What will you be doing to celebrate this coming Monday? Hanging out the bunting in the back yard? Pinning a white rose to the lapel of your work suit? Or heating up some leftovers, catching up on the weekend’s telly and steeling yourself for the rigours of the working week ahead?
Come on people, Monday is August 1st! You know, Yorkshire Day? The one day a year when every right thinking Tyke raises a frothy glass of ale and toasts the wondrous beauty of God’s Own County?
Well, if the giddy hype and expectation surrounding Yorkshire Day has (once again) passed you by, you can be forgiven. It’s no surprise that it’s never really taken off. Yorkshire folk are, to put it in local parlance, not backwards in coming forward. Maybe it means more to Yorkies living in exile, but does the proudest county in the UK really need one dedicated day a year to sing its own praises?
Yorkshire Day was first celebrated in the market town of Beverley in 1975. August 1st was chosen because it was the 141st anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire – a cause successfully championed by the campaigning MP William Wilberforce, born in nearby Hull.
No disrespect to Mr Wilberforce (left), but it seems a fairly arbitrary hook on which to hang your regional pride. Why not hold it on October 21st, Geoffrey Boycott’s birthday? Or March 11th, the anniversary of the Great Sheffield Flood? Why choose to commemorate Wilberforce’s momentous global achievement in such an insular, inward-looking, back-slapping manner? Do they celebrate Yorkshire Day in the West Indies?
Despite continued attempts to popularise Yorkshire Day and sell it to the masses, the very idea of it has come in for some hefty flak in recent years. The parsimonious pomp characterised by officious council leaders, hob-knobbing entrepreneurs and upstanding members of high society parading past the local Town Hall (right) has seen it derided as a “Masonic jamboree”. Others argue it merely perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes of flat caps and whippets.
Yet there is a radical undercurrent in the origins of Yorkshire Day– one that is arguably as futile as the whole concept itself.
When the Yorkshire Ridings Society held the first ever Yorkshire Day 36 years ago, it was partly in protest against the recently passed Local Government Act. This unpopular piece of Whitehall legislation saw the East Riding of Yorkshire abolished and – with parts of Lincolnshire and parts of what is now known as West Yorkshire – amalgamated into the wholly unglamorous-sounding new county of “Humberside”.
This spirit of protest has led others to use Yorkshire Day as a soapbox for continued (if laughably lethargic) campaigns for Yorkshire devolution – or more improbable still, total independence for the historic county of Yorkshire from the rest of the UK.
All of which nonsense makes me glad that – for the sixth Yorkshire Day running – I’ll be somewhere far away come Monday, sunning myself by the poolside on holiday in Portugal. If I remember, I’ll have a cursory “cheers” with something cold and refreshing. But if not I’ll rest easy, safe in the knowledge that – back home – every day is Yorkshire Day.