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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
'Sophistication? I've been to Leeds!'
It's the 26th annual Yorkshire Day, by 'eck. But what is it that makes the county worth celebrating, asks Yorkshireman Matt Bennett.

Why are people so proud to be from Yorkshire?

Why when a bureaucrat's pen robbed Hull of its Yorkshire status - placing it instead in Humberside - did everyone from the city council down stubbornly defy the boundary makers until their birthright was finally restored?

It seems the rest of the UK sees Yorkshire folk, and their antics, through a series of stereotypes. From James Herriot caricatures to Harry Enfield, Yorkshire people are seen as tight-fisted, straight-talking, whippet-breeding, flat-cap-wearing dour types.

Tony Blair eating chips
"By 'eck they're hot" - Tony Blair enjoys haute cuisine Yorkshire style
It's always puzzled me, so I went round my home town of York asking people exactly what it meant to them to "be Yorkshire" and where the stereotypes came from. Well, it gives t' ferret a break from betting shop.

My quest started badly. Whippet-less Paul Lee, 30, defined Yorkshireness as being akin to stubbornness. I tried to argue with him, but he wouldn't back down.

On the ancient rivalry with our neighbours over the Pennines, 27 year-old Matt Appleton disproved the myth my people are unschooled in the art of diplomacy: "Folk from Lancashire are nice, they just wanted to be from Yorkshire."

Simply the best

Lorry driver Jonathan Matthews (whose flat cap could have been at the cleaners) simply said that he was proud to be from Yorkshire because "we're better than everybody else".

In fact, nobody could give me a reason as to why they were proud to "be Yorkshire" except for the fact that, well, they were from Yorkshire.

Nora Batty
Pennines pin-up Nora Batty
In true inscrutable Yorkshire style, they weren't giving anything away. The only explanation Paul Lee could only offer for his "Yorkshire" tattoo was that he was young and drunk when it was inked.

Nobody I spoke to mentioned the things that God's own county has going for it.

In the moors and dales we've got some of the most beautiful countryside in England; in Leeds we've got one of the most vibrant centres for everything from finance to football; and in Bradford we have a community which (until recently) was cited as an example of harmonious multicultural Britain in action.

Nowt as odd as folk

Perhaps it's so tough to pin down Yorkshireness, since "Yorkshire" doesn't really exist. Its four million inhabitants are spread between four different counties, each with its own unique (often odd) character.

How can you define Yorkshireness when you are confronted by hard as nail Sheffield, where heterosexual men openly call each other "Love" and the Village People bandit moustache has never gone out of fashion?

A Yorkshire terrier
"Don't talk to me about Leeds"
Cricketer Tim Walton pointed out to me that Yorkshire produces more county cricket players than anywhere else, and that more people play the sport in Yorkshire than in any other county.

The game is one of the pillars of our identity. Whistle down a coal mine, went the saying (when there were pits to whistle down) and you'll find a fast bowler.

Back in the days of the county side's strict rule that only boys born inside the county boundary could be eligible to join, true Yorkshire men would willing walk barefoot across broken glass carrying their heavily pregnant wives to ensure any male progeny were born in the land of Fred Truman.

Despite cricket's public school image, in the leagues of Bradford and Leeds, for example, hundreds of people play from all social, racial and ethnic backgrounds every weekend. (Though sadly, you might not see that same diversity watching the county side.)

But with Yorkshire currently topping the County Championship Division One table, you can't say our pride is wholly misplaced.

Your Yorkshire tributes. Think on.

Than can alus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha can't tell him much.
Gerry Wilde, England

We wouldn't want to put it about that Yorkshire is a great place to live, we might attract too many Southerners or worse still Lancastrians!
Rachel Spence, Yorkshire

I had my Yorkshire Rose tattoo done when I was old and sober - and don't regret it a bit. Born there, bred there.
Joe Smith, Scarborough

Having married a Yorkshire rose on Yorkshire-Day eve last year I can vouch (as a "Southern Twit") that Yorkshire is rather spiffing.
Michael Swain, Bermuda

With its natural borders, Yorkshire could viably become an independent country. How many other areas of England can say that?
Steve, England

Finest place on earth, no more to be said on the subject.
Dave Hay, Peoples' Republic of Yorkshire

Biggest and t'best county in t'land. Every Yorkshireman knows this, most keep it to thissen.
Andy Riley, Yorkshire

The best thing in Lancashire? The road to Yorkshire!
James Hepworth, UK

One other attribute of Yorkshireness is the ability to accept the generalisations attributed to us (ferrets, flat caps, etc.) without taking offence and mostly with a wry smile.
Roy Chapman, UK

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