By: 26 May 2018
Yorkshire: God’s own country

Independent mediator Patrick Walker, of Yorkshire, ponders independence and hot pork pies

My pride in graduating from a Yorkshire university conveniently masks my peremptory rejection by both Oxford and Cambridge. I have by now persuaded myself that neither of those institutions would have suited me, anyway, and in time maybe I will imagine that the grandeur of Tinsley viaduct outclasses those dreaming spires.

There is little doubt that Yorkshire pride is as deeply rooted as it mystifying to those living south of Chesterfield. My son was lucky enough (I actually mean so much cleverer than his dad) to make it to Oxford. On our first visit we were blown away by the private world within the college walls and the student buzz throughout the city, combining intellect, enthusiasm and Jagermeister in equal measures. I said to our lad, “Isn’t it wonderful”, and the considered response was, “Yes, but it’s not Yorkshire”. Eight years later, his response is the same.

As the ‘phoney war’ of Brexit rumbles on, I sense dismay from the remainers and no sense of triumph from those who voted to leave: rather, the nerves of someone who has decided to divorce, is still hoping for better times in the future, but can see only distress, financial constraint and isolation. Is there a lesson here for those of us who talk, however abstractly, about greater independence for our great county? I am wondering whether the mistake is to confuse pride and individuality with the need for separation. It makes total sense to be a proud member of a particular rugby scrum (so long as it’s a Yorkshire team, of course), but independence from the rest of the team would be rather unthinkable and likely disastrous.

I am of course aware that not all readers will be natives of Yorkshire, but that should be no impediment. A long, late taxi ride a few nights ago gave me a chance to hear the exciting tale of the Afghanistani driver who came to this country illegally nearly 10 years ago, and has just acquired his British passport. His first use of that precious document was to revisit Afghanistan. “How was it?” I asked. “Eee. Pretty good mate. Buut it’s not Yorksheer”. His British citizenship test was compulsory, but Yorkshire citizenship is as unavoidable as the greasy liquid that splatters your shirt when you bite into a hot pork pie.

Of course, we should always be alert for imposters. This morning I heard the actor Josh O’Connor being interviewed about his BAFTA nomination for his part in the film, God’s Own Country, set and filmed on a farm above Keighley. A native of Cheltenham, he had painstakingly honed his Yorkshire accent for months in readiness for the role. With some confidence he went to buy his groceries in Keighley, speaking entirely in character. The checkout assistant paused. “You’re not from round here,’ she observed. Josh was just about to pack his bags and look for another career, when the young lady added, “Na, you’re from Bingley!”

This article originally appeared in issue 151 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer