PEOPLE sometimes say the oddest things when they think there’s no-one to overhear.

Like the elderly woman who attended a Friends of York Festival event in 1973. She was dressed in an 'outrageous feathered hat and her great grandmother's clothes' - and was having trouble with her old-fashioned underwear. Unfazed, she whipped it off, and handed it to Lady Feversham with the words: "Hold these for me, love. I haven’t got a handbag to put them in.”

Fortunately for posterity, a young teacher named Darrell Buttery was also at the event - and he recorded the incident in his diary.

Darrell's been confiding incidents like that to his diary for 47 years, now - along with unwise asides and snippets of conversation. His diaries run to 37 volumes. And because he went on to become a leading member of York society - as chair of both York Civic Trust and the York Georgian Society and Governor of York’s Merchant Adventurers - many of the city's 'great and good' feature in their pages.

Other comments recorded in his diaries over the years include:

  • "Is that the Very Reverend Bloody Dean of York?"; telephone call to the then Dean who had 'stolen' an acquaintance's secretary
  • "We don't need anyone very important. We wondered if you could do it?" Simon Howard inviting distinguished architect Patrick Nuttgens to give a talk
  • "Excuse me for sitting down. I'm exhausted by listening to the chairman." Patrick Nuttgens at a York Civic Trust AGM.

Darrell, now 79 and suffering from cancer, is preparing to donate his diaries to the Borthwick Institute, where they will be available for study. The former Nunthorpe Grammar School teacher has also written a book about his time at the school, which should be out in the summer.