The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Heroes from Yorkshire

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The Independent Online
I NOTE with no little regret that my old friend and barrelling partner Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (dread tongue-twister]) has boarded the fashionable bandwagon to take a most unnecessary 'crack' at Yorkshiremen, a tried and trusty band of fellows among whom I am proud to count my good self.

'I would be happy to take anyone on my expeditions,' quoth Ranulph last week, 'with one exception. The only people we would not even look at are people from Yorkshire, because once bitten twice shy, and several times bitten then you have to make a rule about it.'

Alack and alas, Ranulph may be an accomplished (if frostbitten]) traveller, but he is, I fear, no judge of character. Indeed, he doth those of us who hail from that most doughty of counties a grave disservice.

I need hardly remind him that virtually all Britain's greatest heroes were Yorkshire born and bred. Horatio Nelson, Charles Dickens, Captain Cook, Queen Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, King Arthur, William Shakespeare, Robin Hood, the Duke of Wellington. And, in more recent times, Geoffrey Boycott, Bernard Ingham and Roy Hattersley.

Contrary to Sir Ranulph's information, Yorkshiremen have proved themselves some of the greatest travellers of all time. Mao Tse-tung, who, for all his leftish leanings, made a very great effort in leading the Long March, hailed originally from Pickering whilst Vasco da Gama was a Whitby lad.

And to those who would chide Yorkshiremen for their lack of proverbial 'grey matter', I would only add that Ludwig Wittgenstein was, above all, a Bingley boy and that the great (if ill-kempt]) pacifist Mahatma Gandhi was Batley born and bred.

In our own time, I am reliably informed that Mother Teresa of Calcutta - previously of Appleton Roebuck - still retains the distinctive Yorkshire twang in her accent and she is affectionately remembered in those parts for her gritty Northern wit and honest-to- goodness Yorkshire realism. 'Our Tess - she were always ambitious to make a name for herself,' they say. 'Still, You've got to hand it to the lass - she's never forgotten her roots.'

Yorkshire folk are warm-hearted, rough-and-ready, 'take-me-as-I-am-and-no-muckin-abaht' sorts of creatures, as noted for their warmth and infinite kindness as for their gritty honesty and dog-like devotion. One has only to take a look at that formidable political strategist, magisterial novelist, deft weekend essayist and amusing raconteur Roy Hattersley to see what I'm driving at.

'In the most profound sense,' Roy told me when I buttonholed him on the subject in The Garrick last week after we had each downed a Dover sole and a bottle of Sancerre, 'your true Yorkshireman, your Hattersley or your Arnold, is very much a chip buttie and good-strong-cuppa- Tetley sort of bloke - preferably eaten in the pouring rain, and with coal-stained fingers]'

'Mmmm . . . let's see . . . I'll have the creme brulee with a large Armagnac and perhaps a few profiteroles to follow,' I replied, for the Garrick waiter had distracted us with his trusty trolley.

At present, I am compiling a splendid luxury picture-book, Wallace Arnold's Yorkshire for the Christmas market, with sumptuous photographs of those Yorkshire moors and dales, those sturdy Yorkshire towns and gentle Yorkshire villages, that are so very dear to my Yorkshire heart. Of course, I was unable to find time to visit them myself, but the photographer - a local, but not at all bad - assures me that little has changed in the 20 years since last I managed to set foot in my own dear Yorkshire.

I am hoping to persuade my old Yorkshire friend and quaffing-partner Sir Marcus Fox of Shipley to pen a characteristically blunt and gritty foreword, but at the moment, alas, his senior public relations officer tells me that he is busy writing a splendid handbook, Dale-Walking with Marcus Fox at his delightful Cote d'Azur hideaway.

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