Arnold Kellett

FOR Arnold Kellett, being born a Yorkshireman was at once a distinction and a responsibility.

For him, Yorkshire was not a region; it was a realm and a way of life. It represented something unique and precious, and if he sometimes came across as over-particular and self-important it was because of his sense of duty as protector and preserver of its spirit and character.

His adopted town of Knaresborough provoked a similar response; he did not take it lightly, and he did not expect others to, and in him it was combined with a compulsion to communicate.

Always busy, during his life this driven man was a teacher, a preacher, a writer and a speaker. Yet despite his exertions and enormous output, he was never satisfied or contented with himself or what he had achieved – always looking towards the next thing; even as he lay dying he was talking about things he had not finished.

Arnold, who has died aged 83, was born above a sweet shop in Wibsey, Bradford, the elder of two boys. Their father, whose hobby was mending clocks in his cellar, had worked at Scotts motorbikes and then he and his wife bought the sweet shop.

Arnold won a place at Carlton Grammar School, but the war interrupted his education. Aged 18 in 1944 he was called up, serving through the final years of the war and on until 1948 in the Intelligence Corps, mostly in Malaya. He then went to Liverpool University and the Sorbonne, graduating in 1952 in French Language and Literature.with a first class honours degree

He went straight into teaching modern languages, initially at Ashville College, Harrogate, where he ran the Scout Troop.

In 1953 he married Pat Horsfall whom he had met when she was a Brownie leader and he a Sunday School teacher, and three years later he joined the staff at King James's Grammar School, Knaresborough, where he would remain for the next 27 years.

There he became head of modern languages and ran a number of extra-curricular activities, including the school debating society.

He took early retirement in 1983 and was awarded a PhD by Leeds University for his definitive study of Eugene Aram (1704-59).

Being a Methodist was, if possible, as important to Arnold as were Knaresborough and his Yorkshire heritage, and for more than 50 years he was a Methodist local preacher; he was also Sunday School superintendent, Cubmaster and Scoutmaster, among other things. In 1996 he was runner-up in the Times Preacher of the Year Competition and in 2004 guest preacher at Ripon Cathedral.

While still teaching, he was elected to Knaresborough Town Council as an Independent, and twice (1979-80 and 1984-85) served as Mayor of Knaresborough.

With his usual energy and commitment, he wrote and directed historical pageants, the first, in 1971, focusing on Knaresborough Castle. in 1987, having unearthed the fact that the first Royal Maundy was distributed in Knaresborough, he chose that for his next pageant; in 1988 he celebrated John Wesley, in 1997 the 300th URC Anniversary, and in 2000 came his Knaresborough Millennium Pageant.

Arnold's wide-ranging interests are reflected in the positions he held, which included president of the Claro Sword and Morris Men, president of Knaresborough Choral Society, life member Knaresborough Historical Society and Civic Society, and vice-president of the Yorkshire Dialect Society.

In 1988 the Yorkshire Society awarded him the Yorkshire History Prize, and in 1996 he became Knaresborough's first-ever Honorary Citizen. In 2001, he was made a Freeman of Knaresborough.

A productive writer, he wrote around 40 books and booklets, including French For Science Students (1976) and Basic French (1977) among other French textbooks.

His books on Yorkshire dialect include The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Ee by Gum, Lord! (1996), On Ilkla Mooar Baht 'at (1998), Yorkshire Dialect Classics (2005), The Little Book of Yorkshire Dialect (2008), The A to Z of Christmas (2006), and The Little Book of Yorkshire Christmas (2007).

His many local history books include Historic Knaresborough (1991), Knaresborough: Archive photographs (1995), Mother Shipton: Witch and Prophetess (2002), The History of King James's School (2003), The A to Z of Knaresborough History (2004, revised 2009) and Blind Jack of Knaresborough (2008). He also published several collections of his translations of Maupassant stories, a collection of his poems Kellett's Christmas (1988) to raise money for Save the Children, with a foreword by Princess Anne, and he wrote two dialect columns for the Dalesman magazine. In addition, he was honorary editor of the Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society (1991-2001).

Not surprisingly, he was well-known as a speaker on local history, Yorkshire dialect and humorous topics, giving his 25th talk to the Knaresborough Men's Forum in 2007.

A passionate man, he loved beauty wherever he saw it, whether in nature, in people present and past, in art and music and history, in words – poetry, prose, dialect - in ideas, and theology, and in food, in places, and all things French.

He was also sensitive to what people thought of him, and he was humorous, much pleased to be able to make people laugh or smile.

Privately, Arnold's family was, perhaps, more important to him than anything else. He is survived by his wife Pat and their daughters Rachel and Ruth and son Tim and 15 grandchildren. Their third daughter, Ann, died last year from cancer aged 46.