The Wharfedale & Airedale Observer reports that during a rugby match between Otley and Kendal, a labrador ran onto the pitch and bit two Otley players. Now you don’t get excitement like that during the Six Nations Championship.

Having taken his son to university, Ian McMillan, in a lovely article in the Yorkshire Post, wrote about rites of passage. The first paragraph grabbed my attention. ‘We all know what important things rites of passage are: first steps, first words, first day at school, first kiss, first piano lesson, first time you see Heckmondwike by night…’


Upper Wharfedale. Photo: Peter Black

An article in The Times reminded us of the winter of 1963 when we had frost and snow for months. On the North Yorkshire Moors, Fylingdales early warning station was snowbound for days. Eventually 283 civilians trapped inside were evacuated by RAF helicopter. Workers were ferried in batches of seven or eight in wind gusts of up to 80 mph. They were flown twelve miles to Whitby and then marooned there by snowdrifts.

It is reported that Gordon Brown, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, has been banned from 105 pubs and clubs in Skipton and the Craven area by STAND, a pubwatch group called Stopping Trouble and Night-time Disorder. The reason for the ban is not the reason you would expect but because he has caused ‘disruption and discomfort for customers’ following the total smoking ban. John Garton, chairman of STAND, said: ‘If somebody upsets our customers we don’t want them in our pubs’. Apparently members were unanimously in favour of putting Brown on the banned list. No doubt members of STAND are now in danger of being held for up to 28 days without charge, and their activities monitored by Menwith Hill.

Skipton Arcade

Leslie Dunkling, in A Dictionary of Days, says that in the Yorkshire Dales Kissing Friday survived until the 1950s. It was the Friday following Shrove Tuesday at the beginning of Lent, itself now almost forgotten. On this day a girl could be kissed by any boy she met and it was considered very bad form for her to refuse or even resist. Happy days. He’d be arrested nowadays. Hock Tuesday was another day on which a kiss could be required as a forfeit from the girls. Ropes were stretched across paths leading to school and the favour demanded. Most of these old and innocent customs are now lost. Only April Fools Day remains, and in some parts Mischief Day survives though that is being overtaken by Hallowe’en.

80,000 street lights are being replaced in Leeds. The old ones are pulled down and new ones erected. The whole process is extraordinarily expensive and will continue to be paid for by our children. Of course, it is completely unnecessary.

In the December/January 2007-08 Yorkshire Ridings Magazine was an article entitled, ‘What is it about Yorkshire?’ Disappointingly the article was about property but the question set me thinking. It deserves a proper answer. Because there is something about Yorkshire which characterises it and sets it apart. People from Leeds or Sheffield or Hull don’t have the same allegiance to their city as do natives of Newcastle Upon Tyne or Liverpool. Instead their bond is with Yorkshire. People in Bedfordshire or Staffordshire similarly are not so committed to their county. So what is special?

Leeds Skyline

I think the allegiance is partly negative and partly positive. It is negative in the same way that Cornwall and the North-East see themselves as better than, and different from, London and the Home Counties which have always led in the governance of England and in influence and wealth and therefore caused resentment. There are plenty of variations on the old: ‘Don’t ask a man if he is from Yorkshire; if he is, he’ll already have told you’.

Which brings us to the positive and that word ‘pride’. It is pride in the topography, the physical nature of the county, the stone walls and barns and green fields of Swaledale, the coast and the Limestone Dales. It is the bleakness of the moors above Haworth and the red roofs and golden stone of the North Yorkshire Moors. It is the character of the people, sparing with words and money but honest, reliable, loyal and dry.


The trouble is Yorkshire is threatened, perhaps fatally. It is threatened by population growth, by development, by greed and by the dumbed-down culture of the 21st century. We’re spoiling everything. The old characteristics that made Yorkshire and England strong are being lost – self-reliance, self-control, self-respect and respect for others.

I bumped into the decorator in the park; he was putting a series of bottles into the bottle bank. ‘That’s very responsible of you, Michael’, I said. ‘Not really’, he replied, ‘I just don’t want the wife to realise how many I’ve had’. How very Yorkshire.

Pub in York