Summer 2006

In an article about the band the Kaiser Chiefs, The Times says ‘they’ve even made it cool to come from Leeds’. Excuse me. Comments like that and I predict a riot. ‘They still joke and gently rib each other the way blokes from Leeds do’, is much better.

The Kaiser Chiefs

On 25 July 306 AD Constantine was proclaimed Emperor at York. This year, 1700 years later, Yorkshire Museum has an exhibition, ‘Constantine the Great, York’s Roman Emperor’. He was perhaps more instrumental than any other person since Christ in shaping western civilisation. He secured his position as Emperor and later, after seeing a cross in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge, he became Christian, a decision which not only ensured the survival of the embryonic Christian faith but also caused it to become the religion of Europe and the key to Europe’s future development and success.

Congratulations to The Blades. Sheffield United has been promoted to the Premiership after years of coming close but never quite making it. It is good news for Sheffield and good news for Yorkshire. (Yes, we look forward to the day when they are joined by Sheffield Wednesday. Why are they called Sheffield Wednesday? Because they play in Sheffield). We now have two Yorkshire clubs in the Premiership. The Minister for Sport appeared on local news saying it was good to have a Yorkshire club in the Premiership again. Oh dear. So much for poor Middlesbrough, as usual left in some limbo-land between Yorkshire and the north-east. Middlesbrough has been Yorkshire’s sole and honourable representative in the Premier League since Leeds United was relegated. Now The Blades join them.

On the subject of Yorkshire’s identity, a correspondent wrote to say he had contacted Yorkshire Tourist Board about their map which excluded Middlesbrough and thereabouts from Yorkshire. Some girl later replied saying that she had ‘researched’ his complaint and advised him that in fact Middlesbrough is in Northumbria. Well, I suppose it was more than a thousand years ago. Just as Leeds is in Elmet and Carlisle is in Rheged. Middlesbrough, as every true Yorkshire person knows, is in Yorkshire. (See Yorkshire is Yorkshire).

It is always a treat to find a copy of the Craven Herald and Pioneer left by my wife on the kitchen table. Among the attractions advertised recently were Dancing to Jim at the organ in Cracoe New Village Hall, Easter egg hunts on horseback at Kilnsey, and a stand-up comedian and bingo at Barnoldswick and Earby Bosom Friends’ Grand Variety Show (tickets £5 each, available from Charlie’s Sweet Shop on Albert Road). News includes the Calendar Girls of Rylstone posing for another calendar (oh no, not again), a photograph of a partial eclipse of the sun taken by a member of Lothersdale Astronomy Club and a 4 x 4 becoming stuck using a green lane above Dent for recreational sport (good). We read that at Ribblesdale Area Forum in Settle a resident asked when Settle Police Station was manned. ‘It is manned 24/7’, replied Sergeant Steve Thornthwaite, ‘but there isn’t someone there all the time’.

The USS Bonhomme Richard sank after winning the Battle of Flamborough Head off the Yorkshire coast in 1779 (see Diary October 2000). Its captain, John Paul Jones, is usually referred to as the father of the United States navy. The sunken wreck is potentially the US navy’s most important historic site. American scientists intend to find and explore the wreck this summer.

Flamborough Head

Holiday Which? has named Whitby as Britain’s top seaside resort. It beat such distinguished runners-up as Sidmouth, Frinton, Wells-Next-the-Sea, Tenby, St Ives, Abersoch and Rothesay. The queues at the Magpie Café will doubtless be even longer.


On the subject of fish and chips, Bryans in Headingley is one of Yorkshire’s finest. Generations of Yorkshiremen have enjoyed its fare since 1934. According to the Yorkshire Post it has gone upmarket ‘to attract a new generation of customers’. It will now offer queen scallops with cheese and garlic butter, king prawn curry and pan-fried cod on ‘a minty mushy pea puree’. I can hear the gasps and groans from traditionalists from here. We are, though, assured that traditional fish and chips will still be available. Fish and chips, tea, bread and butter cost £7.35.

Sedbergh, on the northern frontier of the West Riding, is a lovely market town. (See Places). It is adding a reputation as a book town to its charms - a mini Hay-on-Wye. There are now four second-hand bookshops in the main street though the long-established antiquarian bookseller is less than impressed at this development. Shops include, we are told, The Sleepy Elephant, Open Skies Books and the more prosaically named Dales and Lakes Book Centre. Good luck to them all.


News in brief. Paul Hudson, the BBC weatherman, has been made Mayor of Wetwang in succession to the missed Richard Whiteley. North Yorkshire (I’m sorry) has been named England’s loveliest county; as we know, Yorkshire is England’s loveliest county. A bugging device has been found concealed at Malham Women’s Institute. (Is that how Bill Bryson gets his stories?). An action group is quite rightly trying to get Bradford Council to fulfil its responsibility to take care of Ilkley Moor. RAF Menwith Hill has applied for planning permission for a new sewage pumping station which is surprising because I thought they could do whatever they liked given that it isn’t on the map.

This spring The Times had a ‘focus report’ of 12 pages on Leeds. I’m afraid every imaginable cliché was there. ‘Best English city to visit…economy booming…Knightsbridge of the North…young and trendy…fish and chips…inner-city living…young high-earning professionals…400 restaurants’. Every association was included – Alan Bennett, cobbled streets, Kaiser Chiefs, Harvey Nicholls, Yorkshire Dales, Headingley, even a sighting of the Devonshire Arms. Couldn’t these features ever be a bit, well, different? There was a fine example of estate-agent-speak: ‘A total population of 2 million within a 30 minute drive of the city centre’. Well, often a thirty minute drive from the city centre is about 100 yards. ‘Within 20 minutes you can be in Wharfedale’. During the rush hours (three or four hours nowadays) you don’t move for 20 minutes often enough.

We were very sorry to learn that Colin Holt, who founded the Yorkshire Ridings’ Society and Yorkshire Day (1 August), has died. He was only 61. As we said of Richard Whiteley, that’s not enough. Thank you, Colin, for all you did to protect Yorkshire from the barbarians.

Colin Holt

It’s not so long ago that it irritated me that England football supporters flew the Union flag rather than the flag of St George. Wow. How things change. England this June is a sea of red crosses. And it’s rather fun.