The quiet unassuming man who put Hartlepool’s 1940s library service back on track

Edgar Lyde who set up the first branch library in Hartlepool.
Edgar Lyde who set up the first branch library in Hartlepool.

We may not know it but we all hold a debt of gratitude to Edgar Lyde.

This quiet unassuming Scot was the man who saw to it that West Hartlepool got its first branch library.

The art gallery and museum.

The art gallery and museum.

He was the man who organised the re-opening of the town’s Art Gallery and Museum after it was closed throughout the Second World War. It had also needed repair after structural damage was caused by a bomb.

And he was the first person to give children their own library room with a more varied selection of books to read.

But who was this man and how did Hartlepool come to have such a visionary among its ranks?

We first told his story in June 1956.

If I had my life over again, I would be a librarian

Edgar Lyde, 1956.

Now, 60 years on, we recall that first interview with the Dundee-born man who moved to the North East when his family shifted to Newcastle in 1900.

He started his working career at Newcastle Junior Libraries as a “very junior assistant” before the First World War broke out and he became a member of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

He returned to Newcastle in 1918 and stopped there until he got his first senior post as deputy librarian in Cheltenham in 1924.

He came back to the North East and was first assistant librarian and then deputy librarian in Sunderland. He spent 19 “happy years” there until March 1946 when Hartlepool needed his services.

He became Director of the Library, succeeding Major Downey.

Edgar became only the third person to hold the post in the 51 years since it was first created in 1895.

The Northern Daily Mail reported at the time: “It is here that he has carried out a heavy programme and proved himself an efficient, capable and kindly administrator during a testing and difficult time.”

He told our report in 1956: “This library like many others underwent a period of stagnation during the war and there was much work to be done.”

He restored exhibits, oversaw structural repairs and made one of his first tasks in town the creation of a branch library.

It happened in 1948 when a house in Stockton Road was acquired.

Edgar stocked it with 10,000 volumes and “spent many hours poring through catalogues and speaking with book suppliers.”

And in 1950, he helped the children of the town to have an extended library room of their own when the Town Council took over the old police station next to the library.

There was clear proof that he made a difference. Just look at the statistics.

In his period of office, book withdrawals went up by 430,000 issues a year compared to the years before.

Outside of his working life, he was a keen tennis and badminton player as well as an amateur singer with a rich baritone voice.

Who remembers him? Tell us more.

Contact Chris Cordner by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk