A WOMBWELL family from the early 1900s is the inspiration behind a novel called Roses of Marrakech.

The fictional story has been written by Rachel Clare, 44, whose inspiration was her two great aunts, Ivy and Gladys Dook. They were born, lived and died in Wombwell, and Rachel, who lives in Lancaster, dedicated the novel to her grandmother, Sylvia Wynne, nee Dook, who was their youngest sister.

They were three of the five daughters of John Dickinson Dook, a prominent tradesman who was a butcher at 51 High Street, Wombwell, from 1901 until his death in 1945.

Gladys’s and Ivy’s deaths in 1927 and 1929 both at the age of 26 from tuberculosis had a great impact on the rest of the family. Gladys was newly married to Frank Burrows and Ivy was engaged to her sweetheart, Jim Stephenson. Although their father paid for stays in a sanatorium on the Yorkshire coast, it was to no avail.
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Rachel said: “The tragic waste of her two sisters’ lives cruelly cut short remained with my grandma, Sylvia, for the rest of her life, making her an incredibly positive person who lived each day to the fullest. When I was growing up she told me stories of her sisters’ zest for life and the all-night dances they attended in the roaring 20s.

“Later, I qualified as a journalist but I always preferred writing fiction. When I began writing my novel four years ago, I decided to use my family’s stories as its basis. Although the novel’s plot necessitated me to change the setting from Wombwell to Lavenham, Suffolk, the childhoods of my main character’s great-aunt Rose and her sisters, Violet and Nell, are based on those of my grandma, Sylvia, her sisters and what happened to their father as the effects of the Depression were felt in the 1930s.”

Roses of Marrakech is set partly in the first half of the 19th century and partly in the present day spice-scented souks of Morocco, where the main character, Ivy, follows a trail of discovery that will change her life and those around her, forever.

Rachel recently visited her family’s graves in Wombwell and was delighted to discover that 51 High Street is now The Courtyard Tea Rooms and said her great aunts would loved to have visited.

She said: “Throughout my childhood, I visited Wombwell with my grandma and I always longed to have a look around the building where all the stories she’d told me of my family took place and last month, I finally managed it.

“The gateway through which my great-grandfather brought his beasts, as he called them, to be slaughtered is still discernible and although the building itself is much altered from photographs, it was still nice to be inside the building where my grandma was born in 1912 and all the subsequent tragic events of the 1920s took place. The tearoom owner, Mr Purdy, said the cellar was still unchanged with the stone slabs where meat would have been prepared still there and hooks are still hung down the stairs.

“I remember my grandma telling me her father hung game on them and that she didn’t like going down there as fur and feathers would brush her face. She also told me that during her sisters’ final hours in their living quarters above the shop, straw and hay was laid on the road so that carts wouldn’t disturb them when they went past.”

Roses of Marrakech is available on Amazon or at bookguild.co.uk