My Yorkshire: Dickie Bird

Dickie Bird with the County Championship Trophy.
Dickie Bird with the County Championship Trophy.
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Dickie Bird was one of the world’s best cricket umpires. The 82 year-old from Barnsley stood in 66 Tests, 93 One Day Internationals and three World Cup Finals before retiring in 1998. He is now president of Yorkshire County Cricket.

What is your first Yorkshire memory? I remember as a young lad being brought up in Barnsley, the son of a coal miner, my father coming home from work having started at 4.30am. He always spent two hours with me after finishing his shift and he’d bowl at me or play football in a little park at the back of our terraced house near to where my statue is in Barnsley. My father always made sure I had the gear and I had my first bat when I was six.

Len Hutton, who is Dicki Bird's all-time favourite cricketer, pictured here with son Richard going out to bat.

Len Hutton, who is Dicki Bird's all-time favourite cricketer, pictured here with son Richard going out to bat.

What is your favourite part of Yorkshire and why? I’m very proud of my home town. Barnsley people are wonderful and their hospitality is excellent, but I have to put the East Coast first. Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington are out of this world and I’ve been going there since 1948. I love standing on the cliffs at Scarborough and looking at the bays, the harbour and the castle.

What is your idea of a perfect day out or weekend out in Yorkshire? I would say walking on the water’s edge in Scarborough. I walk around both bays and stop at the little coffee shops on the seafront. There’s no better way to spend a weekend. I’ve just had Christmas and New Year at Scarborough and at my age it’s a great place to relax.

Do you have a favourite walk or view? I live at Staincross just outside Barnsley and there’s a lovely view and walk near Woolley where you can look down into the valley towards Bretton Country Park. I also love going from Staincross to Woolley.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take out for lunch? There are so many, but I enjoyed the company of Sir Leonard Hutton, a tremendous character who made me laugh. I think he’s Yorkshire’s greatest player and what stood out was that Len had so much time to play the ball. He let it come to him, never went at it and he picked up the line and length far quicker than anyone else.

He might live in landlocked Barnlsey, but Scarborough is one of Dickie Bird's favourite places.

He might live in landlocked Barnlsey, but Scarborough is one of Dickie Bird's favourite places.

Which Yorkshire screen or stage star, past or present, would you like to take out to dinner? I’m struggling here, can we make Barbra Streisand a Yorkshire lass? I think she is the greatest professional artist in the world. I’ve one ambition in life and that’s to meet her. It’s a pity Barbra’s not from Barnsley! I’ve got her records and tapes and listen to her music all the time at home and in the car.

If you had to name your hidden Yorkshire gem, what would it be? I like the marvellous villages that are hidden away near Scarborough and I love the beauty of the North York Moors. I did a scene for Heartbeat once, umpiring a match at Goathland. The scenery was great.

What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity? I think it’s the people. I’m so proud to be a Yorkshireman and I believe Yorkshire people are the finest in the world. I’ve travelled all over and when people say to me that there are no people like Yorkshire people because of their kindness and hospitality, it makes me feel so special. Sir Don Bradman told me in Adelaide that Headingley was one of the finest grounds in the world. Coming from him, and there was none better, that was good enough for me.

Do you follow other sports in Yorkshire and, if so, what? Football. I’ve been supporting Barnsley for more than 70 years. My father took me to Oakwell and I was watching from his shoulders on the Spion Kop Terrace. My favourite player was Johnny Kelly, an outside left from Scotland. I remember him playing against Alf Ramsey and Johnny cut inside and then out and he ran Ramsey, at full back, ragged. I was a close friend of Tommy Taylor, the Manchester United player, killed in the Munich air disaster. We played together for Barnsley Boys and at Raley Secondary Modern.

Do you have a favourite pub or restaurant? I enjoy going into my village and in Staincross, there’s a pub called the Talbot. I go there most Sundays for a meal. The food is outstanding . The two others I like are the Three Acres near Emley and the Palm Court Hotel in Scarborough. The food is out of this world and I told the chef over Christmas that his steaks were the best I’ve ever tasted. His belly pork is great, too.

Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most? I’ve always taken an interest in what William Wilberforce from Hull did. He fought slavery in Parliament and he must have been a wonderful man.

How do you think Yorkshire has changed, for the better or worse, since you’ve known it? Both I think. We’ve knocked down buildings that had so much character and history. That’s one regret I have. Barnsley’s changed a lot since I was a boy. The market was wonderful, now it’s all indoors. Some things, though, have changed for the better and Yorkshire’s beauty is still here and I’ve been all over the world and there’s nothing like Yorkshire.

If a stranger came to Yorkshire and had time to visit one place only, where would it be? I’d take that person to my home town of Barnsley. We’d have a cup of coffee in the arcade and I’d show them the town which has done so much for me. Of all the honours I’ve got, to be given the Freedom of Barnsley meant so much.