The White Rose county. Or God’s Own County as locals proudly call it.
People from Yorkshire can be incredibly boring and obnoxious about their county. I know. I was born there. And for some reason, there is something instilled in you from birth that makes you continue with that amazing Yorkshire pride, however much you know it is irrational.
It is a bit like Texas, or so my father used to say. It is the largest county in the UK. The biggest and the best.
The first thing to mention is that it used to be divided into ridings (from thridings, or thriddings) ie North, East and West Ridings. There was no South Riding, apart from the novel by Winifred Holtby (very good I might add). The West Riding alone was bigger than any other English county.
But sadly, an appalling decision in Whitehall some 40 years ago, abolished the ridings and changed the boundaries.
This may not sound like much to anyone not from Yorkshire, but to anyone from Yorkshire, it was a disaster. Ridings were our heritage. Wiped away by the stroke of a pen.
Each riding had a capital, Northallerton was capital of the North Riding, Beverley capital of the East Riding, and Wakefield, where I went to school, capital of the West Riding. York, capital of the county, was not part of any riding.
Me, I still say, I come from the West Riding. In fact I come from the Heavy Woollen District. This is a small part of Yorkshire that used to be renowned for the endless mills. When I waited for the bus to school, I would watch the wool sheds opposite and the sorters picking the shoddy. My father worked for a mill. A journalist colleague had a grandfather who established an extremely exclusive mill (cashmere or something).
But if people weren’t working in t’ mills, they were working down t’ pit. There were mines all over the place where I lived. We regularly drove past some colliery winding gear, which for some strange reason I was very attached to, and even gave them their own name – bickers. I have no idea why I called them that.
It’s not all Emmerdale Farm (set in the Dales) and Heartbeat (set in the North Yks Moors), or Last of the Summer Wine (Pennines). But there is beauty in the industrial architecture and wonderful scenery wherever you look.
One of the reasons Yorkshire people are disgustingly arrogant is that we think we have it all.
We have a beautiful coastline, lakes, canals, rivers. We have historic buildings, cathedrals, castles falling out of our ears. We have two national parks – the Dales and the North Yks Moors, plus lots of other areas of silly names eg outstanding beauty or heritage or similar crap.
We have our own cuisine. Yorkshire pudding, an egg, flour, milk/water batter mix is best known for being cooked in small tins and served with roast beef. It is however, traditionally cooked in a large square tin, and served with onion gravy as a starter to fill people up so they didn’t need to eat a lot of meat afterwards, because money wasn’t that freely available.
I know, because we ate it every day. Either that or pancakes as a starter with gravy. My favourite was Yorkshire pudding with currants in. My mother thought it was sacrilege, but I thought it was yum. My father’s family ate it with blackcurrants in too, but my mother drew the line at that one. Oh, and I’ve never cooked Yorkshire pudding in my life. Far too difficult.
On Bonfire night we had parkin, which is like gingerbread with spice and moist and crumbly. We have curd tart, which is like a flat custard tart with um, currants I think. Curd tart is good. Probably like cheesecake really in retrospect. We used to buy it on our summer hols in Bridlington (on the east coast).
We have Wensleydale cheese which is nice and crumbly (maybe we like crumblies?). One of our peculiar habits is to eat Christmas cake and cheese together. Personally I thought it was a vile combination, but as my parents sold cheese (crumbly Cheshire) it was a good financial option.
Beer. We used to have lots of breweries. Back in the days, my favourite was hand pulled Tetleys, which was so thick and creamy. I doubt I could drink it now.
As for people? Where to start? The sculptor Barbara Hepworth went to my school. As did Helen Fielding (she was in the year above me). Sculptor Henry Moore didn’t go to my school as we were girls only. Artists David Hockney and Atkinson Grimshaw. Writers – the Brontes of course, but also, JB Priestley, Ted Hughes, WH Auden.
A few famous politicians – William Wilberforce, Asquith, and Harold Wilson. The odd terrorist – Guy Fawkes. And the only female speaker to date in the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, born in Dewsbury. Yay Betty!
Oddly, we go really big on entertainment with a load of actors and musicians:
My faves are Sean Bean, James Mason and Michael Palin. As for women, – who can beat Judi Dench and Diana Rigg?
In music we have: Tony Christie of Is this the Way to Amarillo fame (I thought he was American!!), Joe Cocker, Kiki Dee, Robert Palmer, Chris Rea, to name a few. In classical music, we have the composer Delius and the opera singer Janet Baker.
Janet Baker is well known for her performances in Handel’s Messiah where she has sung with the Huddersfield Choral Society. One of the must dos in life is attending a performance of the Society at Christmas singing the Messiah. Tickets are rarer than gold dust but luckily we knew someone whose partner was in the choir – and he was sick of going every year 😀
We also have Hail Smiling Morn. Apparently local to Sheffield and north Derbyshire. Um, excuse me, I sang this one at a Christmas carol concert in the West Riding, thank you very much. It is much wider than the Sheffield area – it’s a West Riding song as far as I know.
I could have chosen a perfectly sung version from a posh southern choir, but thought these were more authentic. Take your pick depending on which works.
The silver band version. Not only do we have brass bands in Yorkshire, we have silver bands. Tha ‘as to do summat when coming up from t’ pit. For many people that was playing in a band – famous bands include Black Dyke and Brighouse and Rastrick. [My dad’s dream was to hire Black Dyke to play in a marquee on the lawn for my wedding – thank goodness I got married in Sydney]. Note the distinctive Pennine architecture.
We have our own dialect too. Which can be heard on our unofficial national anthem. On Ikla Moor baht ‘at. [On Ilkley Moor without hat].
And in sport, which is where this post originated, via the Olympic Team Yorkshire, we have a few footballers – Kevin Keegan, Gordon Banks, and Brian Clough – but really we are known for cricket. Geoff Boycott, Len Hutton, Ray Illingworth, Brian Close, and Fred Trueman. We’ve also won more cricket championships than any other county.
Cricket bores the socks off me, but for 24 years, Yorkshire County Cricket Club imposed a rule that said you could only play for the club if you were born within the county. Quite right too I say. As did my university colleagues from our arch rivals Lancashire. It was seen as idiosyncratic, eccentric, but typically Yorkshire, and admired by many. But commercialism won over principles and for the last 20 years, anyone can now play for the club.
So, regarding the Olympics (remember those?) I am not happy that anyone who wanders through Yorkshire is described as a Yorkshire person. Team White Rose, is those who were born there.
If I lived in Scotland or Wales would I be called Scottish or Welsh? Of course not. Which brings me onto home rule for Yorkshire. Years back, before devolution, there was quite serious talk within Yorkshire of separate government, a bit like the Spanish autonomous communities. Nothing happened, and at the time we had the pits too. Still not a bad idea though. Yorkshire by birth, (and grudgingly) marriage or paternity – I think those are rather gracious concessions on my part I must say.
Yorkshire – the most beautiful county in the UK. Full of some of the most obnoxious arrogant people! Part 2 will look at some of those beautiful places.