A NEW novel for young people set in Blackburn during the 1862 ‘Cotton Famine’ will be published on June 8.

While principally aimed at an 11-plus readership, it will also appeal to older residents who remember the town before its 1960s redevelopment.

For those looking for pathos there is much about the plight of the weavers thrown out of work and for those seeking thrills there is a riot.

History fans will find much to digest in the background of the book ‘Jason’s Magic Railway’ by Mark Hesketh Jones.

Many of the characters and events are based on real people and real happenings in real places.

The author sets the background out for Bygones: “The 1850s had seen a boom in Blackburn; in 1860 alone, around twenty new factories were opened.

“In a decade, the population of the borough had swelled by 39 per cent, compared with the national average of 12 per cent. Outside London, Lancashire was the wealthiest area of England; wages were far higher here than in southern counties.

“In the summer of 1861, however, Blackburn suffered a double blow. Over-production had forced down the price of finished cloth, causing the masters to reduce output, in an attempt to create a shortage. Meanwhile, the escalation of the American Civil War drastically cut supplies of raw cotton increasing costs.

“By the middle of January 1862, a local journalists said: ‘The deepest distress prevails. The homes of the unemployed, who number 6,000, are wretched and comfortless, void of most necessities and, in some cases, of bed and bedding.”

“Of the twelve mills in Livesey and Ewood districts, employing more than 3,000 people, all were closed.

“At the end of October 1862, 17,337 Blackburn residents were without any work, and 6,000 were on short time; only 3,857 had full time jobs. Four mills had workers on full time; part-time work was available at 38; but 45 were closed altogether. To add insult to injury, the wages of those still working were then cut by five per cent!”

Into this desperate world, a boy from modern times is magically delivered by railway.

Mr Hesketh Jones will be at Blackburn Central Library’s Hornby Lecture Theatre on June 11 to read scenes from his book from Novum Publishing.