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There were plenty around Fellburn who said she was as plain as a pikestaff, but Maggie Rowan more than made up for it by her dogged determination to succeed. They reckoned that once a miner's daughter like Maggie had tasted power, she'd be like a beggar on horseback - and ride straight to hell. Maggie's two main desires in life were a child she could love, and one of those big houses on Brampton Hill - which was what she had in her sights when she asked Christopher Taggart to marry her. And she meant to have them both, despite the scorn of some folk who thought they knew what Maggie Rowan deserved, better than she did herself.
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many best-selling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.