Percy Monkman; An Extraordinary Bradfordian

percy monkman book cover

percy monkman book coverPlashMill Press is pleased to announce the launch of an important new book entitled Percy Monkman; An Extraordinary Bradfordian, by Martin Greenwood. The book, which contains over 90 colour and monochrome illustrations, is available from all good booksellers in the UK and throughout the world. The ISBN is 978-0-9572612-9-7. It is priced at £24.49 retail in the UK.

Percy Monkman was an entertainer, actor and an artist. He was famous for his humorous sketches and roles and was also prominent player in more serious theatre in and around Bradford for decades. He was a highly reputed watercolourist who regularly exhibited. He was a friend of the celebrated J B Priestley, one of the foremost English men of letters of the 20th century.

The book was written by Martin Greenwood, Monkman’s grandson, drawing on copious written material and images from Monkman himself, and, in addition, on his personal memories of him. It is a warm and compelling account of a fascinating life in which the subject worked in a bank — the same one, all his life — by day and at night and at weekends was a star of stage and a highly reputed painter, as well as being a husband and father.

martin greenwood percy monkman
Author Martin Greenwood

Martin Greenwood said ‘Everyone who knew him in whatever capacity called my grandfather a character. Percy Monkman was extremely well-known in Bradford and the West Riding. As I was growing up in Bradford in the 1950s and 1960s, he was the most significant person in my life.

After he died in 1986, he left thousands of documents which I kept but did not properly look at. In returning to them after 30 years I discovered what an extraordinary life he had led, although I was already aware of the key parts of it.

Born in 1892 into a poor and humble working-class family he left school before his 14th birthday. He was just 22 years old when the First World War broke. He had a distinguished war record, serving with the RAMC. He entertained the troops night after night as a comedian. Returning to peacetime life in Bradford in the 1920s, he developed his role as a ‘humorous entertainer’ and started to publish sporting cartoons. In the 1930s he became a more serious actor. He also developed his interest in watercolour painting that gradually became his most passionate interest.

Percy Monkman (R) as Jim Heeler in Hobson's Choice (1956)
Percy Monkman (R) as Jim Heeler in Hobson’s Choice (1956)

He had another distinguished war record in the Second World War, this time on the home front, leading a music hall concert party on around 600 occasions for returning and injured servicemen across Yorkshire. After the war he became best known as a watercolour painting exhibiting widely in Yorkshire and London.

Entertaining, acting, cartooning and painting, amazingly he achieved all this in his spare time while holding down a full time job as chief cashier in the bank until he retired in 1952. For another thirty plus years in ‘retirement’ he focused on his watercolours.

He developed life-long friendships with a wide range of people, from the world of theatre and art, including his exact contemporary and most famous Bradfordian of his day, JB Priestley a schoolboy friend from the next street.

Percy Monkman painting at his easel
Percy Monkman painting at his easel

Head of a large and close family, he had four younger brothers. Although one died in his 20s, the others were all successful in the wool trade. While their careers took a conventional route for their times, Percy’s success in life was based entirely on the unconventional, the creative and artistic. He stood out from the crowd and also lived longer than all his family and friends.’

One of Percy Monkman's paintings: Looking to Otley Chevin (1976)
One of Percy Monkman’s paintings: Looking to Otley Chevin (1976)

Martin Greenwood can be contacted for comment via the form below. For further information from or about PlashMill Press, please use this form too.

Ronald Mackay: Fortunate Isle, a Memoir of Tenerife

fortunate isleRonald Mackay: Fortunate Isle, a Memoir of Tenerife

Ronald Mackay, who hails from Coupar Angus and Dundee, has just launched a new book of memoirs. Fortunate Isle: a Memoir of Tenerife, has been published by PlashMill Press ( The ISBN number is 9780957261280.

Fortunate Isle tells of Ronald’s adventure when, at the age of 18 and with £40 pounds in his sporran, he hitch-hiked to Spain and then took a tramp steamer to the Canary Isles.

Ronald was born in Scotland and educated at the Morgan Academy. In 1960, at 18 and uncertain about a career, he worked his way through France and Spain and took a cargo-ferry from Cadiz to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands hoping eventually to reach Latin America. Short of money, he sought work on the island of Tenerife. Finding himself, almost by chance, in the tiny village of Buenavista del Norte, he was taken in by the sympathetic owner of a local family-run pension.

mackay fortunate isle
Ronald Mackay with a copy of Fortunate Isle

For the next year he lived in Buenavista, under the towering volcanic peak of Tiede. He worked at a variety of manual jobs including plantation construction and the selection and packing of banana stalks for export. On foot he explored the plains, mountains and seacoast around the village, grew close to the people, and enjoyed many curious and lively adventures. Ronald’s friendships and experiences – some of them hazardous — helped forge his character.

Fortunate Isle is a charming book that tells of a young man’s coming of age fed by discovery and adventure. As well as moments of lively humour, it has high drama and deep reflection.

Publisher at PlashMill Press, Rod Fleming, said ‘We are delighted to launch this excellent book, which is a credit to its author. It’s a great read and ideal for those long dark nights.’

After leaving Aberdeen University in 1967, Ronald was appointed British Visiting Professor at Bucharest University. From the ’70s he turned to ‘problem-solving’ as a career specialising in the evaluation of research and development programmes in which he wrote his doctorate. He laid the groundwork for the first Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics in Latin America; tackled issues of aboriginal education throughout Canada’s North and Arctic; pioneered courses in project planning, management and evaluation at Montreal’s Concordia University; and held visiting posts in Toronto, Edinburgh and Singapore.

Longing for the land, he farmed, first in Canada and then in Argentina, and used his expertise to help improve agricultural practice in many developing countries. Since 2012, he and his wife have lived overlooking Rice Lake, Ontario, in Canada.

Fortunate Isle is available in paperback internationally through Amazon and all  good booksellers.

Ronald and his wife Viviana in 2013

The hardest part of writing is getting started.

scottish winter plashmill press
scottish winter plashmill press
Early morning in Scottish winter Pic: Rod Fleming

Writing is hard. When I was young, a very wise person (my mother) told me that the hardest part of any job is getting started. Growing up in rural Scotland in the 1960s meant getting out of bed, in winter, when it was still dark, running down to the kitchen — the only heated space in the house — and remaining glued to the front of the Rayburn stove, every morning. ‘Come on,’ my mother would chivvy, ‘Get a wiggle on! Washed and dressed for school! The worst part is getting started.’

She was right. The worst part of any difficult task is getting started. That’s the same whether it be just getting out of the house on a freezing January morning, chopping up the kindling for the living-room fire when you get back from school and would far, far rather go and read — or writing.

Writing is a very hard thing to do. Most people — who never actually tried to write, or whose magnum opus is a semi-coherent string of tweets — think it’s easy. You can tell by their demeanour. ‘But you just sit there!’

In agony, albeit they have no idea.

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Cover design is essential to successful publishing – PlashMill Press

plashmill covers composite
plashmill covers composite
Some PlashMill Press book covers.

When you navigate the minefield of becoming a published author, one of the most important things to remember is this: a good, classy cover design that speaks to the content of the book is essential.

In today’s competitive retail market, good cover design must be as effective and eye-catching in all the digital or e-book formats as it is on the shelf of a conventional store. Potential readers are exposed to a book’s cover design for only a few seconds before moving on, so it must be strong enough to engage them, involve them, and lead them towards the purchase.

In other words, you need a good designer.

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Book-writing basics: how to begin to write

The lovely, late Gerard Kelly expressing the frustration all writers know. But we can help. Pic: ©Rod Fleming

There are two basic techniques for how to write a book — or for that matter, any piece. They just become more defined in a book because of the length.

The first is: begin at the top left hand corner of page one and finish at the bottom right hand corner of the last page, and in between follow your nose. We’ll call this the ‘free-form’ method.

The second is: plan everything out. Design the structure of the book with chapter and sub-chapter headings, right to the lowest level. Then fill it up. This one we’ll call the ‘structured’ method.

Most writers to some extent use a combination of both approaches; and they are in any case suited to different types of writing. For example a psychological drama that explores characters’ reaction to their environment, really has to be free-form, to allow the characters to live and to actually respond in a convincing manner. I used this technique in The Warm Pink Jelly Express Train, a novel in which a straight man meets a transsexual and falls in love with her.the-warm-pink-jelly-express-train-rod-fleming

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Welcome to PlashMill Press — we’re back!

Welcome to PlashMill Press.  After a long hiatus, the business has been reconstituted and is once again online. It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since the old PlashMill Press online business was closed down, but it has. Much has happened in that time, believe me.

We never stopped publishing books, but various technical and operational issues meant that we stopped selling books and services direct through our web presence.  As a result of this and other factors, the site here fell into disuse.

This new site and the new, rejuvenated PlashMill Press will grow into the profile developed and left behind by the old one. Perhaps most importantly, a number of new imprints have been added in the last five years, while we have been offline. These are described in the menu bar above.

Our author-assistance packages, which were previously available under the imprint PlashMill Press will now be available through a new one, Merrivale Press.  Author-assisted books previously published under PlashMill Press will be migrated to Merrivale as and when new editions are produced.

PlashMill Press remains the general-interest publishing imprint.

In addition to Merrivale and PlashMill, we have Rare Rose Press, which specialises in erotic thrillers and Rod Fleming Press, which publishes some of Rod Fleming’s books.

There is also Redefining the Sacred, which publishes non-fiction titles relevant to the subject areas of religion and religious culture, along with the history and development of religion and its consequences for the broader society.

I will be blogging on this site and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can follow me personally, Rod Fleming, through my own site, Rod Fleming’s World.

We are still setting up the site and new features will appear in due course. Meantime do please check back for updates.