Tom Kelly is a local historian, author and playwright. He was born in Jarrow in 1947. His poems and short stories include: Gibbeting of William Jobling: Story and Poems (1972), Still With Me (1986), John Donne in Jarrow (1993), Beatitudes of the Buttered Brick (1995) and In The Distance (1998). He has written plays and musicals including Kelly a musical documentary written with Alan Price in 1977 which was the subject of a BBC Arena programme screened in 1977 and 1978. At this time he also co-wrote, with David Price, The Hookey Mat a play with music for BBC TV.
From 1975-1980 he was signed to music publishers Jarrow Music/ATV. His songs have been recorded by Cold Comfort, Marianne Faithfull and Alan Price. He was also working on musicals including Hugh, with David Price. Between 1980-1990 he ran a youth theatre.
Since 1984 Kelly has worked as a drama lecturer at South Tyneside College. He teaches drama, theatre studies and the performing arts. From 1990 his musicals have included The Machine Gunners with John Miles and Ken Reay and Steel Town, with Steve Thompson. His plays have included: Fog On The Tyne, The Girls, I Left My Heart At Roker Park, Three Devoted Sisters, and Tyne Songs a community play. His latest musical is about the lives and loves of Tom and Catherine Cookson entitled Tom and Catherine. Kelly wrote the book and lyrics, the music was written by John Miles and Ray Spencer is the Director.
Norman Cornthwaite Nicholson (1914-1987), poet, dramatist, novelist, critic, biographer and topographer, was born behind the gentleman's outfitters shop run by his father in Millom, Cumbria. He was to live all his life in this small mining town. In 1930, at the age of sixteen, he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis and sent to a sanitorium in Linford in Hampshire. On his return he was unable to work and developed a love of native wild flowers and birds. The ideas he developed at this time formed the basis of Nicholson's philosophy and much of the poetry and prose writing he produced during his life.
During the 1930s he had published anonymous reviews for The Times Literary Supplement, and from 1938 onwards he lectured on modern literature to the local WEA in Millom, Whitehaven and St. Bees. His first published collection of poems about Cumbria, the War and religion entitled Five Rivers (1944), won the first Heinmann Prize for Poetry. His second collection Rock Face (1948), had similar themes. His first play Old Man of the Mountains (1945), is the story of Elijah transported to modern Cumberland. This play carries a warning against the exploitation of the earth's resources and consequent damage to the environment, it was produced at London's Mercury Theatre. Other dramas include: Prophesy to the Wind (1947), A Match for the Devil (1955) and Birth by Drowning (1960).
In 1975 he produced his autobiography Wednesday Early Closing. In 1984 he appeared on the South Bank Show which brought Nicholson's work to a much wider audience, and elicited many enthusiastic responses. As well as the Heinmann Prize for Poetry, Nicholson was also awarded the Cholmondeley Award for Poetry (1967), the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry (1977), the Order of the British Empire, (1981) and he received honary degrees from various universities. In 1956 Nicholson married Yvonne Gardner, a teacher at Millom Secondary School. Yvonne devoted much of her life to caring for Nicholson, she also played an important role in helping to organize Nicholson's numerous poetry readings, and she acted as a chauffeur, enabling him to give readings beyond his native Cumbria. In 1982 Yvonne died of cancer after a long illness. Norman Nicholson died, in the house where he was born, on the 30 May 1987, aged 73.
Nicholson became aquainted with Kelly when Kelly invited him to the Jarrow Festival in June 1971.The correspondence, the Library only has Kelly's letters, continued for many years. Most of the Collection, however, dates from between 1971-1972, there are two further letters one from 1974 and one from 1986. The basis of this correspondence was Kelly, on a regular basis, sending Nicholson copies of a north-east publication Here and Now. The letters give an insight into the literary environment that Nicholson lived in. There are references to poets and comments on their work and he often refers to the progress of his career.