'One voice for ten dragged this way once by superstition, ignorance. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Witch: female, cunning, manless, old, daughter of such, of evil faith; in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone. Heavy storm-clouds here, ill-will brewed, over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods. On the wind's breath, curse of crow and rook.'
Carol Ann Duffy - tasters from the Lancashire Witches Trail
David Holding from Chorley in Lancashire studied history and education at Manchester University qualifying as a teacher in the 1970s and working in the independent and state sectors. During this time, he continued historical research culminating in the award of an MA and Ph.D, his specialist area being British nineteenth-century social history. He later moved into lecturing in Higher Education and University in history and law, having obtained an LL.M, and Diploma in Legal Practice.
On retiring from academic teaching, Dr. Holding continues with legal and historical research, contributing articles to professional journals. He is a voluntary adviser to local law centres and contributes to student lectures and seminars. He served as a school governor for over twelve years. He is also a keen local historian having produced several guides to local community history.
David Holding's output with Scott Martin Productions initially consisted of three local history books, published simultaneously in early 2019 (below), and he will be producing further works over the coming months. The first of these further works will be 'A Bleak Christmas: The Pretoria Colliery Disaster of 1910'. Following this will be 'The Last Temptation: the Trial of Dr Harold Shipman', 'Easing the Passing:the Trial of Dr John Bodkin; and 'Revenge is Sweet: the Trial of Dr Buck Ruxton - the last three titles mentioned are books 1-3 of a trilogy relating to murder trials involving general medical practitioners in the UK.
More on these titles will be posted as and when we have the information.
'The Pendle Witch Trials of 1612' provides the reader with a complete overview of the famous chain of events leading to the execution of women suspected of witchcraft. It follows chronologically, the events from the initial interview of suspects, the gathering of evidence and finally, culminating in the trials at Lancaster in 1612. This work provides a full account of the proceedings in a format which is both accurate and informative, appealing to both the general reader and local historian.
'Murder in the Heather: The Winter Hill Murder of 1838' is a unique account of a brutal murder which took place on Winter Hill, Lancashire in 1838. It is based on contemporary media reports and court transcripts. It examines the events leading up to the crime, and the proceedings of the trial of the only suspect in the case. It concludes with a re-assessment of the case by examining the evidence, both circumstantial and forensic. The reader is drawn into the case as a prospective 'juror', and invited to draw their own conclusions in reaching a verdict based on all the evidence provided.
'The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton' is a traditional historical work based on documentary survey and analysis of court and police records of Bolton covering the period from 1850 to 1880. It assesses changes over time to relate these changes to their economic, social and political contexts. It also considers qualitative sources; official reports and town records, together with the selective use of local newspaper reports.
It concludes by inviting the reader to consider four key questions:
In what way was crime a reflection of the social and economic life of Bolton during the period?
What were the institutions acting as stimulants to crime?
What patterns emerge from the statistical data and how reliable are they?
Finally, how did the police, courts and reformative bodies react to crime, and how effective were they?
The reader is left to reflect on whether crime has really changed much over time.
Interview with David Holding, March 21st 2019
L: Hello David. Thank you so much for entrusting your three local history titles to Scott Martin Productions’ 2019 issue list. They’ve been a joy, and at times, a challenge to create: so many problems with formatting so many graphs! I’d first like to ask you how your career in the law, and your many various academic qualifications led you to the writing of local history publications about crime, witchcraft trials and murder?
D: My interest in local history can be traced back to my teenage years when I was a member of a local historical and archaeological association. This provided me with an opportunity to produce short descriptive accounts of local sites of historical interest. From this early background, it seemed a natural progression that I should read history at university. After graduation, I held teaching posts in colleges of Further Education.. It was during this time that I undertook further historical research culminating in the award of my Ph.D. It was at this stage that I took a career break by returning to university to study law and legal practice. My specialist areas were legal and forensic medicine and medical law. On completion of my studies, I returned to university teaching. This change in direction from the historical to the legal, had a positive effect on my writing and explains my 'forensic' approach to historical works. However, I do try to achieve a fine balance so as to appeal to both historical and legal readers.
L: Are there any areas of our local history that you wouldn’t write about? And, as a natural extension to this question, do you have any aspirations to write in any other genres – perhaps fiction or poetry?
D: I have no reservations regarding areas of local history that I would not write about, even potentially controversial issues. This I believe to be the legacy of my legal training, in that I endeavour to be as objective, as I can in my approach to my writing whatever the subject matter. As regards my writing in other genres such as fiction and poetry, I do not have any inclination towards these.
L: I really enjoy how in your book about the Pendle witch trials you provide the court transcripts so readers can see the same situation from different points of view. You also do this in your book, ‘Murder in the Heather’. It is such a good technique – objective rather than using the usual subjective viewpoint that most narrators or authors have. Is this a direct result of your law training? D: I do firmly believe that my 'objectivity' rather than 'subjectivity' developed from my legal training, particularly 'Advocacy Skills and Techniques' which I have a tendency to apply to my writing style. I do feel that it is essential that my readers are presented with facts and evidence from which they may draw their own conclusions. Indeed, I have always considered my readers to be 'partners' in what is, essentially, a 'joint enterprise' to use a legal expression, in an on-going narrative.
L: Do you come from a writing background? If not, where did the urge to create come from?
D: I have no personal knowledge that any of my relatives had writing backgrounds, so in this regard, I am a 'one off'. My urge to create and communicate emerged from my early desire to express my thoughts through the written word. I owe this, to the dedication and encouragement of my primary school teachers, who recognised my ability.
L: So, what writing projects are you currently working on? D: My current project work is centred upon a local historical event, the 'Pretoria Colliery Disaster of 1910'. Whilst this is not an original area of writing, its is a topic that is firmly embedded in local community history. My aim in this work is to provide the reader with an accurate but easily digestible account of the disaster, through an analysis of the Inquest and Home Office official reports into the disaster and its aftermath.
I hope to follow this work which I have entitled : “The Last Temptation”, with an in-depth analysis of the macabre but intriguing case of Dr Harold Shipman, the serial killer. Even after his death, the public still seek answers to explain the reasons for the catalogue of destruction this GP brought in his wake. It will examine the multiple factors involved in this momentous criminal investigation and trial. It is envisaged that the work will contribute to an explanation of what drove this doctor to his self-appointed journey to destruction.