DEVOTED fans of an East Lancashire author have travelled half-way across the world to experience his hometown's 'unique spirit'.

Pam and Herbert Hutchinson from Ayre in Ontario, Canada, arranged a special tour of Blackburn to explore the setting of William Woodruff’s childhood, as documented in his autobiography 'The Road to Nab End'.

William Woodruff became a best-selling author after his experience of growing up in Blackburn was published in 1993.


Mr Hutchinson, 79, who combined the tour with seeing friends Joan and Robert Warner from Westhoughton, said: "I read William Woodruff’s obituary, before that I’d never heard of him.

"I bought the book and I couldn’t put it down.

"He was a very interesting man and the book described a very hard life here, in this town.

"I think a lot of people should know about it.

"I’ve recommended it to many, many friends and they all say it is a book you can’t put it down.

"It’s not just a story, it’s beautifully written."

The quartet of friends were guided around the novel's setting by Clitheroe tour guide Simon Entwistle, of Top Hat Tours.

Mr Entwistle, who is famous for his ghost tours, said: "We did the first tour on January 5, 2000 and the great man himself and family came on it.

"He kept in contact with me right up until his death asking how the tours were going."

The veteran tour guide said he did approximately one tour a month based on the best seller.

Mr and Mrs Hutchinson admired Blackburn's spirit and sense of humour, which they had found unique to the area, despite having lived in five different countries.

The couple said although they hailed from Manchester originally, this is the first time they have been to Blackburn, a result of reading the novel.

Mr Hutchinson said: "It’s not only William Woodruff but the whole story of the cotton industry.

"How it evolved, how it crashed, and the politics involved too is very interesting."

Mr Entwistle, who has run the tour since 1999, refers to the novel as a Dick Whitting story with Mr Woodruff running away from home when he was 16, before studying at Oxford on a scholarship.

Mr Woodruff died aged 92 in 2008, and spent his later years as a Professor at the University of Florida and lectured around the world at prestigious institutions such as Princeton University.