Diaries of a Ripon Reporter

We hold in our collection the diaries of James Pulleine Lee (1851-1915), a newspaper reporter from Ripon who wrote for the Ripon Gazette.

James Pulleine Lee was born in 1851 to John and Mary Lee of Low Skellgate, Ripon. His father was a Bailiff at the County Court and the Deputy Superintendant Registrar in Ripon and later described as an accountant. Lee was educated at Jepson’s Hospital and Ripon Grammar School before becoming a newspaper reporter in his 20s. In 1882 he married Lorinda Watkinson and they had daughters Clarice Amelia, Jessie Lorinda and Marguerite Eleanor while living at Blossomgate, Ripon. By 1911 the family had moved to 1 Wensley Place, Ripon, where Lee died aged 64 on 8th June 1915, of complications from influenza. He had represented the Ripon Gazette for over 40 years and had a long connection with the Wesleyan Chapel.

The 34 small volumes cover 1879 to 1914 and reveal Lee’s life as a reporter. The diaries are written in Lee’s small handwriting (but thankfully not in shorthand, even though Lee took shorthand lessons) and contain entries relating to the weather, personal and local events, together with references to national and international events.

Lee’s diary for 1900 is a good example of the information he recorded as it contains entries relating to his professional life as a reporter with details of visits to local events like lectures and flower shows, and attendances at court cases, meetings of District Councils and Boards of Guardians.

A local event of importance was the opening of Ripon Racecourse on Boroughbridge Road and on 6th August 1900 Lee writes: ‘out to visit and make enquiries re races. Record attendance.’

Z.1590 Diary entry for 6th August 1900

International events are also recorded, and it is interesting to see how they were marked in Ripon. For example, the Boer War impacts on Ripon when the news of the relief of Mafeking reaches the city in May 1900. 18th May 1900 – ‘News came of relief of Mafeking after 10pm. Rejoicing in square till midnight.’

Z.1590 Diary entries for 18th-19th May 1900

19th May 1900 – ‘In morning town en fete on receipt of news of Relief of Mafeking…In afternoon to square to see arrival of battalion 1st VB West Yorks Regiment. Cheers for Baden Powell in square.’

21st May 1900 – ‘Application for extension by city innkeepers refused. In afternoon to square, volunteer band playing. City Band at cricket field.’

Z.1590 Diary entry for 21st May 1900

The 21st May 1900 was a general holiday and Lee’s entry shows how the publicans tried to take advantage of this for an increase in trade, but to no avail. It’s this type of entry that makes Lee a valuable recorder of life in Ripon.

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