On Tuesday 31st January, we welcomed Drivers’ Club members in from a wet and dreary evening for the very first Members’ Evening of 2017.
Members’ evenings are renowned for being popular, and January’s event was no exception, with the over-subscribed event enjoying a superb turnout. Members’ were greeted with a delicious ‘Hugo Cocktail’ of elderflower, Prosecco and mint and settled down in the charming Drivers’ Club for an evening with speaker, Harrogate Author, Ian Townsend. Jonathan Turner began by giving an introduction to the evening before Ian stepped up and proceeded to prove himself a wonderfully entertaining orator.
Ian spoke of his background as a Chartered Accountant and how he ended up spending the majority of his time building up and selling businesses. He continued, admitting that he got to a point whereby he felt like he was on a treadmill and needed to take stock and think about what he really wanted to do with his life and career – something that provided personal satisfaction rather than simply commercial gain.
Ian went on to tell members’ that he took the decision to do something different to the nth degree, deciding to, of all things, set up a vineyard in Boroughbridge, which got a great laugh from the room! It was during this time that Ian said he was inspired by his home in historic Harrogate and had his imagination captured by the story of Angela Coutts
This interest quickly sparked Ian’s love of storytelling and history and led him to consider writing his debut novel. 18 months later ‘Precarious Fortunes’ became a reality.
By the time she was just 23-years-old, Angela Coutts was the wealthiest woman in the UK and ended up living in Harrogate. Ian explained how he was fascinated by the story of how a woman had ended up with inheritance and not a man at a time where it was almost unheard of.
Mingling real-life characters with fictional ones, Precarious Fortunes is a period adventure loosely based on the well-documented visit to Harrogate in 1838 by the remarkable Angela Burdett-Coutts and tells the story of her father Thomas Coutts – an exemplary businessman who built up a very successful banking business but had a rather colourful personal life. After 50 years of marriage and three daughters with his first wife, a maidservant he met when she was scrubbing the step of his brother’s house, Thomas swiftly remarried just four days after her death to a 38-year-old actress, at the time he was 80 years old.
Seven years later, Thomas himself died and left all his wealth to his second wife and none to his daughters or first family. His second wife went on to marry a Duke and upon deciding which child to leave the fortune to chose Angela.
Ian told the audience that after two rejections from publishers, he wouldn’t be deterred and decided to self-publish. He is now planning a sequel and possibly even a prequel of the book, noting that completing the Precarious Fortunes has only made him more determined to get the most out of life and take up new challenges. When asked the hardest thing about writing the novel, Ian said it was actually picking the title!
The atmosphere all evening was wonderfully lively, and members’ continued their discussions and networking over a delectable menu of bowl food, which included seared Whitby cod with peperonata and salsa verde, braised pig’s cheek with sweet potato mash and Tomlinsons’ Yorkshire rhubarb crumble with homemade custard.
A huge thanks to all who attended and to Ian for such a wonderfully entertaining evening.
The next Drivers’ Club members’ evening will be held on 9th May and promises to be yet another brilliant event, with Lauren from the Row Like a Girl team coming in to talk about their incredible journey rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic and spending 40 days at sea – breaking two world records in the process. Look out for the invitation in a forthcoming newsletter!