Marjorie Olive Taylor was born in Bradford in 1895. The eighth of a local council bookbinder’s family of 11, she lived in Bolton Villas.

After her education at Belle Vue Girls’ Grammar School, she worked for her father until 1917 when she married textile businessman Leonard Whitaker. They later adopted a daughter, Valerie, and a son, Michael. For a short while they tried living in America.

She also adopted the writing name of Malachi from the Bible. Her reputation as a writer of short stories spanned the years from 1929 to 1949. Twenty-six years passed until her next book in 1975, Selective Stories, in her eightieth and final year of life.

It’s a measure of how deeply buried under time Malachi Whitaker became that the name of this Bradford-born writer only surfaced to my attention a few weeks ago.

Although I have been in Bradford since 1975, and in that time have read quite a few books and talked to a lot of people, the woman whose short stories gained her the accolade of ‘The Bradford Chekhov’ in the 1920s and 1930s, remained unknown to me – in spite of several small articles in the T&A in August, 1984, and March, 1985.

Lately, however, the actor Martin Jarvis read one of her stories on Radio 4, and her son Michael, of Michael Whitaker Fabrics, Crosshills, rang the T&A to alert us to the news. He sent a copy of her slim volume of memoirs, And So Did I, published by Carcanet at £10.95 in 1987.

In the T&A library, in the envelope containing 15 Malachi Whitaker newspaper cuttings, dated from 1931 to 1985, is a review of this book, first published 70 years ago at seven shillings and sixpence (38p) by Jonathan Cape. The reviewer – ‘A D’ – begins with the following expostulation: “Now why didn’t Mrs Whitaker, of Shipley, tell us more about the days of her poverty, and less about the later days of ease, in her book… “There was the beginning of her married life, when she was wedded in a white blanket coat, woollen underclothes, walking boots, an office skirt and blouse, and black woollen stockings… “At one period they saved £3 and bought an old green bell-tent, and hired the corner of a field for a shilling a week. Thus they were saved from paying rent… “They removed to their first house in a milk float, and thereafter lived in various parts of Yorkshire.”

The tent was pitched on Wrose Hill, according to another journalist writing in 1941. Among her friends and literary acquaintances were Frank Whitaker (no relation) from Keighley, the editor of John O’ London’s Weekly and then Country Life, Arnold Bennett, H E Bates and John Galsworthy.

Reviewing And So Did I for the Yorkshire Post on January 18, 1939, Marie Scott-James wrote: “Mrs Whitaker is a Yorkshirewoman with an almost disproportionate sense of proportion, a thoroughly sensible taste for ordinary life and a contempt for humbug of every kind, including the pretentiousness of the literary… “Herself unsystematically generous, Mrs Whitaker loathes organised kindness. The story of the good young man who regularly distributes sweets and tobacco to old men in hospitals is delicious. He does it, he says, for God. But ‘He gets pleasure out of their smiles, and they get pleasure out of the sweets. But where does God come in?’ Approving the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself’ she feels that if you cannot love him, you should avoid doing him good.

“For the rest, her journal is composed of vivid sketches of country scenes, revealing portraits of friends, illuminating notes on the cinema, pierrot shows, books (by Rhoda Broughton, Bernanos, Ouspensky, Noel Coward), pleasantly caustic reflections on behaviour and robust stories which have made her laugh. Not afraid to be ribald about accepted values or reverent about accepted follies, she has a refreshing pen…”

The style of this piece of writing dates it as coming from the past: not an ‘iconic’, celebrity-style cliche anywhere, and note the matter-of-fact reference to the distribution of tobacco to old men in hospitals. As to Malachi Whitaker’s book, the first 20 pages are enough to reveal a considerable writer of prose who is both terse and charming, meaning that she has a sure sense of style, how to say something. Had the poet Sylvia Plath lived into her forties, she might have written like this. Stevie – Not Waving But Drowning – Smith sometimes did.

In the following passage, she is describing what happened after she got her first adopted baby back to Bradford from London.

“The baby was at the house, so to speak, on approval. Many formalities had to be gone through before he was legally adopted. Two lots of people had to vouch for our respectability, and a guardian ad litem was appointed by the city council. This man was very suspicious, and didn’t approve of us, or the baby, or the Adoption Society. He asked why we couldn’t have got a baby from our own city, and wasn’t pleased at all when I said that I was hoping for an intelligent child.”