Belfast Telegraph

Back Then: Happy ending as treasured copy of book returns home

Family history research unearths priceless signed hardback of author's finest work

By Eddie McIlwaine

If retired engineer Will Law (67) hadn't travelled to Aberdeen to research his family tree, a precious hardback copy of My Lady of the Chimney Corner by Alexander Irvine might still be sitting on a shelf, almost forgotten.

But Will, a native of Crumlin near Aldergrove and now living in Portrush, met his namesake Donald Law, a retired businessman in the Scottish city.

And the get-together re-kindled memories for Donald of the book which, he explained, had been his possession, rarely opened for many years.

He told Will Law the story of how Irvine on his travels met up with Donald's grandfather Samuel Taylor Law in Aberdeen and they became friends.

That was in 1934 when the latest edition of My Lady of the Chimney had just been published - so Irvine presented a copy to Donald (85) and his wife Norah.

What makes this 1934 book unique and valuable is the letter Alexander Irvine wrote in the flyleaf "to his beloved friends" (the Aberdeen Laws).

"You have woven yourselves into the very fabric of my being," says the signed epistle from this much-travelled author and the letter adds: "To have been your guest has been an oasis in a life that has been largely desert as far as home comforts are concerned. God save ye kindly... Your grateful friend."

The book, which first appeared in 1913, was eventually given to Donald just before the old man's death and now he in turn has handed it to Will Law for safe-keeping.

"On a holiday in Northern Ireland Donald and Norah stayed in The Chimney Corner Inn, but they didn't manage to visit Pogue's Entry in Antrim where Irvine's parents Anna and Jamie had their home about which Alexander wrote so eloquently," explains Will.

How much is this 1934 edition of My Lady of the Chimney Corner worth?

"I haven't had it valued and anyway it won't be for sale," Will assures me.

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