FORMER journalist and regular Bygones correspondent Harold Heys has looked at the life of a man dubbed the ‘Darwen Lowry’.

Artist Bill Brookes, who died just before Christmas in a nursing home, aged 80, had been something of a mystery for most of his life.

Most elderly folk in town knew of Bill and admired his work but few really got to know him.


He lived on Shorrock Street and worked at the paper mill from leaving school.

But at the age of 34 he gave up his job and started to paint full time.

His work was mainly of scenes from his childhood among the back streets and the cobbles.

Life for the fledgling artist was hard going and they were desperate times for his family – wife Sheila, who died a couple of years ago, and their children.

Bill’s life was recorded in a documentary made by Ian Potts and Derek Smith which can still be viewed on YouTube.

In the documentary Bill talks about his love of painting and his change of career.

He said: “Darwen’s never spent a penny on culture in its existence and for someone like me to take up painting was considered quite out the ordinary and obviously they all thought I was a bit tapped.

“The first time I ever I got the impulse to paint was when the Hanover Street area was demolished in the late 50s. I went back there one summer evening and I saw the area completely obliterated – the place where I had spent all my childhood. And as a person I felt inadequate.

“I said to myself I’d like to do something about this. Something inside me was saying: Paint this, Bill.

“I could feel myself at work going further and further away from the people I was working with and I was becoming totally involved with painting. It had become an almost permanent attitude of mind. I was living and thinking art day and night.

“So I finished work and I’d no money. I’d £14 to draw from my week’s work. And I dived in at the deep end. I’d no painting experience at all and I’d no hopes of selling a picture. I was then totally dependent on my work.”