Whose Book?

Some weeks ago I wrote of a contact who had come to me through this blog, and left my readers with the prospect of a story. This post is that story, the result of a collaboration between me and Dr Neil Gibbs.

Dr Neil Gibbs recently purchased a copy of the Bird Lovers’ Manual ‘How to Know British Birds’ from a well-known internet auction site.

How to know British Birds

He was delighted to have found this treasure,

S. Denny inscription

and intrigued by the child’s pencilled inscription inside the front cover.

Who was this young lady?

I've always kept a unicorn

The name suggested a very popular singer/songwriter from the 1960s and ‘70s; Sandy Denny. Neil sought confirmation of this by researching biographies of the Fairport Convention singer/songwriter, who made successful solo albums during the second of these decades. Interestingly, in these books the only home mentioned was Worple Road. Stanton Road is an L-shaped side road off that main thoroughfare between Wimbledon and Raynes Park.

Our researcher’s next step was to type Stanton Road into Google, which took him to my blog where he learned that I had grown up just 24 dwellings away from S. Denny.

He left a comment on my blog asking if I had known the Denny Family. I responded with an e-mail saying I had, and inviting a telephone conversation.

Without giving away his thoughts Neil asked whether I knew of a Denny family living in Stanton Road. I did, and it was, of course, Sandy who had, at least in the 1950s, lived at 53 Stanton Road. I could be sure of that.

Sandy and David Denny

I was unable to be certain whether this photograph features a Stanton Road or a Worple Road home. It could indeed be either.

I can happily vouch for the veracity of the Stanton Road address. I lived there from 1944 until 1960 when I was 18 and Sandy would have been 12.

Sandy Denny died tragically young (aged 31yrs) in 1978, but her contribution to folk music is being recognized this month (April 27th 2016) when she will be inducted into the BBC Radio 2 Folk Hall of Fame at an Awards ceremony in the Royal Albert Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.09.29

Link for Sandy Denny website:


Link for BBC Hall of fame:



  1. You’re a writer, a photographer, a gardener, a painter as I like to say and now you’re a private detective, too, Derrick? Very nice of you 😀

  2. What a great find in that book, and in your ability to track it down. Well done, and so worth the effort. I never wrote in my books. Now I wish I had. Sweet. ❤️

  3. I love serendipitous encounters such as this! What a wonderful story. I am so glad you were able to put the book together with the identity of the young lady and to know of her talents and her belated recognition!

  4. Excellent and so interesting as I also remember Sandy Denny on Top of the Pops before I left the UK for SA! It’s a small world, as is often said! 🙂

  5. What an amazing set of circumstances! I have never heard of the young lady in question but love that your blog enabled you to get together with new owner of her old book to solve the mystery.

  6. Good story; fine sleuthing skills between you both. That name sounds familiar to me here across the pond. It occurred to me suddenly that there was an American actress with a very similar name, as well–Sandy Dennis, in fact.

  7. Wow, Derrick. I’m amazed at the people who come to your blog and ask questions related to places. It’s really nice that you can help. And what a find to have a book with all that writing in it from Sandy Denny. Glad you could help confirm it.

  8. Thanks so much to you and Neil for bringing this to my attention. I’ve featured it on my Sandy Denny blog: http://sandydenny.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/events-in-2016_5.html.
    By the way, with reference to earlier comments, you’re unlikely to have seen Sandy on ‘Top of the Pops’. She only ever made one appearance on the programme – in 1969, as a member of Fairport Convention. Her TV appearances were lamentably few, and even fewer are preserved.

  9. I liked the two book stories and was sad to hear of a promising singer dying far too early in life. There was an actress named Sandy or Sandra Dennis. She was quite good. Take care, Derrick and Jackie.

  10. Thank you for sharing this story with us! It is a good thing that we are able to hear about Sandy Denny again, and appreciate her even after she’s gone. I am tickled by the way the Internet brings people together and helps us create more stories to tell.

  11. Thank you for directing me here. I have subsequently looked her up on the internet and cannot help feeling sad for her: such a talented woman.

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