Derek Birks

Derek_Birks (2)

Derek was born in Hampshire in England but spent his teenage years in Auckland, New Zealand where he still has strong family ties. For many years, he taught history in a secondary school in Berkshire but took early retirement several years ago to concentrate on his writing. Apart from writing, he spends his time gardening, travelling, walking and taking part in archaeological digs at a Roman villa. Derek is interested in a wide range of historical themes but his particular favourite is the later Medieval period.

Book title ‘Feud’ – Read the interview with one of the characters from ‘Feud’ below


Once the Feud begins, no-one is safe…

It is 1459 and England stands on the brink of the Wars of the Roses. York and Lancaster are going to war for the throne, but in the heart of Yorkshire local rivals become bitter enemies as the rule of law breaks down. Ned Elder, a young knight, is caught up in the civil war when his family is attacked by a neighbour, Lord Radcliffe. His sisters are abducted and Ned, with only a few loyal companions, is hounded across the land by the Radcliffes.

Ned and his sisters fight back, but one by one they are overcome until finally, as the civil war rages across the snow-covered battlefield of Towton, the brutal feud is played out to its bloody conclusion.



Amazon UK link to Feud: link:

Interview with Ned Elder

‘The Inside Story’ interviewed the ghostly presence of Ned Elder (MC in ‘The Feud’) in The Bingley Arms. Located in the beautiful village of Bardsey, The Bingley Arms is no ordinary pub. It’s the original English pub – officially the oldest in Britain – dating back over 1000 years to a time when Vikings were conquering parts of the country and before England had its first King. As Ned slowly materialised through the ancient walls he looked round, smiled when he saw the range of ales available and took a seat next to me at the bar.


Hi Ned and nice to meet you. Tell me, at what age did you begin practising the art of war?

Practising war? Aye, I suppose that’s what it was really. At the time, I thought of it as play. I was a lad of… I don’t know… seven – older, younger? We used wooden swords then and I practised with Will. We killed each other all the time! We were always together, whatever we were doing. But he was too fast for me though I was stronger… I miss Will. But the art of war? It was never an art for me. I remember Scaroni – an Italian swordmaster who spent some time with my father at Elder Hall when Will and I were still boys – he thought war was an art… he saw Will’s pace and skill and made him even better. Me? Scaroni looked at my efforts and saw a butcher – I might as well have wielded a cleaver as a sword. I didn’t learn much about war until Blore Heath in ’59. (ED – for the uninitiated The Battle of Blore Heath was one of the first major battles in the English Wars of the Roses. It was fought on 23 September 1459, at Blore Heath in Staffordshire, two miles east of the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England.) I was barely 18 then and that’s when I first went to war. Nothing prepares you for it, the blood and the noise  – you fight any way you can or you die.

I see your family seat is in Yorkshire. What do you think of Lancashire folk?

Folk are folk; never met a lot from Lancashire. When I was a lad, I thought the world stopped at York – soon I learned that county means nothing. Kinfolk matter, friends matter, but beyond that? I don’t care where you come from.


You had an old steward on your estate named Lynton. How did he come into your service? (Don’t tell me what happens to him though or it will spoil the story!)

Lynton? Oh he could be a miserable old bastard – on his better days! He was the steward under my father and I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t there. I think he might have served with my father in the French wars – a lot of men on the estate did. He was too old for the post in the end though…


Your sister, Emma, would you say she was a wise child?

Emma had it tough right from the start – though at the time I didn’t know that. Alright, if I’m honest, I didn’t care much what went on in the household. If there was food on the table and a fire in the hearth I was happy enough. I was about 5 when my mother died. Emma was a year younger but the elder of my father’s two daughters. From that time on she was trained to run the household – which she did I suppose from the time she was about ten or twelve. She was good at it – took it very seriously. But is she wise? Well, I never thought so – at least not where men are concerned. But she’s proved brave enough when it’s counted.


Your other sister, Eleanor, she seems a feisty girl. Why do you think she is so different to Emma?

Emma had all the responsibility on her shoulders and Ellie had none. Emma is plain and Ellie is a beauty. Emma endures and Ellie rages. They couldn’t be more different.

Ellie ran wild as a young girl. No mother – and our father just didn’t know what to do with her. She got into every scrape she could. She fought with every man, woman or child – usually about nothing! At first father tried to beat the spirit out of her, but she’d only spit in his eye and come back even worse. So he gave up and she ran wilder still – and then she got older and found worse trouble.  The local lads followed her like flies on shit – more fool them! Mind you, if she was with my friend Will, she’d do anything he told her – strange that, eh? Ellie has more fight in her little finger though, than most men have in their whole body!


Your nemesis, Richard Radcliffe seems a mean sort of guy. Are all the Radcliffe’s like him?

It seems strange to say it now, but we never had much to do with the Radcliffes though our lands met. I didn’t know about the feud at all until the Radcliffe’s struck. Of them all though, Richard was probably the least foul. He did the right thing by Emma – he has some honour and I couldn’t say that about the rest of them.

Edmund Radcliffe… I can hardly bear to speak his name… he’s… well there’s just nothing good I can say about him – or his father.


Holton, the blacksmith, plays a part in your tale and he seems a pretty mean guy with a hammer. Where did he learn his craft (as a smith I mean, not fighting)?

John Holton is the sweetest man you could ever know. We forged a bond as youths. No man is more loyal to me than Holton. You might be surprised to learn that Holton was never meant to be a smith; he was a miller’s son – but that ended badly. My father took pity on him and he learned his trade at Elder Hall with our smith. He’s strong and quick to learn. He’s become skilled in metalwork – now he messes about with bits of old plate armour. I think he sees himself as an armourer and who knows?


Last but not least – if you could send a message / advice from your fifteenth century world to the people of the twenty-first century what would it be?

My world? What could I offer anyone from my world of blood and mischief? No message of hope – that’s certain! It couldn’t be worse, could it, in the future than it is now? Men at each other’s throats? And for what: a crown or a patch of land? The only message I have is look to your own and try to keep them safe – that’s the most a man can do in any age.

(ED – what a night that was. Ghosts have no idea of time! When the bar closed at midnight Ned had thrown a cloak of invisibility over me and the landlord went to bed leaving me and my best friend Ned Elder to drink the night away. I do hope that ghosts have hangovers – but I doubt it! Thanks, Ned – my office in the morning!)



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