William Reginald “Bill” Mitchell, born in January 15, 1928, and died on October 7, 2015.
William was a British writer who was the editor of the Dalesman magazine for twenty years and over a sixty year period has written over 200 books, hundreds of articles, and delivered many talks on the history and physical and natural evolution of North Britain, with particular emphasis on The Yorkshire Dales, Lancashire and The Lake District.
These include biographies, social history, topography, and natural history of the regions.
In the course of his career William has made and collected many taped interviews with people of these regions – now housed at the Universities of Leeds and Bradford – representing a unique archive of dialect and history.
W R Mitchell was born in 1928 at Skipton, North Yorkshire. His family worked in the local textile industry and were staunch Methodists; a religion that played an important part in Bill Mitchell’s own life in later years; he was a Methodist local preacher for over 40 years.
In 1943, aged 15, Bill Mitchell joined the ‘Craven Herald’ regional newspaper as a junior reporter.
After national service at Royal Navy air stations, he returned to the newspaper, but in 1948 was asked by Harry Scott, editor of Dalesman, to join the staff of the magazine.
Dalesman, started in 1939, is a well-regarded regional magazine still in publication today, and has since its inception has documented the lives, past and present, of people in the Yorkshire Dales.
From 1951, in addition to his work with Dalesman, William began editing ‘Cumbria’, a magazine that covered the Lake District area of England.
In the course of his journalistic work, he met and interviewed many people, which subsequently formed the basis for his feature articles and many of his later books. In 1952 he married Freda Bancroft and has two children, David and Janet.
In 1968 William became editor of Dalesman, a post he held until his retirement in 1986. Yorkshire Television marked his retirement with a programme about his life, narrated by Alan Bennett.
Following his retirement, he established his own publishing company, ‘Castleberg’, from his home in Giggleswick, near Settle, North Yorkshire.
In 1996 William was awarded the MBE for his services to journalism in Yorkshire and Cumbria, and made an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford.
In the same year William became an Honorary member of the Yorkshire Dales Society, later President and the Society’s first Patron. Bill Mitchell has always been a keen naturalist and this interest has infused his writing over many years.
He has been associated with the British Deer Society, The Yorkshire Naturalist Trust, the Cumbrian Wild Life Trust, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and was a founder member of the Royal Naval Bird Watching Society.
He also received a Golden Eagle Award in 2007 from the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild, which cited him as one of the founding fathers of outdoor writing.
In September 2009 he was voted ‘Greatest Living Icon’ for the Yorkshire Dales National Park in a poll by this organisation to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Parks.
The following year, May 2010, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dalesman Rural Awards Ceremony in Harrogate for his work in recording the history, heritage and wildlife of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors.
In April 2014, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dalesman, he was voted no 33 in a poll to find the 75 Greatest Icons of Yorkshire.
William wrote a regular column in the Bradford ‘Telegraph & Argus’ newspaper for several years: ‘Letter from the Dales’; has been a regular contributor to the North Yorkshire ‘Craven Herald’ newspaper (History Pages); and had a monthly feature in the Dalesman:’Dalesfolk I Remember'(see Media Coverage links, below). He died on 7 October 2015 at the age of 87.