i Editor's Letter: Eagle-eyed readers


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The Independent Online


Eagle-eyed readers are always quick to tell us when we have erred here at i. A factual mistake will prompt a flurry of emails – and quite right, too. It's comforting to know those who buy the paper are intelligent and well-informed.

But a recent outbreak of corrective missives had us all slightly puzzled. It followed Paul McKenzie's piece on racism, published in i on Tuesday, in which he said that he once made a pub in Stockton-on-Tees go quiet as he walked through its doors, and he has "had a dislike for Yorkshire and the North East ever since".

We'll leave to one side the issue of whether this was a rational response. The thing that really annoyed the readers who wrote in was the reference to Stockton being in "Yorkshire and the North East". Surely we knew, they said - and there were many of them - that Stockton-on-Tees was in Cleveland?

Well, yes, we did know Stockton-on-Tees was in Cleveland. Once. When Cleveland existed. But, as i researcher Lauren York discovered, during the 1996 local government reorganisation, Cleveland was broken up and its boroughs were reassigned to the counties of North Yorkshire and County Durham.

In the reshuffle, Stockton-on-Tees was split between the two (it's the only borough in England to have this distinction). And these counties ... are in Yorkshire and the North East.

There could be an interesting metaphysical debate about whether places still exist if their names are changed. According to Lauren, the Royal Mail doesn't believe in counties. It recommends using postcodes rather than what it calls "an imprecise county name".

This could explain why, if you live in what used to be Cleveland, you're still waiting for that Christmas card from Auntie Beryl.