“ONE THING just led to another” explained Chris Helme, our speaker at the February meeting of the Airedale Writers’ Circle.

As a “bobby on the beat” in Brighouse he heard many folk there talking about the past. This sparked his interest in local history and subsequently an invitation to teach it, aided by copying photographs of bygone Brighouse loaned to him.

Having written explanatory captions for these it was a natural step to publish it all – as Reminiscences of Brighouse and District – in 1985. To recoup some of the cost of printing a thousand copies of this Chris persuaded the dozen post offices then existing in Brighouse to display and sell his book.

The success of this venture not only led to his publishing another volume of reminiscences but also the editor of the Brighouse Echo engaging him to write a regular “nostalgia” piece. Remarkably Chris has filed some 300 to 1,000 words every week since 1986 for that local newspaper.

Ever innovative, Chris got hold of several hundred pirate audio cassette tapes that had been confiscated in the 1980s from rogue market stall holders and recorded talks on local history on them.

He sold them all but confessed to some failures in his literary work, for example his place-mats for cafes that depicted sketches of Brighouse taken from old photographs, for which he wrote explanatory text. These were well made but much too large for the average-sized place setting and so sold badly.

By contrast Chris has sold 1,300 copies of his Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens. This 2007 book details the history of what had been a very popular amusement park (and its boating lake) in Hipperholme before the Second World War, but Chris told us it was unusual to sell more than 500 copies of a book on local history.

His other passion has been for brass bands, writing about them for nine years on a website and compiling a book entitled What Brass Bands Did for Me, but his latest work is his autobiography All In A Day’s Work.

This was published last year and describes Chris’s 30 years as a community policeman in Brighouse, patrolling the very housing estate he was brought up on. He is evidently much respected there for he was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1990 for “services to the community”.

Chris explained that his wife, a retired headmaster and a local history expert all proof read his drafts, but he stressed the importance of publicity too. His ingenuity for this showed in his displaying the books he brought with him by placing them on stands on a table, for all to see, rather than just laying them flat.

Finally he warned how essential it is to stick to deadlines and quoted his favourite guiding principle: “there’s no such word as can’t”.

The latest meeting of Airedale Writers’ Circle – as ever at 7.30pm at Sight Airedale, immediately behind Keighley library – was on Tuesday this week, when members were due to read out some of their favourite prose or poetry.