Gary Firth

Highly regarded local historian, Dr Gary Firth, taught at Bingley College, Bradford & Ilkley College, and then Bradford College, from 1974 until 1997.

Gary FirthDespite suffering hemiplegia following a stroke while playing rugby at only 35, Gary has passed his passion for history to many thousands through his fascinating books and absorbing lectures.

Gary gained his first degree in History and Literature at Leeds University in 1968. While teaching at Bingley Grammar School, he completed a PhD, supervised by Jack Reynolds, at Bradford University in 1974. He moved to Bingley College, teaching trainee history teachers until its closure. Gary then gained a second doctorate, regarding the teaching of history to 9 years olds, and became Principal Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the Ilkley campus. When Ilkley closed he moved to the McMillan campus where he was the Teacher Trainer in History until his retirement in 1997.

Gary’s books include Bradford As it Was (1978); Victorian Yorkshire at Play (1989); Bradford and the Industrial Revolution: An Economic History, 1760-1840 (1990); Street Characters of a Victorian City: John Sowden’s Bradford (1993); History of Bradford (1997); The Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Yorkshire (1999); Salt and Saltaire (2002) and J.B. Priestley’s Bradford (2006). He has also collaborated with photographer Ian Beesley on Through the Mill (1987) and Meltdown: Words and Images from West Yorkshire Foundries (2004).

“Local history is not about buildings and locations but about the people in the community – whatever their background. It is their story. The best ice breaker was to start a lesson by putting old maps on the table. The students would all be pouring over them and contributing naturally. Teaching at all the levels at Bradford College was about pitching to different audiences but the beauty was that courses became natural feeders for the next stage. The longevity of many of those that taught here moved students on from one course to another and allowed students a security not found in many institutions.”

Photograph by Shelagh Ward