UFOs in Filey last year, exotic birds in Huddersfield this year. According to the press, a kookaburra, native to Australia and Tasmania, has twice been seen in Huddersfield. The kookaburra is the largest member of the kingfisher family and, we are told, feeds on snakes and lizards. Not in Huddersfield it doesn’t.

Huddersfield Station

In March we went to a meeting of the Snape Local History Group. Snape is near Bedale and the speaker on this occasion was David Starkey, the eminent historian and television presenter and friend of a member of the Group. His subject was Katherine Parr (1512-1548), sixth wife of Henry VIII. It was fascinating and entertaining. We learned about the English Reformation and the Tudor court in the context of Katherine Parr who had lived in Snape Castle which we passed floodlit on the way to the meeting. She had planned to marry Thomas Seymour but God told her she must marry Henry, by then old, fat and increasingly unwell, in order to assist in ensuring that England became Protestant. After Henry died in 1547 she married Thomas Seymour, became pregnant immediately and she died the following year after the strain of giving birth to a daughter. Par(r) for the course in those days. Harsh times.


Snape village hall was a lovely English setting. Wooden unpolished floors, bright strip lighting, uncomfortable hard chairs, orange curtains which would have been all the rage in 1970, a raffle to raise funds, and coffee and biscuits afterwards. A most informed audience and good questions. It was a good old-fashioned lecture. No visual aids, no wretched PowerPoint, no handouts. No one dressed up in historical costumes. A lecture for an hour and a quarter which we and our friends the Halls, who live nearby and were able to get tickets, all hugely enjoyed.

There was excitement at Bradford Grammar School over half-term when getting on for 400 boys acted as extras in a major new film. (Woodhouse Grove School and the chapel at Giggleswick School were also used). The film, Like Minds, a psychological thriller, will be in the cinemas next year. It is being filmed at locations in both Yorkshire and Australia; BGS was used for the school assembly scenes. For one day’s filming the boys, all volunteers, wore different ties from normal and were each paid a small fee for their services. The BGS girls were most unimpressed that they weren’t required. It was, my man in the green room tells me, interesting to see how a film is made but there were long periods of sitting around. The artificial lighting used was awesome and made the Price Hall look marvellous. Well, it makes a change for a film made in Yorkshire to be about other than the Dales or gritty northern realism.

Bradford Grammar School

I recently received some promotional material from the Yorkshire Tourist Board with the slogan Make Yorkshire Yours. Brilliant, isn’t it (if you like that sort of thing)? It’s lavish stuff at the taxpayers’ expense with gorgeous photographs. The area promoted by the Yorkshire Tourist Board, as is the case with these things nowadays in our Alice in Wonderland country, isn’t the historic Yorkshire, nor is it even the present administrative Yorkshire. Laughably and perversely the Yorkshire of the Yorkshire Tourist Board includes Hartlepool, Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe. It doesn’t include poor Sedbergh, exiled to Cumbria, or those areas west of Skipton now in administrative Lancashire. I am beginning to think that perhaps we’ll have to put together a small expeditionary force of Yorkshiremen to occupy and repossess Barnoldswick and the Forest of Bowland. To liberate them.

The language of this literature really gets to me. Is there some standard public sector software which produces this stuff? The word ‘exciting’ has always to be used liberally, superlatives are compulsory at all times, exclamation marks must follow weak jokes and comments and England’s history is trivialised as men dressed up. Yorkshire, it now seems, is made up of Herriot Country, Bronte Country, Summer Wine Country, Captain Cook Country and – aaaargh – Baht’at Country. God help us, do I now live in Baht’at country? Isn’t it simply awful? Then there are the slogans – life’s a beach, chuffing wonderful (picture of a steam train), take home a part of Yorkshire. It is horrible. I suppose it provides jobs.

There is a programme on Radio 4 called Mapping the Town which recently looked at Hull. Hull dates back to the 12th century when it was called Wyke. At that time Beverley was the chief settlement in the area and became the county town of the East Riding. Hull was granted a charter by Edward I in 1299 and re-named Kingston upon Hull. The king wanted control of the port for his campaign against the Scots. (He was, of course, to become the Hammer of the Scots). He visited Hull in 1300 after which it grew rapidly on the back of wool exports and later fishing.

Hull people always claim that the Civil War began there. In April 1642 Charles I tried to enter Hull to access his arsenal but was refused entry by the city fathers. Soon afterwards the King raised his standard at Nottingham.

Egon Ronay has recently named his top 25 restaurants in the United Kingdom. One is in Yorkshire, the Yorke Arms in Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale. It is owned by Frances and Bill Atkins. This is north-west of Pateley Bridge on the road to Lofthouse and Middlesmoor. Their roast grouse is particularly recommended according to the folk at Egon Ronay. So now you know.

News in brief. We had a few snowflakes in February and half of Yorkshire closed down. The attractive historic boundary signs for Bradford have been replaced by cheap, nasty, new ones in Bradford’s latest attempt to ruin its image even more. The Queen distributed Maundy money at Wakefield cathedral. The fourth series of the West Wing ended in spectacular fashion. Middlethorpe Hall, the up-market country house hotel near York, will not have been at all pleased with Paddy Burt of the Telegraph’s review of its restaurant in February – ‘alright’, ‘bit disappointing’ and ‘black pudding…looks like a piece of granite, turned and polished on a lathe’. Oh dear. The redevelopment of Lister’s Mills in Manningham, Bradford is underway – eventually there will be 600 apartments, an underground car park, business units and leisure facilities. Barbara Taylor Bradford, the novelist, now a long way from the terrace house in Leeds where she grew up, has discovered that her mother was the child of a domestic servant and, probably, the Marquess of Ripon. And the Princess in Rawdon, after a few difficult years, is under new management and we are greatly enjoying its revival. The beer is in good form and the survivors are still there.

Lister’s Mills