MAHATMA Gandhi travelled light. When he made his famous visit to Darwen and the Ribble Valley one weekend in late September 1931 he had just the simple white dhoti and chaddar wraps he always wore. No doubt his small entourage carried a change of outfit.

But he left a couple of things behind which would today arouse a lot of interest – two autographs. Mohandas K Gandhi, known by the honorific “Mahatma” meaning “Great Soul,” is still revered by millions of Hindus, 72 years after he was assassinated in New Delhi.

Examples of his autograph are rare and they can command high prices. Have a glance for his autograph on the internet. Most examples put up for sale will have a SOLD sign on the end.

Some have gone for thousands of pounds.

Lancashire Telegraph: RECORD: Signatures from the visitors’ bookRECORD: Signatures from the visitors’ book

He first signed his name on the Saturday morning – he had arrived by train late on the Friday night – when he met a delegation of mill men and civic dignitaries in Darwen’s Municipal Buildings. The second was on a letter he wrote to Mrs Kathleen Davies, wife of Quaker Percy Davies, boss of Greenfield and Waterfield mills.

Lancashire Telegraph: POLITE: The “thank-you” letter Gandhi sent to Kathleen Davies.POLITE: The “thank-you” letter Gandhi sent to Kathleen Davies.

Her guest thanked her for her “wonderful kindness” during the late Saturday and Sunday of his visit to Heys Farm, their retreat at West Bradford.

There were three members of his party, Mira Behn, actually Madeleine Slade, daughter of the British Rear-Admiral Sir Edmond Slade, who had left her home in England to live and work with Gandhi on Indian independence and what were described as “two native secretaries.”

It didn’t take much digging to discover that the “secretaries” were: Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s personal secretary, and Pyarelal Nayar (Gandhi’s secretary and biographer who took over from Desai after his death in 1942).

They all attended the meeting in the Municipal Buildings and their signatures are clear. I haven’t heard of another example of the Mahatma and his three closest associates signing a similar form. It was published in the Darwen News after their visit.

Where is the original now? Like so much Darwen memorabilia kept safe before the merger with Blackburn ... who knows?

The letter to Mrs Davies is in the possession of the family and, of course, is a treasured reminder of the happy time that Gandhi and his team and the Davies family enjoyed at Heys Farm. Perhaps not the younger members of the Davies family who were all beaten easily by the wiry old boy in tennis challenges on the lawn.

Lancashire Telegraph: CHEERS: Gandhi received a warm welcome from mill workers in 1931CHEERS: Gandhi received a warm welcome from mill workers in 1931

Gandhi was staying in London for a round-table conference on India’s clamour for independence, and had accepted the invitation of Mr Davies to visit his mill to see for himself the hardship that textile workers here were enduring. He got a wonderful reception from local folk when he stepped off the train at Spring Vale Station.

On the Saturday, before his round of meetings he met mill workers who told him how the Indian boycott of British goods was affecting them. “My dears,” he said kindly. “You have no idea what poverty is.”