A BOOK launch is an unlikely choice of 90th birthday party, but for one Otley resident it was a wonderful celebration of a life lived through different eras and in different places.

Janet Hughes, who lives at Anchor’s Wharfeside Care Home, grew up in South Wales in the 1930s and 1940s and, in later years, wrote up her childhood memories, collecting them together with family and personal photos and memorabilia in a scrapbook, which proved a fantastic find for her family when they brought Janet’s belongings to Otley last year. Together, the writings and pictures were crafted into a book which was introduced to the public at an event attended by Otley’s Deputy Mayor, Penny Robinson.

My Aunt and Other Eccentrics records memories of great Welsh characters, engaging anecdotes and insights into the impact and circumstance on one family. With chapters on family, war, education and village and chapel, it paints a compelling and often amusing picture of life in a Welsh valley village.

“Looking back on my young life, I realised that it was something that family, friends, and others would enjoy reading about,” says Janet, “And so I set to writing down my memories. This led me to find information and images to complement and give context to the text, and so a book project was born.”

Ilkley Gazette: Janet HughesJanet Hughes (Image: submitted)

The project became a family endeavour with son Richard editing the book into its final order, daughter Amanda involved in typing and proofreading, and granddaughter Rhiannon, a book designer who has previously designed the Otley Memories of the Second World War book, creating the final artefact. Janet was involved as, Richard says, ‘Editor-in-Chief’, agreeing to the final text and shape of the book.

The launch itself brought friends together both from Otley – Janet is involved with Beech Hill Church – and Macclesfield – where she used to live; Janet’s older sister also joined in over the internet. Refreshments were provided by Anchor’s Wharfeside Care Home and the launch took place, appropriately, in the wonderful space that is the Home Library. The event was introduced by Richard, readings from the book were given by Amanda, Rhiannon, granddaughter Ellie and grandson Owain, and then Janet and the Deputy Mayor both spoke prior to the book being handed out. The book will also soon be winging its way also to family in South Wales, the south of England and all the way to New Zealand.

Ilkley Gazette: The front cover of My Aunts and Other EccentricsThe front cover of My Aunts and Other Eccentrics (Image: submitted)

Louise Bulcock, the Manager of Anchor’s Wharfeside care home commented: “This is a wonderful project and we’re very glad to be a part of it! It’s wonderful that Janet and her family were able to turn her memories and stories into such a wonderful book and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.”

Richard Hughes, Janet’s son, and Chair of Otley Town Council said: “I am used to introducing meetings and events, but, as you can imagine, this was a pleasure, rather than a job. The family had no idea that what our mum had written was such a wonderful read and we were delighted to bring it together into a book.”

Penny Robinson, Otley Deputy Mayor, described attending the event as a privilege. “I was delighted to attend. I am convinced that this book is worthy of joining the famous books with Aunt in their titles as a great read.”