By chance on my way to Hong Kong ten days ago I spotted a book by Ian McMillan and its title intrigued me. Luckily it was available as an ebook and so i downloaded it and spent some time on my long journey dipping into this interesting and off beat tome. At the same time I had downloaded a copy of The Dalesman which had run a competition for the best 50 views in Yorkshire. I was keen to check out which of these magnificent landscapes I had seen and which new vistas would open up to me. Would it define my Yorkshire by pictures and would McMillan do a different job on the same theme?
For me as a Yorkshireman who has spent just six years of his life exiled (and I use the word advisedly) to Suffolk in my teenage years Yorkshire defines so many of the experiences of my life and like most Yorkshireman I defend it always against the onslaughts from the ignorant or ill informed southerner and merely point to the County Championship table to defend it against Lancastrians. What service would these two publications do to my image of Yorkshire? Would they add to or help define my own predilections.
The landscapes which were thrown up by the Dalesman competition were without doubt magnificent and many of them were familiar territory for me defining my own thoughts about the grandeur and diversity of the Yorkshire scene. But they contained no pictures at all of South Yorkshire and precious view of the urban side of Yorkshire. Hosted by The Dalesman it was natural to show the many wonderful views of the Dales, the Moors and our coastline. McMillan also extolled the virtues of this more northerly and sometimes ‘posher’ outposts of Yorkshire. But for me looking at their perspectives side by side I felt McMillan enabled a deeper look into the sheer diversity and breadth of the Yorkshire experience. There were certainly views which could have found their way in to the competition from Roche Abbey which McMillan extols with great aplomb to our industrial heritage so much part of the South and West Yorkshire heritage and as suggested by McMillan part of the very essence of Yorkshire. You have to go some way before beating the magnificent town hall of Barnsley highlighted by Orwell in the Road to Wigan Pier. But I do have form and bias!
I know I was not comparing like with like but for me to see Yorkshire through a South Yorkshire angle was so satisfying. I have to confess that born in Barnsley, lifelong season ticket holder at Oakwell, keen cricketer, and having lived in Doncaster for the past 38 years (and remembering the magnificent site of Conisbrough Castle when I lived there and the scenic beauty of Tickhill), I would instinctively be tuned into McMillan’s account with an ease of familiarity which nudged my basic instincts about Yorkshire.
The book is written in a stream of consciousness style which explore themes, ideas, hunches about ‘Yorkshireness’ which I could relate to. McMillan’s poetic style was deeply funny in parts and his observations of the absurd and the offbeat was sharply delivered. I am not sure it concluded anything but it set my mind running in all sorts of directions and reminded me there is so much of Yorkshire still to see. The treats are endless and always worth revisiting anyway. Another very specific bucket list for Yorkshire, so when I retire…….
I am writing this on the day in which Yorkshire won their second successive County Championship which I celebrated around 2 am when on my way to the loo I looked at my phone to see that the early overs at Middlesex had secured the title. Somehow the world feels more in tune when Yorkshire are on top. I made sure both my children were born in Yorkshire if they ever got the call to perform. Sadly my son, thought a keen cricketer would not make it and in a twist of cussedness we might associate with Yorkshire my daughter hated everything to do with cricket, though did the cricket teas for me for some years! I have often wondered whether a photo of Yorkshire’s cricket grounds would be just as magnificent an exploration of the essence of Yorkshire as anything else. My own contribution below shows Darfield’s ground at its best in homage to McMillan, my own ground at Tickhill where I am President and the incomparable Scarborough which hosts the wonderful cricket festival. It enables me to overdose on my favourite Yorkshire things – the scenery around Whitby and Ravenscar where I often stay, the coastline, the Victorian splendour of Scarborough, another highlight in McMillan’s work and of course fish and chips. I do believe if there is a serious omission in McMillan’s book it is that he fails to focus on the Magpie Cafe in Whitby surely the world’s premier fish and chips outlet or is that another competition!
In my ode to Yorkshire drawing on the inspiration of McMillan and wishing I had had time to enter the Dalseman competition a few pics of my favourite places.