10 things that make Lancashire great
PUBLISHED: 13:23 10 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 20 February 2013
As we prepare to celebrate Lancashire Day, Paul Mackenzie picks ten of his favourite things
No other county can claim a comedy tradition to rival Lancashire where there is a true legacy of laughter.
The list of our great comedians includes George Formby, Victoria Wood, Les Dawson, Ken Dodd, Peter Kay and scores of others who pour scorn on the old claim that it's grim up north. And we don't have to rely on our famous names to provide the laughs, either; visit any pub, stand in any queue or wait at any bus stop and it won't be long before someone has you chuckling.
Yes we've got the hot-pot, and we're rightly proud of it, but there's much more Lancashire cuisine: black pudding, Morecambe Bay shrimps, creamy, crumbly and tasty cheeses and the cakes of Eccles and Chorley. And it's not just what we've got, it's what we do with it. Paul Heathcote, Marcus Wareing and Nigel Howarth are just three of our top chefs but our cities, towns and beautiful villages are liberally smattered with high quality restaurants, cafes, delis and pubs serving superbly-crafted meals from creative and well thought out menus.
OK, so it rains. A lot. As much as in the Amazon, apparently, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The precipitation gives us lush grass, green fells, healthy livestock, glorious gardens and a sturdy - if rather damp - resilience. We Lancastrians are of hardy stock and don't get put off by a bit of rain. And when the grey clouds scud over the Pennines and the sun starts to shine we know how to enjoy ourselves on those expansive beaches and in parks and open spaces which are a little greener over here.
Wherever you travel you can always spot a Lancastrian; we are, as a rule, softly spoken, warm, open, friendly, helpful, generous and of a cheery disposition. It's not clear what makes us this way, with characters as well rounded as the Pennine hills which divide us from an altogether different northern breed, but it gives us another reason to be proud. Whether fashion designer or fighter, painter or politician, sailor or solicitor, it's all done with gentle, self-effacing humour.
Lancashire's almost reverential attitude to good beer has spawned a wealth of micro-breweries in garages, out-buildings and industrial units across the county run by people not intent on toppling our longer established brewing giants but who are simply trying to create a pleasant pint. Can there be a more noble ambition? But while there is a passion for well-brewed ale, this is also the county that created Teetotalism and we have a lengthy list of locally produced soft drinks, from traditional sarsaparilla to Vimto and bottles of Bowland water.
Lancashire has an impressive track record of invention which includes (take a deep breath) the kilt, the torpedo, the Ewbank carpet cleaner, the Co-operative movement, the jelly baby, Tiller girls, tide times, Suffragettes, the police force, the googly, Meccano, the modern computer and white road markings. And that's just the recent ones, look back a little further and you'll find the creators of the machines that powered the Industrial Revolution. To what we can attribute this creative impulse is unclear, but we have to do something while it's raining.
Lancashire has been described as a county with aspirations to be a continent and with scenery and a landscape this big, bold and impressive, it is easy to see why. We have the rugged peaks and tranquil lakes in the north, we have the rolling hills and harsh moorland in the east, we have a coastline which is at turns dramatic and beautiful and we have a mix of large self-confident cities and quaintly charming villages. Easily enough for at least a country. Let the campaign for independence start here.
Shakespeare lived here, Tolkien based his most famous work on the countryside here and Lowry captured our lives on canvas. The boards that Leonard Rossiter, Ian McKellan and Albert Finney first trod were Lancastrian and this is the county which produced the greatest pop group in history (argue among yourselves whether that's the Beatles, Oasis or Liberty X). Lancashire is a big place but in its contribution to the arts - as in so much else - it punches way above its weight, with a stellar cast of actors, directors, writers, painters, musicians, designers to its credit.
No Lancastrian village is complete without a set of goalposts and a neatly mown wicket. For years these small clubs have provided players for the county's - and the country's - top teams. Whether it's football or cricket, or for that matter, netball, rugby, boxing, athletics, or probably even tiddly-winks, we can lay claim to having produced some of the finest players and the most successful clubs, of all time. See, for example the likes of Finney, Flintoff, Beaumont, Khan... and there's plenty more where they came from.
The past... and the future
The imposing town halls which dominate so many of Lancashire's towns echo the strength and confidence of the people who built them, these were towns which changed the world as the Industrial Revolution took hold. Although times have changed, the confidence remains - knocked occasionally, it's true - and it is building an exciting future. New shopping and housing developments are transforming old mills, tourists now flock to our farms as well as our guest houses and our artisan craftspeople are using traditional skills to create beautiful contemporary homewares, gifts and foods.