AUGUST 1 is Yorkshire Day and some of the county’s most famous folk - plus a few ‘honorary’ Yorkshire men - have been telling us what the white rose county means to them.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch digital editor Graham Walker’s special Yorkshire Day video report including chats with Heaven 17 stars Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, comedians Duggie Brown and Billy Pearce, Last of the Summer Wine star Jean Fergusson, new girl band Duchess, featuring Sheffield girl Amie and ‘outsiders’, Jimmy Cricket, Bernie Clifton and pop band The Reason 4.
YOUTUBE: Watch our video report on YouTube, where it can also be viewed on Apple mobile devices, including the iPad and iPhone. Click the External Link in the column on the right.
The Star’s Richard Blackledge has also been speaking to well known Yorkshiremen, to find out what the county means to them.
Michael Palin was born in Broomhill, Sheffield, in 1943, and went to Birkdale School before attending Oxford University. He went on to star in the Monty Python TV series and films, before carving out a career making travel documentaries. He’s currently working on a series about Brazil.
He said: “I think there’s an identity that Yorkshire people have that is rather different from any other county – basically that Yorkshire people are the backbone of England, and they’re better at doing things than anybody else, while being at the same time rather smug and a little bit ‘short arms, long pockets’.
“I was just born into a county that had a very strong identity. It was the biggest county, for a start, with an extraordinary range of landscape within it.
“You could go up the highest peaks or go to the coast and be by the seaside, it was just the potential of the place. And then also there were things like cricket, which was very important at the time I was growing up.
“Yorkshire had a very successful side, you could watch people like Fred Trueman and Johnny Wardle and feel rather smug about being a Yorkshireman.
“Yorkshire people are very straightforward and a little bit blunt, and I quite like that.
“I’ve got quite a bit to thank South Yorkshire for. Being born and brought up in Sheffield, stone buildings and hills are part of my blood and part of my conditioning.
“I always thought of Sheffield as being a place of infinite possibilities for getting away into rather wonderful countryside.
“My life has been like that – I’ve always been interested in seeing other places, and places that are rather difficult to get to, and a certain amount of that comes from living on the edge of Sheffield, with beautiful peaks and rivers. Some other cities probably wouldn’t have done that.”
David Blunkett was brought up in Southey and studied politics at Sheffield University. He was leader of Sheffield Council for seven years in the 1980s before becoming MP for Sheffield Brightside. He served as Education Secretary and later Home Secretary in Tony Blair’s Labour Government.
He said: “Being from Yorkshire means telling it as it is, being blunt but caring and always putting up the shutters against outsiders who rubbish Yorkshire and Yorkshire people. I think people see those coming from Yorkshire as being gritty, tenacious and straightforward and I think these are all assets.
“Yorkshire’s got such a variety going for it. It’s big – twice the size as Wales, and it’s slightly bigger than Scotland in population.
“It’s almost self-reliant in relation to agriculture, manufacturing and academia, and with suitable drilling off the Yorkshire coast, wind farms and renewables, we could be self-sufficient in energy, building on our heritage of coal, steel and textiles.”
Bobby Knutt grew up in Ecclesall and got his break appearing on Granada show The Comedians after performing in clubs across the North. He’s since acted in Coronation Street, and has regular panto roles at Sheffield’s Lyceum and Crucible theatres. He now lives in Elsecar, Barnsley.
He said: “We’ve got the most amazing sense of humour. I’ve been all over the world performing on cruise ships, and when I’ve got a predominantly Northern audience I find the act goes better.
“We’re honest as well, we call a spade a spade. There’s no getting people’s backs up, you always know where you stand.
“Yorkshire’s also one of the most beautiful counties in the whole of the British Isles, if people only took the trouble to explore it. When you go up round the Dales and round Heartbeat country and Whitby – it’s the most beautiful place in this land. Whitby’s got everything a man could want.
“I would never dream of living outside South Yorkshire. For the past 15 years I’ve been travelling all over the world, and I can’t wait to get back to Sheffield.
“Barnsley people are lovely, dead rough and ready. They really do say what they think, whether it upsets you or what, and they have a lovely accent too.”
Former professional boxer Brendan Ingle was born in Dublin but moved to Sheffield in the late 1950s. He runs boxing gym St Thomas’ Boys and Girls Club in Wincobank.
He said: “I’ve been here for 50 years and I don’t know where the time’s gone. Yorkshire people don’t realise how lucky they are. They remind me a lot of Dublin people. People here go out of their way to help without being asked.
“Down here in Wincobank you’ve got Woolley Woods, which come out into Wentworth Park – it’s another world. When people come over from Ireland or come up from London, they can’t believe it, and down the road from me you’ve got the biggest corner shop in the world – Meadowhall.
“It’s fantastic, you can go there and sit down, and all of a sudden you’re in conversation with someone. It’s the same everywhere you go.
“People say the steel industry’s gone, but they’re producing more now than they’ve ever done, but it’s all specialist steel. I find the accent fascinating too. “When I’ve got kids coming into the gym and I say to them “Now then thee, watch thee’sen”, they all laugh, but it’s all in jest.
“If you can find nicer people than Sheffield or Yorkshire people then you tell me about it. I still go back to Dublin for a holiday, but I always want to come back here.”
Roy Hattersley was brought up in Wadsley, and studied economics at Hull University. He was councillor for Crookesmoor in the 1950s, and was MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook from 1964 to 1997. He was deputy Labour leader from 1983 to 1992.
He said: “I was really brought up to believe that Yorkshire was special, that it was bigger than other places, that we were harder than other people and more hard-working than the rest of the country. And, in a sense, that was true, because in my boyhood Yorkshire was the home of heavy industry. People earned their living the hard way, in steel, coal and fishing – all the tough jobs.
“I always had a feeling we were made harder by our environment, too. Partly by the climate and the landscape – there are a lot of lush pastures over the East Riding, but I always think of the Pennine hills and streams.
“It certainly made me feel more proud of where I came from. I tried very hard to get a Yorkshire seat as an MP, and couldn’t get one, so I had to get a seat in the Midlands, but I never pretended that I wasn’t a Yorkshireman at heart.
“Birmingham City football club was in my constituency, but I always made it clear that I was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter. I had the confidence to say I wasn’t going to pretend to be anything else.
“I can’t see myself living anywhere else than the North of England. I always want to be in the Sheffield area. I still believe that Yorkshire is special.”