I just love storytelling

Author Catherine Rothwell of Carleton - still writing at 90.
Author Catherine Rothwell of Carleton - still writing at 90.
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hER father delighted her with tales of the crimes and contraband of smugglers and their haunts.

And in the week Catherine Rothwell celebrated her 90th birthday, the local author paid tribute to the “raconteur” parents who inspired her.

Speaking to The Gazette from her Carleton home, Mrs Rothwell said: “I have always been interested in local history, and my parents were great storytellers.

“My father would spend hours fascinating me with tales of adventure, he could create snowstorms in our living room – I owe a lot to them.”

Born in Manchester in 1921, and educated at Manchester School of Librarianship, Mrs Rothwell worked at a library in Surrey before moving to the North West in the middle of the century.

Following marriage and several years in Preston, the former Fleetwood librarian moved to the Fylde coast with her young family to escape the city smog.

She has now penned 82 books – the latest is due out next year – and although her subjects have covered a wide area, her efforts have been mainly centred around the port.

Mrs Rothwell said: “I came to live here when the family were young, because of the smog in Preston at that time.

“We thought the children would be healthier on the coast, away from all the pollution in the air.

“But it opened up a life for me as well, as it gave me the chance to write, especially when I reached retirement.

“I have a great interest in local history, in particular about Fleetwood and the town’s founder, Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood.”

Earlier this year, the award-winning historian completed the final part of her trilogy into the history of the area.

She travelled the region compiling information about Lytham, St Annes, Warton and Freckleton – which holds reminders of the days when shipping was king.

The book, Ports and Harbours of the North West Coast also features the forgotten world of one of the nation’s biggest fishing ports.

Mrs Rothwell said: “Fleetwood was once home to ship-building as well, and in the 19th century, when Fleetwood was a new town, there was a hive of dockside activity.

“At this time, John Gibson established himself as a master shipbuilder and produced a number of vessels from his yard – the pinnacle of his career was probably his 16th vessel, the barquentine Emily Warbrick.

“She was launched with great fanfare in March 1872 after 18 months in construction, and at 104ft in length she was the largest ever built in the town.

“Fleetwood is such an interesting area to write about, people have a marvellous spirit, especially those who were witness to the many tragedies of the shipping era.”

As well as her home town, Mrs Rothwell has strong links with the Channel Islands, and her book, Around the Channel Islands, covers Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark.

It presents an account of daily life, trades and customs, historic events and leisure pursuits from the 1870s to the present day.

It also features the numerous shipwrecks along the beautiful coastline and other maritime aspects, including the struggle to gain a harvest from the sea.

She said: “When my husband was alive and I was younger, more sprightly, I was able to get around catching trains and buses.

“It is more difficult now, and I don’t think I will have the opportunity to travel much more, now I am 90.”

And despite having dealt with facts for most of her life, Mrs Rothwell is now also dealing with fiction after her first novel – The Horse in the Window – a modern mystery, based, of course, on local history, was published in 2009.

Now pondering a second novel, she said: “Because it is difficult to get around and as the winter unfolds before me, I like the idea of wrapping up warm at home and allowing my mind to do the wandering.

“If the weather is as cold as last year I think I will stay in and drum up a good story, it is very satisfying and takes me back to my story-telling parents.”

Mrs Rothwell’s latest publication will be the third instalment of her trilogy of books exploring the culinary heritage of the West Country.

The first two, From Pasties to Pilchards: Recipes and Memories of Cornwall and From Sally Lunns to Cider Sauce: Recipes and Memories of Somerset – were inspired by her love of that area and its unique local cuisine.

Mrs Rothwell said: “Around 30 years ago we went Somerset and enjoyed a beautiful holiday.

“My daughter has lived in Cornwall and that is an area I am also fond.”

The third book, including recipes and anecdotes from Devon, will be published in the New Year.