Ian McMillan: Forget the euro, let’s try the Reighto again

Given all the recent kerfuffle with the euro I reckon it’s time to revive that long-forgotten plan for Yorkshire’s own currency, the Reighto, that was around at the time of the abolition of the Ridings in the 1970s.

Older readers will remember that the Reighto was going to take the place of pounds and pence in the White Rose county; as far as I recall, one Reighto was worth a hundred Eyups and a hundred Eyups could be swapped for ten Now Thens. The name Reighto was adopted because it had a jaunty feel, after a leading psychologist from University College Wombwell said that if a currency had an upbeat name it was more likely to get people spending, and a currency with a miserable name would stay in your pocket. He cited the Dull, a coin used in the 16th century that died out because it never got spent, and its opposite the Jolly, a coin from the late 1800s in Wales that was reputed to get spent so fast people had no idea whose picture was on it.

By this reckoning Reighto is a good name for a currency because it’s familiar and homely; it’s what people normally say when they’re about to go home after visiting a relative: “Reighto then, we’re off for’t bus” and it was felt that this was appropriate for the kind of sparkly dosh that we were going to adopt round here. As the advertising slogan of the time trumpeted: “Forget the gold standard, we’re going for t’ Brass standard!” which has a certain eccentric and upbeat feel, I think you’ll agree.

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The design of the coins was to be decided by a competition. Many of the thousands of entries were, to be frank, a little disappointing; they concentrated on well-worn Yorkshire images like the White Rose and the flat cap or pithead gear and images of Whitby Abbey. The winning design was by Noreen Boke, an amateur artist from Muker and her stroke of genius was that she made the Reighto resemble a big Yorkshire puddings your mam makes, the Eyup one of those smaller Yorkshire Puddings your Auntie makes, and the Now Then resemble minuscule Yorkshire puddings your Mam or Auntie make when they’re low on flour and can’t get to the shop.

Because the coins were to be like puddings they weren’t perfectly round, so the coins were bobbly and bumpy and a bit oval and a bit round and a bit of a shape in between. I’ve seen photographs of the prototypes and they looked magnificent.

A number of sets of the coins were minted in a secret location and a trial run of the new currency was planned in Leeds; sets of the coins were to be given out and members of the public would have a go at spending them in the shops.

The fatal flaw in this plan was that of course the coins weren’t legal tender. They were only prototypes.

This led to people being chased out of shops by angry butchers shouting “Has tha made that thissen?”

So the plan was dropped. But the coins are somewhere in a vault. And I for one think it’s time we tried again…