An Associate Angel

An Associate Angel

Posted on June 29 by admin
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Our latest true crime novel that was released just this week is The Slaidburn Angel. The book is set in 1885 Yorkshire, where sisters are on trial for their lives after being accused of murdering an illegitimate toddler. Today, sisters Sheelagh and Penny have discovered their then nine-year-old grandmother was a witness.

Sheelagh Whittaker, the author of The Slaidburn Angel, wrote a guest blog post for us today about her experience trying to get pictures of the site for the book while she was in Canada, and the very good friend that she made in the process.

Sheelagh: Because the historical photographs I had planned to include in The Slaidburn Angel were part of my own fascination with the story, I was truly dismayed when the publisher  broke the news to me that several of them did not have enough ‘pixels’ to make the grade.

Suddenly, just two weeks away from finalizing the whole manuscript, I was at least four photographs short.  And half a world away from Slaidburn!

Sitting at the computer on Vancouver Island, I tried to calm down and figure out how to get at least four publication quality photographs, quickly. Bereft of options, I idly googled ‘Slaidburn photographer’ and up came a picture I recognized. It was of a row of lovely old stone cottages entitled, not surprisingly, ‘Slaidburn cottages’. Hurrying backward on the site I found the name of the photographer and a mobile phone number.

After pause for a calculation, often a necessity when one lives a life embracing at least four different time zones, I decided that it was around 7:30 pm in northern England and that it should not be too rude just to go ahead and phone the number listed. So I did.

I have still not had the chance to ask Sue Burton what she thought when she picked up the phone that evening. I was so surprised to get right through that my explanation to her was unrehearsed and probably somewhat incoherent. But at least the call had caught Sue’s interest. I would email some more information to her and she would think about what she might be able to do.

Misled by Google’s search linkage I had assumed the photo of the Slaidburn cottages to mean that Sue was in or near Slaidburn. As it turns out, she lives in Preston, so by asking her to go over to Slaidburn to take photos I risked putting her to some trouble.

All the same, she cheerfully agreed to drive to the various sites, some of them not easy to find or obtain access to. She also had to keep in mind that all her pictures needed to be framed so as to work around any 20th and 21st century intrusions.

Anyway, with only my confusing directions and the press clipping from the 1885 Preston Guardian to guide her, Sue set off with her camera and came back with an excellent array of photographs of the locations where the tragic drama of the toddler’s death had been played out in back in 1885.  Choosing amongst them proved very difficult.

And my demands did not end there.  I then prevailed upon Sue, please, please, to get us a photo of the Viking carved stone called the Slaidburn Angel, last seen, at least by me, at the Slaidburn Heritage Centre, which now seemed to be closed. Thanks to Sue’s local knowledge and persistence, she managed to locate the stone many miles away in Barrowford where it had been relocated.

Off Sue went again with her trusty camera and her picture of the elusive little Angel, well representing her artistry, time and effort, can be seen on the first page of the book.

The Slaidburn Angel would never have been completed and published without the work of all the ‘associate angels’ like Sue Burton that who helped us along the way. Though she and I have emailed and spoken on the phone, I have still not had the good fortune to meet her. And yet I already think of her as an old friend.

Sheelagh Whittaker has been featured in the prestigious Women of Influence lecture series and is a member of Maclean’s Honour Roll. She was named “The Pioneer” in the Globe and Mail’s Women in Power series. A quintessential Canadian who was born in Ottawa, she was raised on the Prairies and has worked in most parts of the country.