TOP playwright and author Alan Bennett has donated four books to help a scuba diving club raise money in memory of a former member.

Mr Bennett also sent a letter to the Clitheroe group describing his own experiences of diving, 50 years ago in Sardinia.

Members of the Ribble Valley branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) — which attracts members from across East Lancashire — have already raised almost £4,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute by taking part in an underwater relay at Lake Coniston last month.

The team travelled five miles beneath the surface over eight hours to raise funds in memory of former club stalwart Duncan Priestley, of Accrington, who died of cancer in August, aged 59. Now, the group has will auction the signed Alan Bennett books online.

The Leeds-born writer, best known for works including The History Boys and Talking Heads, responded to a request from club training officer Fiona Imlach.

Mr Bennett, 80, who received a 1994 Academy Award nomination for the screenplay of The Madness of King George, which was adapted from his original play, wished the fundraising divers good luck in the typed note he sent them and told them of his personal taste of the sport In his letter, he said: “I have only once been scuba diving.

“It was in Sardinia in the early ’60s before Sardinia was a holiday resort and was just a primitive island.

“Ten years or so later a character in a TV play of mine, Our Winnie, is mad keen on what was then called ‘sub-aqua’.

“He is a bit of a clown and by the end of the play he has gone off sub-aqua and got on to something else.”

Fiona said she was confident the donation would now take them over the £5,000 mark.

“We now aim to put the four Alan Bennett books up for auction on eBay.”