Our own special day

The white rose was associated with the first Duke of York, Edmund Langley, in the 15th century, before it came to represent the whole of Yorkshire in later years

Of all the inhabitants of our nation, us Yorkshire folk have a justifiable claim to be the most proud of where we come from, as is demonstrated by the fact that ours is the most famous of all the county ‘days’.

Yorkshire Day fell this Saturday, August 1st, and it is celebrated not just within our own borders, but by thousands living elsewhere, some of whom may only have the slightest connection to God’s Own Country.

This special day isn’t actually that old, and was first marked in 1975 as a protest by the Yorkshire Ridings Society which objected to boundary changes placing the areas around Beverley, Driffield, Bridlington and Hull into a new county called Humberside. Residents of the old East Riding were understandably miffed, and never felt they were anything other than Yorkshire folk.

The new county lasted a mere 21 years before it was consigned to the dustbin and the old county of East Yorkshire was reinstated.

Yorkshire is believed to have existed for around 1,100 years from the time when invading Vikings were still active. The word ‘riding’ is derived from the Danish word ‘thridding’ which means ‘a third’ and the 600-mile boundary was divided into three, North, West and East. A kind of ‘Yorkshire Parliament’ was established, where representatives from each ‘thridding’ would have discussions and negotiations with one another. It also explains why we have only ever had three rather than four ‘ridings’.

If you were out and about on August 1st then you will have come across the Yorkshire flag, which features our white rose on a bright blue background. Although the flag has been flown for well over 50 years, it was only in 2008 that it was officially recognised by the UK Flag Institute, once again thanks to much lobbying by the Yorkshire Ridings Society.

The use of the white rose as a heraldic symbol dates back to the first Duke of York, Edmund of Langley, who died on 1st August, 1402. Although initially only associated with the House of York (particularly during the wars against the House of Lancaster in the 15th century, dubbed the ‘Wars of the Roses’ in the 19th century) the flower later came to represent the county as a whole.

One of the most well-known tales surrounding the white rose involves the Seven Years’ War when French forces had worked their way across Western Germany, capturing many important towns and cities en route. On August 1st 1759, the Anglo-German allies, which included the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, fought and defeated the French. The story goes that the soldiers plucked wild white roses as they passed the hedgerows in the town of Minden, which they pinned to their lapels or headwear to commemorate their fallen comrades. To this day, all the battalions in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry wear white roses in their caps on 1st August, Minden Day, to remember those lost in conflict. Their permanent cap badge is also unique in featuring a curled musical horn with a Yorkshire rose at its centre.

On the subject of roses, following my column a couple of weeks back about St John’s Wort and ‘Rose of Sharon’, I received the following from reader Neil Buckley: ‘There are some useful clues in a book I have called Wild Flowers of Britain…The fact that your dad linked it to St John’s Wort appears quite logical…St John’s Wort is from the genus Hypericum, of which there are a number of species…There are also trailing species (H. humifusum) and a bushy species (H. androsaemum) known as Tutsan. The book discusses the origin of this name, and I include some details below; “When fresh, the leaves of Tutsan have no particular smell, but a day or so after drying and for four years or so thereafter they emit a subtle, pleasant odour, which is likened to that of ambergris, the costly scent-base found in the intestines of certain sperm whales…Its dried leaves have been used as scented book-marks, particularly in prayer books and bibles….The ‘Rose of Sharon’ has biblical origins, and is another name for Jesus, which seems to link nicely with the use of the dried leaves in bibles…Evidently, Sharon is a plain and it is one of the largest valley-plains in all of Palestine.”

With many thanks to Neil for that fascinating information, and I wish you all a belated Happy Yorkshire Day!

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 31st July and the Gazette & Herald on 29th July 2020

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