I vividly remember a work colleague recalling how she used to walk the two miles from Litton to Great Hucklow by the light of the full moon to watch performances by the Great Hucklow Players in the 1950s.

Many older readers will fondly remember the shows – all performed by local people, often in their native dialect and latterly staged in a converted lead mining cupula – with great affection.

The 250-seat theatre was constructed entirely by local tradesmen and, in addition to providing the cast, local people were also responsible for creating the scenery and costumes.

The performances, staged for over 40 years between 1927 and 1971, attracted audiences not only from Litton, but from Liverpool, Leeds, Leicester and Birmingham and even farther afield, from California, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada.

The Great Hucklow or Village Players – dubbed ‘The Full Moon Players’ by the local press because of the time of the month they were staged – were the brainchild of Lawrence du Garde Peach (1890-1974), the distinguished author and playwright of stage, screen and radio.

As Peach recounted in his 1952 account of the Players, Twenty-Five Years of Play Producing, the matter of dialect did not unduly disturb him.

Referring to the company’s first production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in 1927 he wrote: ‘Some of my players spoke, it is true, in the Derbyshire dialect, and all had the broad full vowels of the North of England. But so had the players for whom Shakespeare wrote the play… Shakespeare would have approved of it.’

The multi-talented Peach, known as ‘Laurie’ or ‘L du G’ by his associates, also became the founding editor of Derbyshire Countryside – now Derbyshire Life – in 1931.

Great British Life: du Garde Peach's first editor's intro in what is now Derbyshire Life Photo: Newsquestdu Garde Peach's first editor's intro in what is now Derbyshire Life Photo: Newsquest

Originally published by the Derbyshire Rural Community Council and priced at the grand sum of 2d, in its present manifestation it is still claimed to be the oldest surviving county magazine in the country.

Peach wrote in the opening edition: ‘This magazine is Derbyshire’s own. We welcome the collaboration of all those who love our county – we hope to enlist the help of all the native genius which it breeds.’

And it was through the pages of Derbyshire Countryside Peach was able to promote local theatre as a way of developing local communities.

An example was that Peach was also involved with the formation of Tideswell Community Players in the neighbouring village, and starred in its first production, Ambrose Applejohn’s Adventure in 1930.

After the war he also produced a number of large-scale theatrical pageants in Sheffield, Manchester and elsewhere.

Nationally, Peach is perhaps best remembered as the author of over 30 children’s books in the Adventure from History series of pocket-sized non-fiction history books, published by Ladybird Books of Loughborough from 1957.

Because of their imperialistic connotations, they are regarded by the teaching profession these days as unduly imperialistic. But they introduced history to many generations of young children, and became the longest-running series Ladybird ever produced, remaining in print until 1986.

Great British Life: Derbyshire's Lawrence du Garde Peach Photo: Sarah Miller WaltersDerbyshire's Lawrence du Garde Peach Photo: Sarah Miller Walters

Lawrence du Garde Peach was the son of Charles Peach (1862-1943), a Unitarian minister and later the Secretary of the Northern Counties Education League, and Mary Ann Munns (1863-1940). He was born in Conduit Road, in the Sheffield suburb of Nether Hallam, in 1890.

After the family moved to Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Lancashire, Peach attended Manchester Grammar School between 1903-9 and later the then-Victoria University of Manchester (now the University of Manchester), graduating in English Language and Literature in 1912.

Later that year, Peach took up a postgraduate lecturing post at the University of Göttingen in Germany. He later earned a PhD at Sheffield University in 1921 for a thesis on the development of drama in France, Spain and England in the 17th century.

He married college friend Emily Marianne Leeming (1890-1972) in 1915, and then served in military intelligence with the Manchester Regiment during World War I, serving in France and reaching the rank of captain.

He later recalled his frightening experiences on the front line: ‘I was gassed, blown up, lost most of my friends and I was lucky to survive. But I enjoyed the experience, although there were times when I have never been more terrified.’

After the war, he took up a lecturing post at the University of the South West of England (now Exeter University) and, while there, began his career in writing and freelance journalism.

From then he wrote many humorous pieces for the fondly-remembered Punch and other magazines.

Peach had been introduced to the Peak District, and in particular to Great Hucklow, when his father took underprivileged inner city children to the Unitarian Holiday Home in the village.

The family moved to Great Hucklow when he was just nine weeks old, and in later years, the converted day room of the holiday home was to become the first home of the Hucklow Players.

That first theatre was created entirely by local tradesman, closely supervised by Peach. Lighting in those early days was by a dozen car headlight bulbs, powered by accumulators provided by the DP Battery Company of Bakewell.

As Peach explained: ‘It was simple to use and easy to dim; occasionally it even dimmed itself.’ Electric lighting did not come to the village until 1932.

A major new outlet for writers in those days was the emerging medium of radio, and Peach wrote the first of his 400 plays for the BBC – Light and Shade – in 1924.

It was one of the first plays to be broadcast by the BBC, and much of his radio work dramatised history and biography.

He became a regular on the famous Children’s Hour nightly programme for younger listeners, hosted by Derek McCulloch, affectionately known as ‘Uncle Mac.’

Peach also wrote extensively for the stage and formed a close relationship with the Sheffield Playhouse.

Between 1934 and 1936, he wrote the screenplay for 22 movies, ranging from horror films such as The Ghoul (1933), starring Boris Karloff, and The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) to musical comedy; Princess Charming (1934), Land Without Music (1936), and serious drama alike Turn of the Tide (1935), and The Tunnel, a science fiction classic about the building of a transatlantic tunnel between London and New York, also in 1935.

Great British Life: Great Hucklow, a village close to du Garde Peach's heartGreat Hucklow, a village close to du Garde Peach's heart

One of his most successful films was Get Cracking (1943), starring ukelele maestro George Formby and loosely based on Peach’s 1942 comedy play, According to Plan.

The play was based on Peach’s own hilarious experiences in the Home Guard in Great Hucklow during the Second World War. He offered it to the BBC but they turned it down, apparently on the grounds that it might offend ex-guardsmen.

But in the late 1960s, the BBC accepted an almost identical idea from scriptwriters Jimmy Perry and David Croft, which eventually led to the long-running and fantastically successful BBC 1 series, Dad’s Army, starring Hayfield’s Arthur Lowe as the pompous Captain George Mainwaring.

Such was his prolific output, Peach began to receive lucrative and prestigious offers from ‘Tinseltown’ (Hollywood). But he turned them all down because typically he resented the ‘unacceptable interference’ he thought he might receive from American film executives.

Peach made a single attempt to enter the world of politics, standing as a Liberal candidate at the 1929 General Election in the dual member seat of Derby. But at the ballot box, for once he failed.

He was awarded an OBE for services for literature in 1972 and was recognised with an honorary postdoctoral degree as Doctor of Letters (D. Litt) from Sheffield University in 1964.

Lawrence du Garde Peach died in 1974 at the age of 84 at his home at The Bungalow in Foolow, only about a mile from Great Hucklow, two years after the death of his wife.