A GRANDFATHER’S experience of being saved by a British soldier when he was ambushed by the IRA is the inspiration behind a former psychologist’s latest novel.

Ian Wilkinson, of Middleton One Row, near Darlington, was so fascinated by his father-in-law’s experiences during the Irish War of Independence that he decided to base his newest novel on him.

His wife's father, Patrick Ryan, was only nine-years-old when he was caught up in crossfire in 1919 when the IRA ambushed British soldiers as they left a church.

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He then went on to join the British Army.

Mr Wilkinson said: “When he told us his story we were a bit suspicious but when I checked it out there it was. It was exactly as he had described.

“He was pushed to the ground before shooting broke out. Then the man who pushed him to the ground took a bullet and fell on top of him. He always felt this soldier had saved his life.”

The book, entitled Crossing the Water, follows the youngster as he leaves his homeland and finds sanctuary with a family in Weardale – drawing inspiration from his own family’s experiences.

The 60-year-old, who worked as a psychologist for more than 20 years before retiring to pursue his lifelong ambition to become an author, said: “I have some great stories from my side of the family and have managed to merge them all together.

“These people have been witnesses to some really interesting things.”

He will be signing copies of the book at the Dolphin Centre on Saturday (August 16) from 11am to 1pm.

Copies can also be bought from Guru Boutique, in Blackwellgate.

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