My sister went with Mum to the library, so she could look through old copies of the Hull Daily Mail from the war. Everyone has memories, but she wanted to make sure the memories she had were based in fact.
"There is one incident where a German plane strafed the street with gunfire and a couple of people are killed. That happened. My granddad, who was in the Home Guard, covered them over with a coat.
"When Mum's funeral was held, I felt it had to be published. It was Mum's memories, it is her life's work."
The book follows Mary's life from April, 1940, when, as four-year-old, she was evacuated to a farm near Selby, to the armistice on May 8, 1945.
While Mary was brought back to Hull by her mother, Ethel, some of the happiest memories in the book deal with her recollections of her life on the farm.
Under the guidance of Mrs Brown, who Mary knew as Auntie B, the young evacuee collected eggs and helped to milk a cow.
"She had been living in a city and the nearest she had ever come to the countryside was Pearson Park," said Philip.
"So it was like visiting a different planet for her."
Using her research and her own diaries, Mary began writing the book 12 years ago.
"She was a very gentle person and was very talented, she was always making things," said Philip.
"Mum was one of those people who could turn her hand to anything. She wrote a lot of poetry, which was printed in the Mail, and I found reams of books and papers at her home.
"She kept a diary through most of her life and I have a case full of those going back to the 1950s. She was keen to have things written down.
"Mum was always telling us about her experiences in the war but one particular thing always stuck in her mind – Auntie B and the farm.
"It was only a short time in her life but that was the basis of the book as it had made such a massive impression on her. She'd been writing the whole thing in long-hand.
"I remember going to see her and saying 'Mum, you've got to get this on Word' – she'd never used a computer before."
After Mary's sudden death, Philip, who had been working as a teacher at South Hunsley School, began editing the computer file with a colleague, Graham Carmichael.
"I think it is wonderful," said Philip. "At the time, I did not appreciate how good it was. I've never been much of a reader but after she passed away I came to realise how talented she was.
"And when I first saw it available as a book, it was amazing. But while we have got it to the shops, it is Mum who has done the work.
"She would have been delighted. She was always trying to get things published."
The memoir evokes the everyday life of the time, including the hallway of Mary's home, which, she writes, smelled of candle grease and the Brilliantine her dad used on his hair.
But it also captures the terror of the time, from the destruction of the Blitz to the surreal moments thrown up by the conflict.
One of Mary's memories is of the silver barrage balloon, tethered near the statue of Queen Victoria, in Pearson Park, breaking free of its moorings and smashing into homes on the neighbouring streets.
"It makes you imagine what it would have been like back then," said Philip.
"But it is different for me to read it than for other people. Mum used to read it to us a chapter at a time. When I read it now, I can hear her voice."
Alandale by Mary Dickinson costs £4.99 and is available at Barkers in Cottingham and Hessle Bookshop. The book is also available on Amazon and as a Kindle download.