Ian McMillan: Well I’ll take my hat off to our anthem

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People who know me will know that I’m a big fan of Elvis; they’ll know that as I’m washing up I’ll be belting out All Shook Up and when nobody’s looking I’ll swivel my hips like The King himself.

People who know me will also know that I’m a great student of Yorkshire’s dirge-like anthem Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At and that I regard it as a song of renewal and regeneration, as a hymn of praise to the cycle of life and of keeping your hat on whenever you venture across the front step as well as being careful how you eat your duck, especially in company.

Some people also know that I’m convinced Elvis Presley was from Yorkshire because over the years I’ve propagated my theory that you can sing any Elvis song to the tune of Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At and it fits perfectly like a hand in a glove or, if you like, a skull in a cap. Try it and you’ll see that I’m right. Do it now, in the comfort of your parlour or wherever you read the Yorkshire Post Magazine. The aforementioned All Shook Up, for instance: “Well, bless my soul what’s wrong with me? Wrong with me?” fits very easily into the first couple of lines of Ilkley Moor. Suspicious Minds? “I am caught in a trap, in a trap, and I can’t get out…” Ilkley Moor, obviously.

I’ve become so obsessed with this Elvis/Yorkshire link that I’ve started writing a book about it. I’ve got a title: Blue Suede Clogs: Elvis’s Links to Yorkshire, and I’m halfway through the first chapter.

Something odd has happened, though, to do with Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At. I’ve been singing it repetitively as I write, making sure that any obscure Elvis lyric could go with the tune and suddenly I’ve found that it fits everything I say, no matter what it is, and no matter how unlyrical the phrase or sentence happens to be.

I put the kettle on and said to my wife “Would you like a cup of tea, cup of tea?” and it fitted the Baht ‘At tune. I found that I could sing it. Then I said “Would you like a biscuit too, biscuit too?” and again it was a perfect fit. I turned the TV on and sang “Let’s just catch the weather now, weather now” and it was as though I was discovering lost verses of Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At that hadn’t seen the light for decades. The weather person wasn’t from Yorkshire but I found that I could isolate her phrases and sing them Baht-Atically, to use a technical term. Sing along with me: “A front is coming from the North, from the North, and the wind is biting! A front is coming from the North, from the North…” and so on. Something strange is happening to the English language and this spreads way beyond Elvis to uncharted linguistic territory the other side of Heckmondwike.

To put it in lay person’s terms: the whole of English is marinaded in Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At! Our most famous song is actually the rhythmic basis of all speech spoken in these islands from Cowes to Wick! Look at the map: they’re playing our song, they’re speaking our tune. It makes you proud to 
be from Yorkshire. Let’s sing: “I am proud to be from here, be from here...”