In the latest of our A to Z series looking at Yorkshire’s famous towns and cities, we focus on Barnsley...
A is for Arthur Scargill - former president of the National Union of Mineworkers who led the miners into the ill-fated strike of 1984-85. Along with religion and politics, the subject of Arthur is one best avoided in Barnsley pubs.
B is for Brass - not the ‘where there’s muck’ variety, as it’s been in short supply of late, but brass bands. Barnsley is home to the world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band, which features in the film Brassed Off starring Ewan McGregor, who is to the Barnsley accent what Dick van Dyke is to Cockney.
C is for Chronicle - Barnsley’s local weekly newspaper that has been informing, educating and entertaining townsfolk since 1858. Used to include a deliciously daft and near-indecipherable column penned by ‘Owd Sam’ or ‘Sam Barn’ written in Barnsley dialect.
D is for Dearne - the river that runs through the Barnsley district was largely lifeless throughout much of the 20th century because of pollution from sewage and industrial effluent. However by the early 1990s the water qualified had improved to sustain stocks of barbel, dace, chub and brown trout for the first time in a century.
E is for Eric Illsley - disgraced former Barnsley MP who was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment in 2011 following the Parliamentary expenses scandal. Illsley later claimed he had been scapegoated after falsely claiming £14,000 in expenses. At least he didn’t claim for a duck house.
F is for Fashion - Barnsley has been a centre for high-end fashion since Rita Britton set up the boutique Pollyanna in 1967. Pollyanna features collections from some of the world’s top designers, including Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Forme Dexpression, Dries van Noten and Rick Owen. Proof if ever it were needed that flat caps are passé in Barnsley.
G is for George Orwell - the left-wing journalist, author and social commentator George Orwell spent time in the village of Mapplewell in 1936 researching The Road To Wigan Pier where he described the houses as “frightful” and “about the worst I have seen” and the locals as “dull, undernourished and with brutalised expressions.” Must have been visitors from Sheffield.
H is for Hines - Barry Hines, the Hoyland-born writer whose 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave was turned into the film Kes a year later by director Ken Loach. A scene where PE teacher Mr Sugden, played by Brian Glover, plays football like Bobby Charlton remains one of the funniest in British cinematographic history.
I is for Ian McMillan - the Darfield poet, author and Yorkshire Post columnist whose distinctive tones are often heard on BBC Radio 4 is also poet in residence at Barnsley FC. Unfortunately his presence has not yet led to more frequent poetry in motion on the pitch.
J is for Jump - a village to the south of Barnsley named from a stream that local miners had to leap across to reach the pit. Served by a bus route called Jump Circular, which is harder than it sounds. Just try it.
K is for King Coal - not the merry old soul of nursery rhyme fame but the rock that fuelled the industrial revolution, much of which was mined from the pits of Barnsley. Before the 1984-85 strike, there were 10 pits in Barnsley. Now there are none.
L is for Locke Park - the town’s green beating heart that was gifted to the people of Barnsley by the widow of Joseph Locke, a 19th century civil engineer, contemporary of George Stephenson and friend of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. History fails to record whether he knew the words to ‘Hear My Song.’
M is for Meat - in particular the Barnsley chop, a hefty double loin of lamb hewn from the saddle of an unlucky young sheep. Served with mash and all the trimmings plus lashings of gravy. Or jus de Bisto if you live in Woolley.
N is for National hero - there’s no other way to describe cricket umpire Dickie Bird, the most famous son of Staincross who has become a sporting institution. A bronze statue of him with trademark raised finger in Barnsley town centre rarely ends Saturday night without a condom attached.
O is for Oakwell - home of Barnsley FC, a Football League One club founded in 1887 that had to wait 110 years to enjoy its solitary season in the top flight. To get there they famously ‘played like Brazil’ but have spent the 2015-2016 season driving their fans nuts.
P is for Parky - aka Michael Parkinson, one of Barnsley’s favourite sons. The Cudworth-born journalist and TV presenter cut his teeth on the Barnsley Chronicle before working his way up to become the most famous victim of Rod Hull’s Emu.
Q is for Queen of folk - Kate Rusby, aka the Barnsley Nightingale, remains the country’s top folk singer and has a massive following locally, nationally and internationally. She’s also a right lovely lass, in every sense of the phrase.
R is for Royston - birthplace of Charlie Williams, one of the stalwarts of the 1970s TV series The Comedians who became Britain’s first well-known black comedian. In response to racist heckling, Williams would often retort “If you don’t shut up, I’ll come and move in next door to you.” Things were different back then.
S is for Sprinting - Barnsley folk are often good at thinking on their feet but few have been as quickas Dorothy Hyman, the Cudworth-born 100-yard and 220-yard Olympic sprinter who was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1963. An athletics stadium in Cudworth is named in her honour.
T is for Toby Tyke - furry mascot of Barnsley FC. Toby is a bulldog, which the Kennel Club describes as “equable and kind, resolute, and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and with a demeanor that is pacific and dignified.” Just like Barnsley folk.
U is for United - Manchester United, who in 1958 featured two of Barnsley’s best-ever footballers in Mark Jones and Tommy Taylor, both of whom were killed in the Munich air disaster. As ‘Busby Babes’ Jones and Taylor are assured of a place in footballing immortality.
V is for Vikings - the Barnsley Vikings are one of the country’s longest-established scooter clubs that were around long before the Quadrophenia-inspired Mod revival in the late ’70s. Lambrettas and Vespas have never been out of fashion in Barnsley. How cool is that?
W is for Wentworth Castle - a Grade 1-listed country house that is open to the public. The only Grade 1-listed gardens and parklands in South Yorkshire. Not to be confused with Wentworth Woodhouse, the UK’s largest privately owned country house in nearby Rotherham.
X is for X Factor - few towns can boast their own singing welder but Barnsley’s own Lee England made it through to the bootcamp stage of this year’s popular ITV talent show. Simon Cowell’s loss was South Yorkshire’s gain.
Y is for YMCA - there aren’t any bedrooms at this social hub on Blucher Street so it would be wrong to claim that it’s fun to stay here, but with a myriad of clubs, societies and activities on offer, it’s an important spot in the town. Just don’t go dressed as a native American.
Z is for Zombie - The Barnsley Zombie Run is an annual 5km charity fundraising event in which participants have to avoid hordes of scarily undead zombies who try to claim the runners’ three lives. Not too different from Saturday night in nearby Westgate, Wakefield.