A businessman’s Todmorden roots form part of a compelling narrative in his new autobiography, which is bookended by the tragic events surrounding the death of his son.
Oliver Speight was born in Manchester but moved with his family to Todmorden when he was three to escape bombing raids on the city in the Second World War.
Oliver’s son Mark was a famous children’s television presenter who co-hosted shows such as the BBC’s long-running arts show Smart.
Mark took his own life in April 2008 following the tragic death of his partner, actress Natasha Collins, unable to cope with her loss.
Oliver then established the Speight of the Art Foundation, which continues to bring the arts to children of all ages and abilities. His autobiography, Speight of the Heart, documents his own fascinatingly varied life.
Despite careers which took him away from the town, Oliver very much considers himself to still be a Todmordian, heading one chapter “Todmorden, My Town De Force”, and the former Todmorden Grammar School pupil’s chapters on his growing up in the town, including his junior days at Todmorden Cricket Club alongside a young Peter Lever, the future England test star, are a vivid picture of Todmorden in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Although he quotes the grammar school’s former senior mistress and history teacher Ms E. Cottam saying on his reports “this boy writes reams and reams on the subject and never once hits the point”, Oliver adds “here’s hoping” - and whatever his style was in those days he has produced a very readable and enjoyable read, aimed at telling his life story, and Mark’s, and the family’s, for his granddaughter Katie.
The book, published in hardback by York Publishing Services (www.yps-publishing.co.uk) at £19.50 also does much to promote the foundation’s work.