Navigation Content Activities in the Peak District

Tom Bates


Reflections on Tom Bates

"A writer is a person who finds it more difficult to write than other people'
Thomas Mann


Derbyshire Author Tom Bates with Wilbur Smith

For many years readers of Reflections magazine have enjoyed the village features written by Tom Bates.
Like the artist who captures the essence of the county in watercolours or oils, Tom Bates is a writer who captures the essential spirit of Derbyshire in words.
He conveys the essence of history found in each unique location; old-world hamlets; reed-fringed village duckponds; ancient towering oaks in gardens planted in Elizabethan times. Yet Tom says "I do not write spontaneously, I am one of those poor unfortunates who have to construct words very carefully in order to convey exactly what I mean'.

"Perhaps with the exception of Alison Uttley and R. Murray Gilchrist, both of whom painted vivid word portraits and captured the very essence of time and place, very few Derbyshire-born authors have offered substantial portraits of Derbyshire life `as it happens'."

Although Tom Bates wrote this of Crichton Porteous, it is arguably Tom Bates himself who captures the spirit, the quintessential essence of Derbyshire in his descriptive features in Reflections magazine.
As well as being meticulously researched, his writing appears effortless, an elegant, seamless and concise melding of often complex historical fact. Tom's "sense impressions' of the Derbyshire landscape over which he has tramped for the better part of half a century render his work unique.

The three-dimensional clarity and quality of his writing, rarely achieved by other writers, conveys to me a sense of actually being there, of actually seeing each village through his eyes. His enchantment with all that he sees becomes palpable in the written word; and each memorable detail affectionately recalled, quickens the spirit and stirs the imagination.

I am not alone in my appreciation of Tom's writing. Julie Bunting writes:

..Tom Bates takes exuberant and contagious pleasure in his literary tour, encompassing a couple of dozen villages and gathering snippets that come only through chatting with the inhabitants. Little escapes his curiosity and he branches off into lesser-known regions, literally and otherwise, to tell many a good yarn. Such random snippets include the old market town that boasts a Bloody Bones Barn, a village where royal refugees found a welcome after the Russian Revolution and a local connection with the MacDougal family of flour fame. Tom Bates draws on other skills too, bringing scenes to life with poetry, prose, personal recollections and a hundred unique photographs. Here is a writer who has the skill for conveying his own delight in the tranquillity, the sense of remoteness from urban bustle, and the ruggedly handsome character of our wonderful Derbyshire villages".

Who is this Tom Bates whose wanderings among the villages of Derbyshire should rightly earn him the reputation of being a contemporary Derbyshire Chronicler?

Tom hasn't always been a writer - far from it.
Born in Old Whittington, he spent his childhood attending the Mary Swanwick School, and later the William Rhodes School in Chesterfield. His fascination with words began while still at school, an enthralment which lead to writing poetry and songs.
In his early years, like many other lads, he worked as a miner, eventually following in his father's footsteps, the popular, well-known Country Singer David H Lee and joining him in show business in 1968. His father would later record three of his songs.

His love affair with singing and performing flourished when he began singing solo, and he fulfilled a long-held ambition in 1993 when he recorded an album of Elvis Presley songs!

Life took a complete about face when in 1984 Tom discovered the writing of Llewellyn Powys which made an enormous impact on his own philosophy, and rekindled his enduring fascination with words, which in turn led to the writing of his first serious work of verse and social comment.

Tom occasionally speaks of his Damascus Road experience, the details of which he cannot be encouraged to share, however, we are permitted to know that it was this incident which moved him to dramatically change his life-style when he began preaching in 1984 at the local Unitarian church, conducting his first weddings, funerals and baptisms in 1985.
In 1986, after becoming Lay Pastor, Tom began serious studies in further education gaining a BA in Social Policy and Administration and a University Certificate in Theology at Manchester University. He then went on to graduate as a Unitarian Minister in 1991 and to take up the post of Minister in charge of Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church.

He first book of poems, An Offering, published in 1984 heralded the beginning of his serious writing career. A fierce defender of social equality, his perceptive social comment article, The Suicide Generation, published on the front page of The Inquirer, proved to be the first of his countless published works, many of which have been published in magazines like This England, Evergreen, The Countryman, and of course Reflections.
Tom says that his style is best suited to writing 1500 word features and was developed when writing two thousand word sermons each week - the number of words he found comfortable to deliver from the pulpit in twenty minutes....
To date he has published short stories, poems, academic theological essays, sports reports and three books of verse and philosophical prose. His fourth book, Rumblings in the Dust was published by New Age Poetry Press in 1993, and his latest and most successful book, Discovering Derbyshire's White Peak was published during the Millenium Year in September 2000.

Remarkably in his capacity as a minister of religion he has officiated at the marriages of his father, his sister, his daughter and one of his three sons; and he has also conducted his father's, his brother's, and his brother-in-law's funerals -and baptised his nephew and his grandson!
His has been a long journey from the coal mines of his youth to becoming a man with diplomas with distinction from the English Speaking Board; a man who began higher education in his forties, ultimately to gain a University degree; to addressing a National Assembly in a foreign country and broadcasting religious programs on BBC Radio.
"Anyone can be whatever or whoever they want to be providing they have the necessary desire and determination"ý says Tom.

Although you may never know Tom Bates, you will however, in the opinion of this writer, know intimately the Derbyshire villages contained in his new book "Reflections on Derbyshire Villages' which represents some of the finest descriptively visual writing readers will ever be privileged to read.

Beverley Eley - Author & Literary Agent. NSW Australia

A new book by Tom has been written and can be seen by going to Derbyshire - A Snapshot In Time