My Yorkshire: Roger Ingham - a familiar voice in God’s own county

Arncliffe hidden in Littondale. PIC: Tony Johnson
Arncliffe hidden in Littondale. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Roger Ingham is a familiar voice in Yorkshire. His long-time commentary roles include the sports and historic Crag Race at Kilnsey Show and the sheep-shearing demonstrations at the Great Yorkshire Show.

What’s your earliest Yorkshire memory? Unfortunately it is a tragic one, when a young lad fell through the ice on the reservoir near our house in Skipton. Stupidly I didn’t learn from it and soon after I fell through the ice in a similar place, but two of my pals tied sledges together to pull me out. A more palatable early memory was the anniversary celebrations for VJ Day in Skipton town centre.

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What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

Pretty much everything north or north-west of Skipton, especially Littondale, Bishopdale, Coverdale, Wensleydale and the more northerly parts of Upper Wharfedale. The scenery is breathtaking and the dales and villages feel timeless and unspoilt, plus I find it fascinating that in Wensleydale, particularly, they house some of the top horse-racing stables in the country. The fells in those parts also host some great fell races and community events. My last ever senior fell race win was at Thoralby Fete in Bishopdale, which became a notable personal landmark as it meant I’d won races across five decades since the 1950s.

What’s your idea of a perfect day in Yorkshire?

Glorious weather at Kilnsey Show and some cracking races to boot!

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

The waterfall and lagoon at Bishop Burton. You almost have to be right upon them before you are aware that either exists.

Do you have a favourite walk and view?

Surprisingly, having been a long-time fell runner, my favourite walk is only a short one through Skipton Woods. It takes you past Skipton Castle and some of the town’s industrial heritage like High Corn Mill and the start of the Springs Canal. When you come out of the woods you can swing left and walk back across some grazing fields to the top of Park Hill, which affords a marvellous view of the whole town and neighbouring hillsides, and which is the site from where Cromwell fired his artillery on Skipton Castle.

Which Yorkshire sportsperson, past or present would you like to take for lunch?

My lifelong rugby league World Cup-winning pal, David Jeanes. I must owe him about 20 dinners!

Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire, and why?

I can think of some mighty good ones, and up until recently it would have been a truly inspirational family friend of mine, Josephine (Jo) Hirst, who passed away after being severely immobilised and wheelchair-bound for more than 30 years. Her smile illuminated every room and gathering. Since she is no longer with us I’d like to nominate her amazing husband Paul, hitherto a prominent local sportsman who sidelined that to help raise their two lads and devote 24-hour care to Jo.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?

Harewood House, so I would have chance to explore all its hidden corners and historic artefacts. I would also have to make use of those spacious grounds to stage a sporting classic of some nature!

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub?

Plenty of favourites, but edging my title is Skipton’s Dales Cottage Cafe whose wide and varied menu is always spot on. Pub-wise for a meal, I’d choose Skipton’s Castle Inn.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

There’s more good mucker-inners for community and sporting events in Yorkshire than in any other county in my experience.

Do you think that Yorkshire has changed for better or for worse in the time that you’ve known it? Still the best county of all, but – as has occurred in all the rest – it has suffered through piecemeal planning and sprawling housing estates which have little or nothing in the way of infrastructure.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?

Returning Yorkshire’s cricket team to Yorkshire-reared players. Not necessarily those who were actually born in God’s own country, but certainly those who have embraced the White Rose ethos since their youth.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

A rugby league match. In fact I owe my very existence to the 13-a-side code since my parents met through Keighley making it to the Rugby League Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1937. For a real – almost guaranteed – classic game it would have to be Leeds Rhinos or Castleford Tigers, where the stranger would also be able to sample plenty of Yorkshire banter for good measure!

What’s your favourite annual sporting event of the year?

Basically, everywhere I am involved in helping. If I had to pick one though, I would have to side with the one where I first started my commentary career, that being Kilnsey Show – just edging out the Three Peaks Cyclo Cross in a photo-finish!

Roger Ingham features in Stud & Crooks, The Hidden History of Kilnsey Show, available from www.kilnseypark.co.uk/store/shop/books/kilnseyshowbook