Burke's Peerage turns its focus on 3,000 of Yorkshire's finest

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The Independent Online

So it may come as something of a surprise that the publishers of Burke's Peerage and Gentry have dedicated a 1,200-page tome to the great and the good of that level-headed county.

Alongside the 3,000 names from the traditional stock of landed gentry, minor royalty and peerage families, the authors have included a section on "contemporary people of distinction".

And in here there lurks the modern aristocracy of the Ridings of York. Think Yorkshire and think cricket and prominent among the entries are the batsmen Geoffrey Boycott - despite rumours of his removal to South Africa - and the long-serving international umpire Dickie Bird.

From the world of acting there is Dame Judi Dench, born in York and Maureen Lipman from Hull. Liz Dawn, who plays Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street and who was born in Leeds, also makes the cut.

From the world of entertainment there is Barnsley boy Michael Parkinson and celebrity gardener turned televisual everyman Alan Titchmarsh of Ilkley. Michael Palin (Sheffield) and the grand inquisitor Jeremy Paxman - born in Leeds - are also included.

The book aims to provide a comprehensive guide to who's who in the county and includes MPs, academics, business l eaders as well as media celebrities. But the request to be included brought out the class warrior in one politician, the member for Hull East, a certain John Prescott, born in Prestatyn in north Wales.

The down-to-earth Deputy Prime Minister, a former merchant seaman, has been lampooned for his penchant for Jaguars and second homes, but after being contacted by Burke's he insisted he should not be featured. The editorial board of the posh people's directory decided to go ahead and include him anyway.

But Dickie Bird was bowled over by the final product. "I would like to say well done to all the staff and everyone who has worked so very hard to make Burke's one of the best books around at the moment," he said.

Backed by the Yorkshire Society, the book is cloth-bound and foil-blocked in gold, costing a hefty £149. It does, say the authors, make an "ideal gift".

John Hancock of Burke's said the plan was to roll out the regional concept across the country, with a further eight volumes in the offing, culminating in one for London and the Home Counties in 2007.

"On researching you realise how many influential people there are from the regions, it is quite surprising," he said.