Well-known Harrogate character's nostalgic look back

Harrogate nostalgia - The very young Mick Bell with his mother in the 1940s.
Harrogate nostalgia - The very young Mick Bell with his mother in the 1940s.

One of the best-known characters the Harrogate district’s sporting world of the last 50 years is looking back on a nostalgic childhood in his latest book.

The good-natured Michael ‘Mick’ Bell, 76, who has been both a player and umpire for more than 50 years in cricket in the Nidderdale, York Senior and Harrogate Evening Leagues, says his new publication only happened because of his latest operation.

Veteran Harrogate cricket umpire Mick Bell with his wife Jean Bell. (1802195AM2)

Veteran Harrogate cricket umpire Mick Bell with his wife Jean Bell. (1802195AM2)

One of the true characters of the North Yorkshire sporting world, Mick said: “My previous books all sold out. People would sometimes even ring me up at home asking where they could get a copy but I didn’t intend to write another one even.

“I started writing this one after a knee operation last December. I just needed somethign to do.

“Writing it made me realise what a wonderful time I have had both in my childhood and as an adult.”

The new book, which is set mainly in the 1950s in the village of Shaw Mills, begins in a sad way: “Michael was born a very poorly baby and his mum knew that it was going to be a very bad time for both of them.”

Mick did well to survive at all and, in fact, was so paralysed he could not hold a fork in his left hand until the age of six.

But, as the title Mischievous Mick, may suggest, the book is largely a happy one packed with funny anecdotes of different times, along with tales of this retired builder and former footballer and rugby player’s self-confessed cheeky behaviour and the scrapes he got into as a lad growing up in the Dales.

Mick said: “My earliest boyhood memory is when I was two-years-old sitting in a bath outside our small cottage listening to a boxing match on the radio.

“The age group I belong to have common memories, my books help jog them a bit.”

There is sorrow in his book, which is available as always at The Little Ripon Bookshop; it reveals how Mick met his biological father only once in his life.

It ends with Mick in his later teenage years, getting the cane, deservedly, at Ripon Modern School, playing cricket with passion and skill and sneaking into see The Beatles at Harrogate’s Royal Hall.

Not even his dyslexia condition has stopped Mick writing his series of books, which also include his life in cricket called It’s Nearly All About Cricket and which was written from the point of view of his pet dog Molly.

Mick said: “I was a late starter when it came to reading books but, through writing, I now appreciate the love people have for books and reading.”

And as for his retirement from cricket, well, he still turns up as an umpire most Saturdays to this very day.

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