Lancashire Day - The red rose is still going strong
PUBLISHED: 21:12 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:32 20 February 2013
We report on threats to our great county as preparations are made for this month's Lancashire Day celebrations
It's the day when Lancastrian hearts everywhere swell with pride as we celebrate all that's great about our county.
We all know there's plenty to be proud of all over the county - from the banks of the Mersey to the fells of Furness and from the shores of the Irish Sea to the peaks of the Pennines.
These pictures by photographers John Cocks and Kirsty Thompson show the joyful celebrations around the county on November 27 last year when clogs, shawls and cloth caps were dusted off and red roses were much in evidence.
Breweries made celebratory ales, singers and dancers performed traditional routines and town criers across the county read the proclamation to pledge the county's loyalty to its Duke, the Queen. But amid the rejoicing, clouds are gathering on the horizon.
The 1974 Local Government Act created not just the administrative areas of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cumbria, but also enormous confusion. There is now a generation of Scousers, Mancunians, Boltonians, Wiganers and people from the north of our county palatine who don't know they are Lancastrians.
Road signs on the routes out of the unitary authorities of Blackburn and Blackpool which proclaim 'Welcome to Lancashire' don't help much, either. Astoundingly a spokesman for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, has claimed the new boundaries 'go back to 1974 and it is a bit late to start changing things back now.' Lancashire, of course, dates back more than 800 years to 1168.
Despite our longevity we are facing other threats, too. According to some, the Lancashire dialect - those flat vowels and resounding rrr's that make a Lancastrian easy to spot wherever he goes - is on its last legs. Increased mobility and the spread of standard English are said to have inflicted mortal blows on the Lanky lingo.
A prize for singing in Lancashire dialect was won this year by a man from Lincolnshire and even membership of the societies dedicated to preserving our dialect is dramatically depleted. But Derek Stanton, chairman of the Lancashire Dialect Society which presented that singing trophy, insists it's not all doom and gloom. 'In 1756, John Collier, the so-called father of dialect was complaining that dialect was dying out, so this is nothing new,' he said in his unmistakably Lancastrian twang.
'I don't think there's any such thing as Lancashire dialect, there are regional differences around Lancashire - a man from Burnley doesn't sound like a man from Blackpool, a man from Wigan doesn't sound like a man from Blackburn.
'Speech has changed but dialect is always there. Standard English is taught in schools and it's practically all you hear on radio these days - even Radio Lancashire - but there's not much colour in it. Our dialect, our language, is our heritage, it's the history in each of us who live here. Our speech comes to us through our family and it is the characterisation of the county.
'The Lancashire Dialect Society is more or less dead, it's impossible to attract new members. I tried to keep it going as long as I could but there just isn't the interest among younger people and the older ones have a habit of dying eventually.'
Derek is now working with the University of Central Lancashire in Preston to preserve traditional dialect speakers on film. 'We're in the very early stages but hopefully it'll be like a language course. People can read dialect on a page or hear it on a tape, but actually seeing people speak on film is terribly important, I think. Some people can find reading Lancashire dialect is like deciphering hieroglyphics.'
Not Derek. He became interested after an embarrassing encounter with a radio producer from London. 'I was with about 20 others from all over Lancashire and this radio producer called Charles Parker said he wanted each of us to sing a song or recite a poem from our part of Lancashire. No-one could do it. Everyone was silent.
'I thought it wasn't on for a prat from down south to come up here and say that. But he was right. I went to the library and got a book of dialect and found I could read it like reading the Beano.' Since then Derek has made a name for himself as a singer with Blue Water Folk and as the presenter of the Lancashire Drift on Radio Blackburn, as he still calls it occasionally.
But although the dialect societies are struggling for members and the Lancashire accent has been diluted by 'foreign imports' - that's anyone from beyond our county boundaries - Derek is convinced the dialect will never disappear.
'It has been diluted over the years but it will never die out completely. Even people who think they've lost their accent give themselves away with a rolling r here or a flat vowel there. It has survived this far, it'll survive long after we're dead and gone.'
Lancastrians everywhere will raise a glass on November 27 to celebrate the county's special day. Toasts will be made at 9pm to the Queen and Duke of Lancaster to mark the date in 1295 when Lancashire's first elected representatives were summoned by King Edward I to become members of Parliament at Westminster.
The Lancashire Day proclamation to the people of the City and County Palatine of Lancaster reads:
Know ye that this day, November 27th in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight in the 575th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Duke of Lancaster, is Lancashire Day.
Know ye also, and rejoice, that by virtue of Her Majesty's County Palatine of Lancaster, the citizens of the Hundreds of Lonsdale, North and South of the Sands, Amounderness, Leyland, Blackburn, Salford and West Derby are forever entitled to style themselves Lancastrians.
Throughout the County Palatine, from the Furness fells to the River Mersey, from the Irish Sea coast to the Pennines, this day shall ever mark the peoples' pleasure in that excellent distinction; true Lancastrians, proud of the red rose and loyal to our Sovereign Duke.
God bless and God save The Queen, Duke of Lancaster.
The Friends of Real Lancashire campaign to preserve the county's traditional boundaries and identity, which they say have become confused since a local government shake-up in 1974.The Local Government Act created new administrative counties, but these did not affect the actual boundaries of the ancient and geographical counties and the boundaries of Lancashire remained unaltered but some people were misled into thinking that they had been moved overnight into a new county.It costs less than 10 to join the Friends and full details are on their website, at www.forl.co.uk.