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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


Updated: Apr 25

Review by Steve Cooke

‘Before I start writing a new book, I take a long walk to get things ordered in my head. I was wondering where to start? Suddenly there was a young girl walking beside me, saying nothing, just skipping along, it was my great grandmother, Martha Anne Ashworth, aged ten. That’s it! That’s where I start!

So revealed American best-selling author Cynn Chadwick when we caught up by video, me in Littleborough, Cynn in her Blue Ridge Mountains home.

Cynn began her research for this story, her first venture into historical fiction, after a career as a novelist and Senior Lecturer, Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, in 2020 when she came to Rochdale to learn all she could about the homeland of her family.

Her great-grandmother, Martha Anne Ashworth Chadwick, lived in Rochdale from 1875-1948. Martha's son, Cynn's grandfather, Harry Chadwick, migrated to the USA in the 1920s.

Throughout her life she had heard stories of her family's ancestors and was especially intrigued by the myths surrounding her great grandmother Martha Anne and her turbulent life. At the age of ten she had been officially labelled by the police as an ‘Incorrigible Rogue’.

Cynn was driven to find out more about her great grandmother, "She'd been known to me through family stories as: a fishwife, a drunkard, a whore, and a brawler. There were stories of a husband who fled her, a man who beat her, sons who dragged her from fights in pubs, and yet, something didn't ring true as she'd lived long and kept her family close.

After extensive research, much of it undertaken in Rochdale, and an impromptu imaginary meeting with ten-year-old Martha Anne Cynn found the inspiration to write The Incorrigible Rogue.

Martha Anne Ashworth is in trouble in school, once again. The precocious and gifted 10-year-old daughter of mill owner John Ashworth has, for the umpteenth time, tried school and parental patience and now legal authority with her quick wit, sharp tongue, impudent defiance, and certain determined independence. With her mother dying, and her father drowning his woes in whisky, young Martha Anne’s wildness leads to her eventual arrest as an Incorrigible Rogue; all seems to be spiralling out of control until an uncanny friendship with the village wise woman, Betty Nuppy, helps guide Martha Anne on a path to salvation, if not, at least, redemption.

This is the story of strong women, mill workers, wise-women, herbalists, women who were denied a voice in a harsh paternalistic society. Women like Rochdalians Martha Anne and Betty Nuppy. Cynn elaborated, “In the nineteen century there were thousands of women registered as prostitutes – they weren’t – they were women who had left their husbands and were living with other men as it was impossible at the time for women to obtain a divorce!”

The Incorrigible Rogue is rich in incident and Rochdale in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is emotively realized, thanks to Cynn's extensive on-site research and connection to her roots.

Cynn told me that she set out to redeem her great grandmother by building on fragments of family legend and imagining the circumstances that produced the woman she came to know.

She has done an excellent redemptive job through this fast-paced, lively story that takes the reader on a thrilling roller coaster of a life. A story that tugs the heart strings, bringing to life a woman whose memory was shrouded in negative labels and is now revealed in her powerful three-dimensional complexity. A highly successful disentangling of a previously very entangled family root.

I can thoroughly recommend The Incorrigible Rogue for people with roots in Rochdale, fans of historical fiction, readers who are interested in the redemption of women who previously had no voice and anyone who likes a good read.


On her latest visit to Rochdale Cynn will discuss history research techniques and story writing, as well as her novel 'The Incorrigible Rogue' based on the life of her Rochdalian great grandmother at Central Library, Number One Riverside, Smith Street, Rochdale OL16 1XU

Saturday 04 May 1pm - 2.15pm.

During my research I visited Cynn’s website @

And discovered that she is also an artist!

She told me that, ‘I've not studied nor had training in painting or art, I think of myself as an Outsider Artist.  As an impatient person I use acrylic paint as it dries fast.

Her colourful vibrant pictures reflect her fascination with ‘architecture, landscapes, cars, trains, machinery, roof tops, and snow’.

She works mostly on canvas--but also on wood and tiles, re-imagining her ‘favourite places, seasons, occasions, events, and memories for folks’.

Cynn also does commissions of moments or places people would like to be captured in her own rudimentary style, all she needs are a few pictures of a special memory.

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