I am not alone in my appreciation of
Tom’s writing. Julie Bunting writes:
Tom Bates takes exuberant and contagious pleasure in his literary
tour, encompassing a couple of dozen villages and gathering snippets that
only through chatting with the inhabitants. Little escapes his curiosity
and he branches off into lesser-known regions, literally and otherwise,
to tell many a good yarn. Such random snippets include the old market town
that boasts a Bloody Bones Barn, a village where royal refugees found a
welcome after the Russian Revolution and a local connection with the MacDougal
family of flour fame. Tom Bates draws on other skills too, bringing scenes
to life with poetry, prose, personal recollections and a hundred unique
photographs. Here is a writer who has the skill for conveying his own delight
in the tranquillity, the sense of remoteness from urban bustle, and the
ruggedly handsome character of our wonderful Derbyshire villages".
Who is this Tom Bates whose wanderings among the villages of Derbyshire
should rightly earn him the reputation of being a contemporary Derbyshire
Tom hasn’t always been a writer – far from it.
Born in Old Whittington, he spent his childhood attending the Mary Swanwick
School, and later the William Rhodes School in Chesterfield. His fascination
with words began while still at school, an enthralment which lead to writing
poetry and songs.
In his early years, like many other lads, he worked as a miner, eventually
following in his father’s footsteps, the popular, well-known Country
Singer David H Lee and joining him in show business in 1968. His father
would later record three of his songs.
His love affair with singing and performing flourished when he began singing
solo, and he fulfilled a long-held ambition in 1993 when he recorded an
album of Elvis Presley songs!
Life took a complete about face when in 1984 Tom discovered the writing
of Llewellyn Powys which made an enormous impact on his own philosophy,
and rekindled his enduring fascination with words, which in turn led to
the writing of his first serious work of verse and social comment.
Tom occasionally speaks of his Damascus Road experience, the details of
which he cannot be encouraged to share, however, we are permitted to know
that it was this incident which moved him to dramatically change his life-style
when he began preaching in 1984 at the local Unitarian church, conducting
his first weddings, funerals and baptisms in 1985.
In 1986, after becoming Lay Pastor, Tom began serious studies in further
education gaining a BA in Social Policy and Administration and a University
Certificate in Theology at Manchester University. He then went on to graduate
as a Unitarian Minister in 1991 and to take up the post of Minister in
charge of Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church.
His first book of poems, An Offering, published in 1984 heralded the beginning
of his serious writing career. A fierce defender of social equality, his
perceptive social comment article, The Suicide Generation, published on
the front page of The Inquirer, proved to be the first of his countless
published works, many of which have been published in magazines like This
England, Evergreen, The Countryman, and of course Reflections.
Tom says that his style is best suited to writing 1500 word features and
was developed when writing two thousand word sermons each week – the
number of words he found comfortable to deliver from the pulpit in twenty
To date he has published short stories, poems, academic theological essays,
sports reports and three books of verse and philosophical prose. His fourth
book, Rumblings in the Dust was published by New Age Poetry Press in 1993,
and his latest and most successful book, Discovering Derbyshire’s
White Peak was published during the Millenium Year in September 2000.
Remarkably in his capacity as a minister of religion he has officiated
at the marriages of his father, his sister, his daughter and one of his
three sons; and he has also conducted his father’s, his brother’s,
and his brother-in-law’s funerals -and baptised his nephew and his
His has been a long journey from the coal mines of his youth to becoming
a man with diplomas with distinction from the English Speaking Board; a
man who began higher education in his forties, ultimately to gain a University
degree; to addressing a National Assembly in a foreign country and broadcasting
religious programs on BBC Radio.
Anyone can be whatever or whoever they want to be providing they have the
necessary desire and determination” says Tom.
Although you may never know Tom Bates, you will however, in the opinion
of this writer, know intimately the Derbyshire villages contained in his
new leaflets ‘Peak District Villages - an Insider's Guide’ which represents
some of the finest descriptively visual writing readers will ever be privileged
More About Tom Bates
Snapshots in Time Book
Weird and Wacky Derbyshire Folk Book