Library book overdue by almost 76 years finally returned

A book which was borrowed from a library in the Bradford district in 1946, has finally been returned and is on display.

The book, This Way To The Tomb a play by Ronald Duncan, was borrowed from Bradford Council’s Keighley Library almost 76 years ago and was discovered by Charlie Studdy when he was tidying up some bookshelves.

The overdue book is believed to have been taken out by his late mum Eileen Hoyle, who grew up in nearby Haworth. It had been on the library’s shelves for less than a month and had only been borrowed once prior to being taken out by Eileen.

A series of tweets from Keighley Library and Local Studies, said: “We received an email about a very overdue book. A play by Ronald Duncan called This Way To The Tomb. It had come from the gentleman’s late mother’s house and was due back on the 17th July 1946. That is definitely a record for us, nearly 76 years overdue.

“The gentleman said: ‘I’m more than happy to send it to you but less enthusiastic about paying any fine’.

“So I thought I’d work out what it would be if we charged the current rate of 15p per day. Total £3,552.45. We have not charged any overdue fees for this book.”

Mr Studdy who lives near Goole said: “It’s likely that it was borrowed from the library when she returned home from university for the holidays and forgot to take it back. My mother loved books all the way through her life. She was an avid reader until the end.”

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places said: “This is such a lovely story and it’s great to see the book being returned. It is now on display at our Keighley Library.

“We have operated several ‘fines amnesties’ during the pandemic to encourage readers to bring back their overdue books, however 76 years is somewhat of a record for our libraries! We obviously wouldn’t charge Mr Studdy for his mother’s overdue book, and readers can rest assured we would never charge more than the book is worth, however late it is! We would far rather get the books and the customers back wherever possible.

“Our Libraries Service is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year so it’s remarkable that this book has been on loan for over half of that time.”

A programme of refurbishment work has just been completed at Keighley Library, by Bradford Council, with final upgrades of the lighting to LEDs being carried out last week. The whole project saw repairs to flooring and plaster work and redecoration of the Grade II listed building where required.

The Bradford district has recently been awarded UK City of Culture for 2025.