It was a pleasant surprise to read about John Ashworth in the Banner of Truth magazine for this month. I am referring both to this man from C19th Rochdale himself as well as his autobiography 'Life and Strange Tales'. Alun McNabb had clearly been bowled over by reading about him. In his address to the Leicester Ministers' Conference 2009 he is quoted as going so far as to say 'how this generation of preachers would profit from feeding on such a book'[!] What not many people might know is that the book which Alun had been reading was a Gospel Tidings publication, which in crude terms means us. Yes, us here! Gospel Tidings began as the brainchild of Leslie Rowell (he deserves a biography) in 1965. A magazine was started which finally ceased only last year, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s an absolute rash of books got published, despite financial hardships. I know this for sure because my Dad was part of all that. He did the distribution side of things. This has continued to the present day, now via the Bookshop. Leslie Rowell was himself struck by reading John Ashworth when a pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, and thought it worth bringing back out of obscurity. The original autobiography ran to 4 vols, but he creamed off the best into a single hardback. This was in 1972, and that book itself has now become like snow in the Sahara. So this is why Alun McNabb with Phil Roberts at Tentmaker Publications have got together to reproduce the Gospel Tidings edition (with our full co-operation). Phil tells me that he will very likely do a hardback run, but that to make it easily affordable it will be mainly available in paperback.
Another striking Rochdale character around the same time was another John - John Kershaw. Gospel Tidings also reprinted his autobiography in 1968, and it has sold so well over the years that we still have stock of a re-reprinted edition. It is a hardback (£9.95). Kershaw was staunchly free grace, unlike Ashworth actually. He became a Strict Baptist minister and his congregation built Hope Chapel - yes, the place where Leslie Rowell was to come a century later!