When Chorley schoolboy William Danby received a dusty old adventure story as a present from a friend, he wondered what had made them choose it – as opposed to the nature books he usually enjoys.
But when he opened the front cover he immediately saw why – because the inscription inside, written nearly 100 years earlier, was to a boy with exactly the same name, who was exactly the same age when he first received it back in 1919.
The adventure story ‘The Young Franc-Tireurs’ by GA Henty was donated to a St Catherine’s Hospice bookshop in Preston, where it immediately caught the eye of the volunteer manager Alex Garden.
The inscription inside ‘To William J Danby from his father, Xmas 1919’ matched the name of her friend Angela Danby’s son, a pupil at Bishop Rawstorne School in Croston, and she decided it would make the perfect gift for him.
It had been passed on to the hospice shop by a close friend of the original William Danby’s son when he died, along with a host of other books.
To add to the coincidence, both were 13 when they received the book and each has a middle name beginning with J – the original Danby being William James and the teenager of today being William Joseph.
“It’s really funny to think of another boy like me back then and how different his life must have been.”Schoolboy William Danby
Mum Angela said: “It’s such an amazing, wonderful coincidence.
“Danby is a very unusual name in the North West and Lancashire. You get some Dandys, but we’ve never come across any Danbys around here; its connections are in North Yorkshire.
“So to see not only the same surname inscribed there, but the same first name and initial, plus to a boy who was the same age as William, was quite incredible. We couldn’t believe it.”
Volunteer Alex and the Danbys have been trying to ascertain whether the families are related but have so far found no links, despite going back to the 1841 census.
However, a photograph of the book’s original owner (left) bears an uncanny resemblance to the William of today.
He is the seventh generation William in his family, following a tradition whereby the first boy born is always given the name.
William said: “It’s really funny to think of another boy like me back then and how different his life must have been.
“I love playing computer games in my spare time – but there would have been none of that for him.”
Alex said the book had been a wonderful surprise among the varied donations the shop in Ashton receives from generous supporters.
“As soon as I spotted it I knew I had to give it to William,” she said.
“Books are fantastic things to share and pass on to others, and the inscription makes it mean so much more.
“We often receive donations of vintage and antiquarian books, as well as things like collectors magazines.
“The shop is a real Aladdin’s cave of different things – from the latest novels and children’s books to CDs, DVDs and vinyl, we have got something to interest everyone.”
The shop also relies on people giving their time to volunteer in store, including Alex who manages the store on a voluntary basis.
The importance of volunteers is highlighted in the hospice’s 30th anniversary Give A Gift campaign with the Chorley and Leyland Guardian, which is asking for 30 new people to sign up to give their time at the charity’s shops across the area this year.
If you could give the gift of your time through volunteering, visit www.stcatherines.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01772 695290.