The border town of Earby is in the front line of the boundary battle between Lancashire and Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 10:09 10 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:09 10 October 2013
Paul Mackenzie visits the border town of Earby to sort out the battle of the roses
Planning is already well underway for next month’s Lancashire Day celebrations but in one town where the red rose flag flies, the day is likely to be met with stony silence – at least from half the population. Earby stands in our own Kashmir, the disputed border territory where Lancashire wit meets Yorkshire grit.
The history books tell us that the old boundary stood to the west of the town, placing Earby in white rose territory but since the 1974 shake-up of local government the issue has been less clear cut. Services are by Lancashire County Council and many folk ally themselves with this side of the great divide.
Earby, though, is home to the Yorkshire Dales Lead Mining Museum and a fair few naysayers, identifiable when inside their homes by stained glass white roses on windows and doors and by their appreciation of Geoffrey Boycott and a ferret up the trouser leg.
For decades Yorkshire’s county cricket team would take only players born in the county and yet Earby-born Glen Chapple is the captain of Lancashire.
This is clearly a town with an identity crisis – the local newspaper diplomatically has both red and white roses on its masthead – so Lancashire Life went along to sort the whole thing out. Taking no chances we went undercover, hoping not to be identified by less-than-friendly locals.
The whippet’s flat cap kept slipping over the eyes, but we seemed to blend in well enough and were able to carry out our unscientific and not particularly representative survey unhindered.
Our findings reveal that the newsagent sells more copies of Lancashire Life than Yorkshire Life and that there are (or at least were when we visited) more red roses grown than white, including an impressive display outside the Conservative Club.
Of the people we spoke to (and to be honest we shied away from the obviously dyed in the wool, say what I like and like what I say Yorkie-types) opinions were divided roughly 50-50, with older residents siding with Yorkshire and younger people pledging their allegiance to Lancashire.
Once safely back on home turf we sought to back up our results with solid facts and turned, as one does on such occasions, to the internet. A Google search for “Earby Yorkshire” brings up 205,000 results, while “Earby Lancashire” generates 304,000 matches, including Wikipedia (and that wouldn’t ever be wrong, would it?) which clearly states that Earby is in Lancashire. So, that’s that sorted then, isn’t it? Not quite, says James Jackman. At 27 James should be in the Earby belongs to Lancashire camp, but no. It was James, a fourth generation Earbier and member of the town council, who fought for Earby to recognise Yorkshire Day – which was held some time in the summer – but found his colleagues would only agree if he consented to the red rose flag being flown on Lancashire Day on November 27.
‘I wasn’t particularly happy about making the deal, but it was the only way I could get my way,’ he said, with an abruptness typical of a Yorkshireman.
‘Lancashire County Council provide good services but with that comes the idea that we are in Lancashire, there’s no mention of the historic links. This place was built in Yorkshire, there’s a white rose on the Earby coat of arms. We were never asked about the so-called boundary change and it never changed the actual border, only the administrative area. Being a rebellious chap, I wouldn’t stand for it.’
James, who is night manger for a hotel, initially proposed putting up Yorkshire signposts but (and if anything adds credence to his claims that Earby is in Yorkshire, this is it) the council decided they didn’t want the expense.
James, though, is planning bigger and better – but possibly not costlier – celebrations next year. ‘I handed out a few little Yorkshire flags this year,’ he said. ‘But it would be nice to do more in the future. This is a great town for getting behind things so it would be good to hold some traditional games and events next year.’
So that’s one for the diary then, Yorkshire Day 2014: a chorus of On Ilkley Moor Baht ’at followed by an afternoon of pigeon racing, rhubarb growing and opinionated grumbling!
Do you live in Earby and disagree with anything in this article?