Road name honour for teacher and Yorkshire dialect champion Arnold Kellett

Mr Higgins with a statue of Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who Mr Kellett wrote a book about.
Mr Higgins with a statue of Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who Mr Kellett wrote a book about.

Knaresboorugh resident Bernard Higgins has led a drive to have a road name after Yorkshire teacher, preacher, writer and speaker Arnold Kellett. Laura Reid reports.

“Being born a Yorkshireman was at once a distinction and a responsibility”, reads Arnold Kellett’s obituary in The Yorkshire Post in 2009. “For him, Yorkshire was not a region; it was a realm and a way of life.”

Bernard Higgins, who has led the drive for a road to be named after Arnold Kellett.

Bernard Higgins, who has led the drive for a road to be named after Arnold Kellett.

Though it was Bradford where Mr Kellet was born, the town of Knaresborough would become his adopted home.

Hopes to take story of road builder Blind Jack of Knaresborough to the screen

He was part of the staff at King James’s Grammar School for 27 years and was elected to Knaresborough Town Council as an Independent and twice served as Mayor.

In 1996, he became the town’s first ever honorary citizen and five years later was made a Freeman of Knaresborough.

Now, more than ten years after his death, he is to be permanently recognised in the community, with a road named in his memory.

“A decade after his death, many of us now believe it is time for Arnold to be remembered and honoured by having a local road named after him,” says resident Bernard Higgins, who has led the drive.

“We name places and roadways after people to recognise their achievements and every act of naming is steeped with meaning.

“I don’t think that there is anyone in the town or anyone in Yorkshire that deserves to have a road named after them as much as Arnold...You could say that he is woven into the modern history of Knaresborough and is part of the town’s DNA.”

Mr Kellett, who died aged 83, was a teacher, preacher, writer and speaker, born above a sweet shop in Wibsey.

He taught modern languages, initially in Harrogate and then at King James’s and for more than 50 years was a Methodist local preacher.

Passionate about Yorkshire’s heritage, he wrote and directed historical pageants including one focusing on Knaresborough Castle and was vice-president of the Yorkshire Dialect Society as well as life member of Knaresborough’s Historical Society and Civic Society.

He wrote many books and pamphlets including on Yorkshire’s dialect and history and is responsible for a comprehensive biography on the life of John Metcalf, also known as Blind Jack of Knaresborough.

In his later years, Mr Kellett launched a search to find a violin which Blind Jack played in country houses and hotels across Yorkshire.

Obituary: Arnold Kellett

In 2017, Mr Higgins, who led celebrations in Knaresborough to mark 300 years since the birth of Blind Jack, a pioneering roadbuilder and musician who lost his sight to smallpox at the age of six, says he proudly contacted descendants.

The restored fiddle was returned to Knaresborough, where it is now on display at the Old Courthouse Museum in the grounds of the town’s castle.

“Arnold Kellett, like John Metcalf, had courage and perseverance,” Mr Higgins says.

“In recent months there has been a groundswell of local support to get a section of the A658 on the outskirts of Knaresborough named after him.”

The naming proposal, supported by Knaresborough Town Council, has recently been accepted by Harrogate Council and signs for the Arnold Kellett Way are expected to be in place in the coming months.

“Those who knew dad will understand how delighted he would have been,” Mr Kellett’s daughter Rachel says, on behalf of his family. He loved Knaresborough, and was passionate about the town’s fascinating history.

“He gave much of his life to serving Knaresborough in so many ways. Mum is very proud indeed that the townsfolk thought of naming a road after dad. If only dad was here to see this. He would have a speech and perhaps a poem written especially.”