THE YORKSHIRE Dales has lost one of its most knowledgeable and engaging talents, Bill Mitchell, who died this week at the age of 87.
A former editor of the Dalesman magazine, Mr Mitchell died peacefully at Airedale Hospital near Skipton on Wednesday night.
A prolific writer, he worked at the Dalesman for 40 years and authored more than 200 books on local history, including over 20 on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, as well as biographies of personalities such as James Herriot, Alfred Wainwright, Hannah Hauxwell and Kit Calvert.
His distinguished career was recognised in 1996 when he received an MBE from the Queen and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Bradford.
Mr Mitchell’s family, who operate his Twitter account, tweeted: “My dad and inspiration. RIP @wr_mitchell”.
Mr Mitchell began his reporting career at the Craven Herald and Pioneer at the age of 15, breaking off for two years to carry out national service, before, in 1948, he started working for, and later succeeded, Dalesman founding editor and former Yorkshire Post journalist Harry J. Scott.
Current Dalesman editor, Adrian Braddy told Country Week: “Bill Mitchell was an inspiration, an exceptionally gifted journalist and, above all, a warm, kind-hearted gentleman. I first met him just after I had been appointed as editor of Dalesman and he was so generous and helpful that I left his home in Giggleswick with a huge smile on my face.
“Unusually for a print journalist, Bill was a household name throughout Yorkshire and beyond. Whenever I mentioned his name during public speaking engagements there were always nods of recognition.
“To most people, myself included, Bill was the Dalesman.
He wrote millions of words about the countryside and people of Yorkshire, and in particular his beloved Dales. His knowledge of the heritage, people and wildlife of the Yorkshire Dales was unsurpassed.
“The English countryside has lost one of its greatest advocates.”
In 2009, Mr Mitchell was named by the Yorkshire Dales National Park as its greatest living cultural icon.
Sarah Nicholson, communications officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “Bill Mitchell had an incredible knowledge and understanding of the Yorkshire Dales and the people, past and present, who lived here. He interviewed some amazing characters and brought their worlds to life with warmth and wit for others to enjoy, including contributing to the National Park’s annual newspaper The Visitor.
“He was a very well-known and popular man. His observations on Dales life will be much missed.”
In a tweet, another former Dalesman editor, Terry Fletcher, said Mr Mitchell was “a thread running through not just the story of Dalesman but the Dales themselves”, while James Wilson, co-founder of Yorkshire Dales Radio, described him as “a true Yorkshireman” and “a really lovely guy” who was fascinating to talk to.