Readers of the Nostalgia pages may remember an article that I published in the BFP some years ago (November 6, 2015) about the international singing star Dusty Springfield.

Dusty spent most of her childhood, her formative years, in High Wycombe.

She arrived in the town as a baby and left on the threshold of becoming a teenager.

Much of the information in the article was provided to me by Donella Campbell, who has now prepared the following article.

Donella writes: “I have been on a journey for many years. I wouldn’t like to tell you how long.

Ask me what I was doing and why, and my answer is that I suddenly rediscovered Dusty Springfield after she had dropped out of my life for decades.

Something triggered my memories of Dusty.

I think I was 14 when I was first aware of Dusty. That was in 1963. I saw her on our flickering black and white TV when she first appeared on ‘Ready Steady Go!’ with the Springfields. Later I saw her when she presented her own shows on the BBC.

I was drawn to and fascinated by this larger-than-life pop singer back then but, as time went on, life got in the way and she dropped out of my consciousness.

I am not sure what it was that brought Dusty back to me, perhaps it was hearing some of her most famous songs on television or radio.

I started obsessively searching YouTube for her recordings.

I was fascinated and driven to discover the person hidden behind the makeup, mascara and blonde beehive.

The more I searched the more intrigued I became. I wanted see behind the mask, to discover who Dusty really was.

I wanted to know how she grew into arguably the finest and most successful British female pop singer of the 1960s.

That was when I decided to uncover every detail I could find about Dusty before she was famous and write her story.

Dusty Springfield was born Mary Isabel Catherine O’Brien on April 16, 1939.

Her parents Gerard and Catherine O’Brien had married in December 1931.

Their first child, Mary’s brother Dion (stage name Tom) was born on July 2nd 1934.

When Mary was born, just a few months before the start of WWII, the family lived in a mansion flat in Maida Vale – Mary’s father Gerard (OB) had begun his career as a Tax Inspector with the Inland Revenue and later worked as a Tax Consultant.

When Mary was just a few months old the family moved to High Wycombe.

The 1939 Register lists them at 2 Hylton Road in Sands.

The Electoral Roll, when it was reinstated after the war, shows that they lived there from 1945 to 1951.

Mary first went to school in Sands County Primary, she later moved to St Augustine’s Elementary School, located opposite the Rye, where she sat her 11 plus.

Next, she joined St Bernard’s Convent School, next door, and took her first communion.

In a search for information about High Wycombe, I found an article written by Sally Scagell.

She helped me to make contact with Mike Dewey of the Bucks Free Press.

He kindly printed the article in the paper’s Nostalgia Page with all that was known about Mary (Dusty) while she lived in High Wycombe.

The article included an appeal for information about the area at that time and, in particular, asked about the schools that Mary had attended and about the neighbourhoods that would have been familiar to her and her family.

Alongside the article was a request for anyone that might have memories of Dusty or her family, while they lived in Sands, to get in touch.

The response was fantastic.

It resulted in me arranging to visit High Wycombe and meeting with many of the people who had contacted the paper.

I wanted to hear their memories at first hand.

Ken Wakefield and his wife Rita opened their home to me and hosted a meeting of the members of this group in their home in Penn Village.

Paul Davies and Ken Wakefield spoke about their time in Sands County Primary School where Mary had been a pupil.

Later Ken and I visited the school and were welcomed by the new occupants (a nursery school) who have done a great deal of research on the school and on its famous former pupil.

In the 1920s Ken’s father had built a fish and chip shop in Sands and it is likely Mary was a regular customer there.

David Gardiner also gave more insight into St Augustine’s, the school Mary attended later. Russell Chamberlen talked about his friendship with Mr O’Brien which developed when he was a teenager.

He described visiting the family home and the many hours he spent with Mary’s father (an enthusiastic radio ham) listening to transmissions on short wave radio.

He also recalled spending hours playing music with Mary and her brother.

I had also made contact with Richard Bond who shared memories with me about his sister Doreen, Dusty’s childhood friend.

Richard told me that his mother Iris and Kay O’Brien were friends and that they took part in the Sands Young Mums’ Group, the Women’s Drama Group and the Women’s Institute together.

My book is now complete, it explores Dusty’s early life in great detail, when she was known simply as Mary O’Brien.

My research has been intensive and meticulous and I have uncovered details not just of Dusty’s life but of the times and places and people of her growing up.

The book begins with Dusty’s childhood in High Wycombe, moves on to her time in St Anne’s Convent, Ealing, describes the jobs she had after school and her first performances in West End clubs.

It follows as she joins the all-girl trio the Lana Sisters and finally, it chronicles the three years she spent as a member of the Springfields, before she launched her solo career.

Another section traces Dusty’s genealogy.

For the first time details of her parent’s, grandparents and great grandparents are revealed.”

The Girl Who Invented Dusty Springfield has now been published and is available from Amazon as both an e-book and a paperback.