Barry Band: How a young Blackpool policeman wrote his place in history
The young police constable posted to the Fylde Coast in the 1960s was soon conducting investigations on his own account.
But this lawman was in the trail of Lancashire lore.
Bob Dobson was fascinated by the county’s history, its quirks and traditions.
Fifty years later, Bob is looking back on a hobby that became a second career as writer, publisher, editor, historian and book dealer.
Bob, 77, hails from Accrington and settled in Staining, near Blackpool.
He came to the Fylde as a 19-year-old constable at St Annes and also served at Fleetwood before becoming a sergeant at Blackpool, retiring after 30 years’ service.
“That’s when my hobby became my new job,” says Bob.
The hobby was ticking over in 1968 when young PC Dobson was scouting the book shops, looking for old and rare tomes. And in 1968 he was encouraged by a couple of successes.
“My wife and I were in Edinburgh, visiting an old school friend. We went into a book shop and found a copy of Old Homesteads of Accrington. It was so rare nobody had been able to find a copy. We bought it for £10.”
Soon after that, Bob was on the lookout for the Rev William Thornber’s History of Blackpool. A contact had been looking for 20 years.
A caravan holiday in the Lakes took Bob and his wife to Ambleside and a tour of the book shops. And the Thornber was there – at £20.
“I hadn’t got that much money, so I phoned my contact. He said to get back in the shop and tell them to put the book under the counter because a cheque was on its way,” said Bob.
His luck was in, for a fortnight later Bob discovered a copy of Thornber for his own collection for only £5.
Bob began writing and had two books published by Dalesman – Concerning Clogs and Lancashire Nicknames and Sayings.
He began to publish his own books under the name Landy Publishing: “I’d had the name in mind for years, since I’d seen it on a shunting engine at Wyre Dock, Fleetwood, when I was stationed there in the ‘60s. Landy is L and Y as in Lancashire and Yorkshire.”
Under that name Bob has written, edited and published many topics including Lancashire Police histories, dialect books and poetry and photo collections.
His projects included Fresh Air and Fun, a Blackpool miscellany by several writers. It’s a treasure trove of things you never knew about Blackpool.
He is particularly proud of his foray into the magazine world with The Really Lancashire Magazine, but after several issues it was not viable without advertising support.
However it had been noticed by the Dalesman company, who wanted to do something similar and offered the editorship to Bob. He thought it was a bit late to tackle at the age of 60 and it never happened.
Bob has retired from publishing, but is still involved in book fairs in Lancashire. You can see him at the occasional events at Lytham Assembly Rooms.
He still has links with Accrington as membership secretary of the grammar school old boys and is a member of historical societies in Hyndburn, Whalley, Blackburn, Rossendale, Preston and Lancaster.