New book celebrates Sheffield'sÂ industrial history
Mel Jones smiles as he recalls his starring role on an Aussie soap
'It was the late 80s,' says the South Yorkshire author, and self-confessed history buff.
'I'll never forget one afternoon watching Kylie Minogue, in a scene on Neighbours, showing up to Jason Donavon's house to study - carryingÂ my textbook under her arm!
'It was my claim to fame for a while,' he laughs.
Mel, a former geographer, andÂ visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University until his retirement, is no stranger to seeing his works on display, as the author of over 90 books and textbooks which have sold well everywhere fromÂ Hong Kong, toÂ New Zealand.
FÂ or his latest book -Â Sheffield at Work: People and Industries Through the YearsÂ '“Â Mel, of Thorpe Hesley in Rotherham, has joined forces with his wife Joan.
'For centuries, SheffieldÂ produced cutlery, files, a vast range of agricultural implements, Old Sheffield Plate, silverware, crinoline wires, umbrella frames, the railway lines that transformed Britain's transport system, and shells and armour plate for the armed forces,' said Mel, aged 80.
'And that's not even mentioning our legendary mushy peas, Liquorice Allsorts, Henderson's Relish and Izal disinfectant.
'Today Sheffield is a prime example of a post-industrial city and has the reputation of being the country's greenest city. Its two universities attract more than 60,000 students every year. The Lower Don Valley, described in the 1970s as an industrial wasteland, is now crowded with edge-of-town shopping, entertainment and sporting destinations. Even back in the 19thÂ century the city had a burgeoning retail sector, with four department stores, one of which is still going strong today.
'And throughout all this, manufacturing has continued, with firms manufacturing forged and cast steel for the engineering, nuclear and petrochemical industries worldwide and special steels for the aerospace, oil and automotive industries.
'At the other end of the scale, individual craftsmen '“Â known as the Little Mesters '“ still produce bespoke knives in small workshops dotted around the city.
'With this book, weÂ coverÂ nine centuries of Sheffield at work, andÂ were really keen to celebrate all that the city has achieved in that time, emphasising the continuity and innovation that has taken place in the steel city.'
Mel and Joan, who have previouslyÂ co-written over 20Â books together, already had a great understanding of Sheffield's industrial heritage before they began work on this latest book, having spent many decades researching the subject matter for other works.
'We'd written many books on Sheffield before, so we had a good base,' says Mel.
'What was great with this book, was they we really got the chance to delve into the heart of the industrial city, meeting incredible people '“Â like Stan Shaw, aÂ 92-year-old who still has a workshop at Kelham Island and makes the most fantastic pen knives.'
Â Joan, aged 70,Â a former deputy head and senior lecturer, agrees: 'It was wonderful to see, on closer examination, how many of these great old firms were still going strong - like Wentworth Pewter, that sells wonderful goblets and ornate pictures frames in stores like Harrods in London, and Burgon & Ball at Malin Bridge, who are the biggest producers of sheep shears in the world.
'There is alsoÂ Sheffield engineering firm, SCX Group, which has just completed the second year of a three-year project to construct a foldaway roof for No.1 Court at Wimbledon which will be ready in 2019.
'Â In terms ofÂ digital technology too, we found it quite uplifting to learn about all that was going on in the city, in terms ofÂ enterprise and innovation.
'We do hope this book isÂ a celebration of an incredible past, of what makes Sheffield unique, with our history and heritage, butÂ also to the way we have preserved what makes us great in so many different ways.
'Â We think Sheffield's footprint is different to most cities and we want to shout proudly about it. We think that's the reason that so many peopleÂ come to universÂ ity here and end up staying forever, it's a special place.'
The couple, who run a local history group, Chapeltown and High Green Archive, took a year to write the book, which was published last month.
SÂ heffield at WorkÂ is available from local bookshops priced at Â£14.99, from Amazon, and direct from the publishers atÂ amberley-books.comÂ