Dr Derek J. Ripley on celebrating Lancashire Day
PUBLISHED: 10:03 23 November 2015 | UPDATED: 17:49 19 January 2016
Our resident historian Dr Derek J Ripley gives his tips for making November 27 go with a swing
November is a very special month for Lancastrians, looked forward to with great anticipation all year. It’s the month we celebrate Bonfire Night, remembering the Gunpowder Plot by lighting bonfires, enjoying firework displays and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes whilst enjoying a slice of parkin. What makes this occasion particularly enjoyable for many proud Lancastrians is that Mr Fawkes was from York, on the other side of the Pennines.
There is, of course, another very important day for us to enjoy - November 22, when Lancaster’s Christmas Lights are switched on. As Lancashire’s unofficial historian and expert on all things Lancastrian, I’m hoping that one year I’ll be invited to switch them on if they can’t find a soap star or celebrity chef.
Last but by no means least, November 27 is Lancashire Day when we celebrate the fact that we are Lancastrian and everything that is great about our beloved county. Traditionally, it’s a day for street parties, clog dancing, wearing the red rose, and enjoying local delicacies such as black pudding and tripe.
Above all, it’s the day we give thanks that we are able to celebrate being Lancastrian without fear of punishment or persecution and honour our ancestors who suffered under the Yorkshire Inquisition instigated by Edward IV in 1478.
Lancastrians have lived in Yorkshire for centuries, usually not by choice, of course, but out of economic necessity. During the Inquisition this was incredibly dangerous. Suspected Lancastrians were forced to drink Yorkshire Tea and were declared heretics if they refused.
The Inquisition was never actually abolished in Yorkshire and, hard though it may be to believe, it has been enshrined in a number of local byelaws and occasionally enforced. In 1958, a woman was arrested in Huddersfield and fined £50 - over £1,000 at today’s prices - for being in possession of a tin of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. In 1974, a man in Heckmondwike was denounced by his neighbour who overheard him celebrating Paul Fletcher’s second goal for Burnley in their 4-1 defeat of Leeds United.
Astonishingly, as recently as 1978, a family which had run a haberdasher’s in Batley for generations came out as Lancastrians, having lived as Yorkshiremen and women for 300 years. A Yorkshire TV crew was astonished when they were shown a secret room in the shop’s basement which was a shrine to all things Lancastrian. It was strewn with empty Vimto bottles and its walls were decorated with portraits of the Lancastrian kings of England, newspaper cuttings of the great Lancashire Gillette Cup-winning sides of the 60s and 70s, and a picture of Fred Dibnah.
November 27 is a day when we should immerse ourselves in all things Lancastrian. So here are my top tips for making the most of the big day:
- Anything with Oldham-born Professor Brian Cox (the scientist not the actor)
- The Lord Of the Rings trilogy - Gandalf was born in Burnley
- Dr Who episodes featuring Lancastrian Time Lords Christopher Eccleston, Paul McGann and Tom Baker
- Anything with Keith Lemon (this rules out most of ITV’s output).
- Anything with Jeremy Clarkson (fortunately not as difficult as it used to be)
- All Alan Bennett plays apart from A Cream Cracker under the Sofa, which features a mesmerising performance by Morecambe lass Dame Thora Hird
So have a wonderful Lancashire Day. And remember that what distinguishes Lancastrians from Yorkshiremen is our ability to laugh at ourselves.