IT took a few hatpins and some cut-out pictures to fool intellectuals, scientists and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

This summer is the centenary of the Cottingley Fairies hoax, and its fascination continues. When cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright wandered down to Cottingley Beck one summer's day in 1917, and staged a prank to spook the grown-ups, they had no idea it would change their lives forever - and would still be controversial a century later.

Each year Cottingley’s Fairy Fest remembers the local legend, and this month a fairy fancy dress parade was one of the centenary events in the village. Next week Cottingley fun day will include a display on the fairies. Another exhibition has opened at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley, and the National Science and Media Museum, which has the girls’ five fairy photographs and their cameras, has launched an interactive show in its Wonderlab.

In our digital age, the unrefined images of hand-drawn fairies stuck to leaves and branches look rather silly; we smirk at the notion of them fooling so many. But the summer of 1917 was a time like no other, when a grieving nation was embracing the otherworldly. The monumental loss of life in the 1914-1918 war led to a rise of spiritualism, with ordinary people turning to mediums and seances to communicate with sons, brothers, husbands and sweethearts who never returned from the trenches. Few families escaped the loss. Conan Doyle, whose son perished in the war, was a high-profile believer in spiritualism and the supernatural - so convinced was he by the Cottingley Fairies that he gave the girls an expensive camera to capture more of the creatures on film.

If the fairy hoax had been carried out any other time in the 20th century, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. But the 1917-1920 period, when the girls took their photographs, was fertile for belief. The world was a different place by the time the pair finally admitted the fakes, 60 years later, but the revelation nonetheless caused a media stir.

Writing about the Cottingley Fairies over the years, what has struck me is how deeply opinion is divided - not so much on the photographs but on Frances and Elsie. Earlier this year I spoke to the family of the late Bradford University lecturer Professor Joe Cooper, who brought the hoax to public attention in 1982.

By then the cousins were elderly women who had long since fallen out; Prof Cooper's former wife recalled him driving up and down motorways to visit them separately, devoting years to his research. The fakery confession, she said, made a mockery of his work and gave him a nervous breakdown.

But he continued to believe in the final, rather eerie, photo; of transparent fairies in a misty nest. Frances also insisted this was the only real image, and when I interviewed her daughter she too believed in it. “To her, fairies were part of nature," she told me. "No different from tadpoles or blackbirds."

She said Frances felt betrayed when her confession went public. Prof Cooper’s family claim her confession made him ill. But despite their anguish, they both continued to believe in fairies.

Why does this hoax still fascinate us? Why do children parade as fairies in Cottingley and TV crews continue to visit the beck? Probably for the same reason we love a blurred photo of Nessie, or the giant panther said to roam the moors.

Frances wrote in her memoirs: “At nine-years-old I had no idea that what we did would haunt me all my life.” She admitted the prank, but she also clung to her belief in what she saw at Cottingley Beck. And the world is a more interesting place for that.

* DOES it really matter where we keep our washing machines? Property presenter Kirstie Allsopp caused a Twitter stir recently saying it was "disgusting" to keep a washing machine in the kitchen. Domestic appliance repair company has since found that 46per cent of Brits surveyed keep theirs in the kitchen and are "absolutely fine" with it.

I remember my grandma telling me about the ritual of "wash day", when a whole Monday was a grind of boiling, soaking, scrubbing, rinsing, wringing and drying household laundry - all done by hands which were left sore and red raw.

A washing machine in the kitchen, or anywhere else, would've been a labour-saving luxury for women of her generation.

* IT was heartening to read that people have stepped forward to help Shipley Glen Tramway, which hit a crisis point following a slump in volunteers.

After reading about a volunteer drive in the T&A, several people expressed interest at an open day last weekend.

The historic tramway - the UK's oldest funicular railway - is a gem in our district. I have happy memories of going on it as a child, and visiting the little fairground at the top of the hill. A couple I know recently rode on the tramway on their wedding day, with all their guests, and the photographs look beautiful, with bunting fluttering from the trams.

It is thanks to a hard-working bunch of volunteers that this lovely tramway remains open. Long may that continue.