A collection of short stories and a Manx memoir which had been packed away in a suitcase for more than 50 years have been published for the first time.
Stella Fletcher, of Warrington, a historian who is an honorary research fellow at the University of Warwick, has self-published a book in honour of her great uncle, Arthur Keates Brown, after unpacking the suitcase of his works earlier this year.
Arthur was from Manchester and was imprisoned as a conscientious objector in 1916-19. He devoted his later career to the manufacture of tents, rucksacks and related items and in 1954 he moved his business from Manchester to Castletown.
He remained in the island into retirement, living for some time at the Old School House at St Mark’s.
Stella explained: ‘When he died in 1971 his widow packed his papers into a suitcase and sent it to one of his nieces.
‘I am the daughter of the other niece. To the best of my knowledge, my aunt never opened the suitcase. When she moved house, she took it with her. As a historian, I was the only person who showed any interest in it and had a little look some years ago.
‘It was only this year, when I had pretty much run out of work that I could do at home while looking after my mother, that I asked if the suitcase might be brought to my house, so that I could explore its contents in more detail.’ Inside she discovered a variety of novels, short stories, plays and poems, all written by Arthur in the 1960s.
‘The distinctive feature of his life was pacifism and imprisonment, so those certainly feature in the storyettes,’ Stella said. ‘His religious opinions were formed in the early 20th century and are given vent.
‘There is a highly structured vision of the afterlife. Spiritualism seems to have featured, not for the reason it did in many families, because the Browns didn’t lose anyone in the First World War, but because one day Arthur and his three brothers all went out to work, but one of them did not return. They had no idea whether he was alive or dead. There is a fictional version of that episode.
‘Everything is given a Manx twist, with lots of place names dropped.’
She added: ‘The most bizarre thing was finding a play about my parents in 1962. That set me wondering whether I had inspired any of his many characters.
‘There are two called Stella, but one of the later pieces, a play set on the Isle of Man, features a little girl called Mona Collister.
‘She is supposed to be seven years old and is described as “undersized” No wonder: I was only two in 1967!’
The book, Arthur Keates Brown and the Isle of Man, consists of a biographical profile, his Manx memoir and a selection of his short stories set in the island.
Stella said the book was a way of celebrating her great uncle: ‘I have always been proud of his stand against war, so saw this slim volume as a way of giving him a bit of publicity.’
‘The novels and plays do tend to ramble, but the Manx short stories are much more disciplined, each limited to 12 typed foolscap sheets.’