THIS is the one day of the year for Yorkshire folk to set aside their natural modesty. It is Yorkshire Day. Wear the white rose with pride. We are a truly gifted tribe.
Why, Yorkshire Tea recently – and proudly – took out an advertisement listing the extensive Yorkshire connections of England’s football World Cup squad.
The first thing God’s Own People should recognise is that the world – and now the universe – has been our oyster since Captain Cook (born Marton-in-Cleveland) opened it up in the 18th century.
He overshadows other explorers – Sir Martin Frobisher (Altofts), the Rev William Scoresby (Cropton, near Whitby), geologist Sir Douglas Mawson (Shipley), astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle (Bingley), the aviator Amy Johnson (Hull) and latterly Alan Hinkes (Northallerton), the intrepid mountaineer, and Helen Sharman (Sheffield), the first British astronaut.
Even I have clocked up 105 countries, mostly I admit, with Margaret Thatcher. My son (Halifax) has inherited Yorkshire’s wanderlust, having visited every continent. He was last heard of in the salt flats of southern Bolivia.
We infuse the world with our natural curiosity and propensity for calling a spade a bloody shovel. This is important missionary work and I have been conducting it, principally in the soft South, for more than 50 years.
Our sporting talent is exceptional whether at cricket, football, both rugby codes, athletics, swimming, equestrianism or cycling.
Our standing in the archery world is unresolved because Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire MPs dispute Robin Hood’s antecedents. He also set the pace for fair dos for the great unwashed, as they were in his day.
That surely makes him a Yorkshireman just as I think that Lincolnshire yellow belly, Margaret Thatcher’s tactless approach to life, epitomises Yorkshire ladies of a certain age.
In fact, our contribution to social reform is massive from King Edwin, who converted Yorkshire to Christianity in the seventh century, to Lady Sue Ryder (Leeds). In between we can boast of William Wilberforce for his successful fight against slavery, Sir Michael Sadler (Barnsley), the educationalist, and philanthropists Sir Titus Salt (Morley), and Seebohm Rowntree (York).
Our history is simply lifting with inventors starting with John Harrison (Foulby, Pontefract) who solved the most urgent problem of his age – how to fix longitude. He did it mechanically, defying the intellectual snobbery of the nation’s scientific elite. What an inspiration to us all.
Harrison’s self-taught genius overshadows other inventors such as Leeds’s Joseph Aspdin (Portland cement), Rotherham’s Sir Donald Bailey (Bailey bridge); Bradford’s Lord Masham (textile machinery) and York’s Joseph Aloysius Hansom (the cab).
As for “Fathers” we extol Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (Bramham), no less, as the father of British archaeology; Joseph Bramah (Stainborough) machine tools; Harry Brearley (Sheiffield) stainless steel; Wiliam Bateson (Whitby) genetics; John Curwen (Heckmondwike) the tonic sol-fah system; John Smeaton (Whitkirk) civil engineering; Alcuin (York) Europe’s intellectual renaissance; and John Wycliffe (Hipswell), the Reformation.
And don’t forget Joseph Priestley (Birstall) the polymath discoverer of oxygen. What a list!
We are also an entertaining lot. Just look at this cast: Dame Judi Dench (York), Charles Laughton (Scarborough), Dame Diana Rigg (Doncaster), Sir Brian Rix (Cottingham), Sir Tom Courtney (Hull), Ben Kingsley (Snainton), James Mason (Huddersfield), Maureen Lipman (Hull), Michael Palin (Sheffield), Sir Michael Parkinson (Barnsley) and Alan Bennett (Leeds).
Where would the artistic world be without Tykes? The Brontë sisters (Thornton); Thomas Chippendale (Otley); the poets WH Auden (York) and Ted Hughes (Mytholmroyd); sculptors Henry Moore (Castleford) and Dame Barbara Hepworth (Wakefield); Dame Janet Baker (Hatfield) opera singer, John Barry (York), composer of film scores, and artist David Hockney (Bradford).
Not to mention JB Priestley (Bradford); lyrical poet, Andrew Marvell (Winestead in Holderness); or the greatest English Restoration dramatist, William Congreve (Bardsey)
All this and, at my last count, two Kings – Edwin and Henry l (Selby); three Prime Ministers – the Marquess of Rockingham (Wentworth Woodhouse) Herbert Asquith (Morley) and Harold Wilson (Huddersfield); two Speakers of the House of Commons – John Henry Whitley (Halifax) and the incomparable Baroness Betty Boothroyd (Dewsbury); seven Nobel prizewinners, including three from a 12-mile stretch of my native Calder Valley, 46 Victoria Crosses and lots of George Crosses, mostly awarded to miners in pit disasters.
On this auspicious day, I thank God I am Yorkshire born and bred.