It was the hottest July ever recorded in England. Hardly any rain fell. London’s parks and squares were scorched. For the first time bananas grew at Clare College, Cambridge. Photographs on television of Ilkley Moor on fire – a third of the moor is said to have been destroyed – looked more like the sort of summer pictures we are accustomed to see of California or Australia. In Ilkley itself the lido was popular.
Aerial view of the Ilkley Lido.
Photo: Scott Myers
Fred Trueman, Fiery Fred, the no-nonsense, speak-your-mind Yorkshire and England cricketer died at the age of 75. Born at Stainton, he was a superb fast bowler and will be remembered as the first bowler to take 300 Test wickets. ‘Bloody-minded’ was one tribute he would have liked. Fittingly, his funeral took place at Bolton Abbey. The Telegraph told us that Dickie Bird, the Barnsley umpire who has a pathological fear of being late, arrived four hours early at 7 o’clock. When he went to the Devonshire Arms for a coffee the night porters were still on duty
Simon Hughes, writing in The Times about the success of Collingwood, Harmison and Plunkett in the England team, said that ‘Durham are becoming the new Yorkshire’. Ouch.
Yorkshire Day was celebrated on 1 August. The Declaration of Yorkshire’s Integrity was read from the city walls in York to each of the Ridings. Of course, these things are felt particularly keenly in the Occupied Territories like Barnoldswick and Sedbergh. How would you feel if, having been part of Yorkshire since 876, you were told in 1974 that you were now part of Lancashire or Cumbria? But there’s time for lighter matters too on Yorkshire Day like the Flat Cap Fling in Redcar, the Duck Race in Saltburn and in Saddleworth a brass band led a grand parade into the Back Meadow.
Market Weighton is a charming market town in the East Riding. Part of that charm is that little happens there. But old customs survive. At the end of May every year the town celebrates Giant Bradley Day, commemorating the life of England’s tallest man. He was seven foot nine (the BBC would, of course, in their right-on way give that in metric). Health and Safety would probably disapprove of the Yorkshire pudding throwing contest and the Punch and Judy show organiser was lucky not to be arrested.
Giant Bradley Day, Market Weighton
There are plenty of people in Yorkshire who have never been to Saltaire or York Minster even though thousands of tourists go there every year. Too often we don’t visit what is on our own doorstep. I’ve been to churches in Paris, Florence and San Francisco, but until August I’d never been to Westminster Abbey next to the Palace of Westminster. Wow. As well as being foremost a place of Christian worship, it is a huge repository of English history. There is the Coronation Chair, over there the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. There is a memorial to Wolfe, the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the tomb of Henry V. There are memorials to our great Prime Ministers, poets, composers, Franklin D Roosevelt and prominently is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. William the Conqueror was crowned there on Christmas Day, 1066. Elizabeth II was crowned there in 1953. It is indeed a thousand years of English history. I got into conversation with some Canadians. I say conversation; they were almost speechless. Together we gasped.
Mills at Saltaire
Alistair Hall took me on one of his afternoon trips of discovery. We went first to the huge earthworks at Stanwick Camp near Aldborough St John, north of Richmond and south of the Tees. These prehistoric constructs enclose 700 acres, including a fort. They were probably the headquarters of the Brigantes at the time of the Roman Conquest. The Church of St John the Baptist is probably built on a pre-Christian burial site. John Betjeman, whose centenary is this year, would love it. It is cared for by the saintly Churches Conservation Trust.
JDB onThornborough Henges
Photo: Alistair Hall
We refreshed ourselves at the Morritt Arms at Greta Bridge now off the A66 (where, of course, you get your kicks). The Morritt Arms is an old coaching inn and still has the feel of such hostelries. We went on to find the Thornborough Henges near West Tanfield, near Masham. These are the three huge 5000-year-old earthworks which are thought to mimic the stars of Orion’s belt. Following these exertions we retired to the White Bear at Masham next to Theakston’s. This was a nostalgic visit for me because I knew it well in the 1970s when the world was young.
News in brief. Jack Holland, a pensioner in Halifax, lost his old age pensioner’s bus pass. He was made to pay full fare because the driver would not accept that he is a pensioner. Mr Holland is 98. In an amateur cricket match in the Nidderdale League against Dishforth, Goldsborough Second XI’s batsmen were all out for a duck. In Hull a woman employed as a bookkeeper stole £1.3 million from her employer before anyone noticed. A report claimed that cows in Yorkshire moo with local accents.
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