Patrick Garner and Brian Taylor - D is for Dingley

The Whitefish Press $44.95
ISBN 978-1-936702-04-06

There are books that get published and there are books that need to be published and I take my hat off to the Whitefish Press, because they know no rivals when it comes down to the production of books in the latter category. True, it is not the best way to make your fortune, but historians everywhere have good reason to be grateful to this publisher, because without them far too much knowledge would remain locked up in collector’s heads and Whitefish have made themselves fairly unpopular by letting jealously kept secrets out. The only comment I have to make on this situation is ‘bring ‘em on, warts and all,’ because the market for books on reels is so tiny that anything in print is a minor miracle.

If you are not a collector, you will be open-mouthed at all of this, I am sure. Who, for a start, was this Dingley bloke? Well, he made a lot of reels for Hardy’s and for another Alnwick firm called J.J.S. Walker, and then he struck out on his own, making many reels on contract to other companies and more than a few under his own name. Fate has decreed that these unremarkable little items have become increasingly collectible, the thrill of the chase being considerably enhanced (at least in the small and at present considerably overheated world of British reel collecting) by the fact that the majority of the reels Dingley made can only be identified by subtle markings – the one thing the maker rarely did was to stamp W.H. Dingley on the casting. This means that the identification of the genuine article can often be a matter of opinion and in a world where reels are increasingly being bought as investments, I am sure that you can hear the not so faint noise of vested interests colliding, which has made the area rather fraught for authors. When you add that Dingley played a role in the design of the Silex reel, you will appreciate that… hold on, you have never heard of the Silex? It was a spinning reel that Hardy made a long time ago, OK? So Dingley has his place in the pantheon of reel makers and this is a book about how to identify and collect his reels and more to the point, it is the only book about how to do so.

Criticisms? I am not sure how I am supposed to criticise a book which has no rivals, but here are my thoughts. Once again, the columns are set too wide for easy reading, but otherwise the layout and reproduction are good. In their passion for their subject the authors definitely defy credibility when they credit Dingley with a role in the design of not only the Hardy St. George, but the Perfect – as far as I am aware there is no evidence for this – but hey, if speculation like this gets folk talking about the very rich history of reel making, then I am all for it and you cannot fault these guys on their enthusiasm. If you want a book on Dingley, this is the only game in town.

Review 23rd June 2013