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Memoirs and Biography

My Red House Years:

Memoirs of a local lad


About this book:

  • ISBN: 190 452 4273 (paperback)

  • Published 2005

  • Price £6.00 + postage

  • 76 pages

  • Illustrated with 72 photographs

About the Book:

MY Red House Years is a collection of the author's memories of the 28 years he spent living at the Red House in Boroughgate, Appleby. It covers the author's early childhood, the years of the Second World War, the author's National Service and the beginning of a long career in charity work through entertainment. Friends, relations and local characters are mentioned in this book as well as various events in Appleby.

The author was born in the Red House in March 1929 and was educated at the St. Lawrence and Appleby Council schools. He began his working life int he warehouse of Nicholdson's chemist shops at the age of fifteen. He went on to work for the Electricity Board as a storekeeper until his retirement in 1994, after 43 years service. He was perhaps best known for the many lively shows he organised to entertain people and to raise money for charity. He lived in Appleby with his wife Violet and has two sons and four grandchildren. Sadly Les Dowson died in early March 2013.


The audience in Appleby's Cosy Cinema were enjoying Sanders of the River. The star of the film, Paul Robeson, was paddling his canoe, singing his heart out, when the screen suddenly went blank.

Manager Fred Balmer walked on to the stage to explain that the last reel of the film had gone missing, and patrons could have their money back.

A new book, My Red House Years: Memoirs of a Local Lad, by Les Dowson, is strong in stories of this type, stretching over many years, which should appeal to the author's fellow townsmen.

A local concert party enjoyed an outing into the lakes, apart from some of the ladies, who insisted on a comfort stop during the return journey. Unfortunately, the relief point was covered in nettles, which they failed to spot in the darkness!

Les Dowson has clearly been a keen football follower, for many old stars of the town club are mentioned in his book. Sonny Simpson, who was also adept at tickling trout, left the local soccer scene to play in goal for Gillingham for many years.

Eddie Metcalfe was the powerful centre forward, and among the others were Walter Mitchell, Joe Steel, Jack and Alf Fisher, Joe Alderson (who often kicked the ball into the gasworks) and goalkeepers Fred and Tom Brown.

Local entertainment also looms large in the new book, for Les is well-known for the many concerts he has organised... Lol Dodgson and Joe Alderson were among his co-stars.

The title of the book stems from the fact that Les Dowson's birthplace was the Red House, which in earlier years was the lodging house of the judge attending the Appleby Assize Court. One of the pictures shows an old-time judge, in his robes, about to climb aboard a horsedrawn carriage, outside the house.

'The Red House was a wonderful place, even with the cockroaches that came out of every nook and cranny when the house was in darkness,' he writes.

In another era of its historic past, the house was a convalescent home where soldiers recovered from their wounds during the war of 1914-18.

My Red House Years is a friendly book, full of anecdotes and the names of Applebians of yesteryear, written with affection and enthusiasm by a man who has obviously enjoyed a full life in the town. John Hurst writing in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, July 2005





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