Tykes take over It's Yorkshire Day and a West Riding outpost is flying the flag for our county
PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:34 20 February 2013
There is a fiercely proud outpost of the West Riding which has refused to accept the Red Rose for almost <br/><br/>40 years. Terry Fletcher reports
Tykes take over
There is a fiercely proud outpost of the West Riding which has refused to accept the Red Rose for almost 40 years. Terry Fletcher reports
On August 1st the White Rose will flutter proudly over the Civic Centre in Oldham. The sight of their historic banner flying over the Lancashire mill town on Yorkshire Day will be a sweet victory for Roy Bardsley and more than 300 other members of the Saddleworth White Rose Society who have waged a relentless 36 year campaign to assert their Tyke heritage in the face of official apathy and intransigence.
In 1974 the government redrew the countrys town hall maps in an attempt to tidy up the confusing mish-mash of hundreds of counties, boroughs and urban and rural district councils running a bewildering mixture of local services. Among the casualties of their efficiency drive were the scattered villages of Saddleworth, an outpost of the West Riding clinging tenaciously to the western slopes of the Pennines. In their relentless quest for order the men from the ministry over-ruled local objections and decreed that as the villages were on the western side of the watershed they could not be in Yorkshire. Instead Saddleworths population found themselves lumped unceremoniously into what were then the Metropolitan County of Greater Manchester and the Borough of Oldham rather than staying with their Yorkshire neighbours in what became Kirklees and Calderdale. Ever since the members of the White Rose Society have been demanding recognition of their birthright and stubbornly refusing to be branded Lancastrians.
Roys house in Uppermill bears a defiant plaque boasting the words Saddleworth Yorkshire and his front window sports a stained glass white rose. Behind the house, the garden contains a supply of the specially-bred Saddleworth Rose also white, naturally for distribution to other supporters of the cause. Over the years Greater Manchester disappeared and Saddleworths collection of villages were placed even more firmly in Oldham Borough but woe betide any bureaucrat who writes to Roy in Saddleworth, Oldham. He insists on his mail being addressed to the West Riding and every envelope going in the opposite direction quotes a government statement from 1974 which says: The new county boundaries are for administrative areas and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change.
They certainly havent in Saddleworth. Officials may have hoped that eventually the fuss would die down but even now, almost 40 years after the changes were introduced, the White Rose Society has more than 200 members. Finally, this year, the local council has recognised the inevitable with the hoisting of the White Rose flag for Yorkshire Day as just the latest victory. This year has also seen the appearance of fresh road signs on the old county boundary acknowledging its setting as the historic county of York. In the next few months more signs will go up and those welcoming visitors to the villages of Delph, Diggle, Dobcross, Greenfield, Uppermill and the rest will carry a similar message.
Its been a long time coming but welcome news to Roy. We feel greater strides have been made in the last two years than in the previous 37, he said. Although much more still needs to be done, it indicates a willingness of the administrative authorities to listen to
Its a change that means Yorkshire Day will be celebrated with even greater vigour than usual in Uppermill this month. August 1st may pass almost unnoticed in many more secure parts of the county but in Saddleworth it has always been marked with all the fervour of the dispossessed.
To maximise numbers attending, the day is usually celebrated on the nearest Sunday to the first but this year the day falls perfectly. The festivities will begin as usual at Saddleworth Museum where the parade will form up and the formal Yorkshire Declaration of Integrity will be read out before the Delph Band leads the way to the King George V playing fields for an afternoon filled with sports, games, demonstrations and even a display by belly dancers from neighbouring Marsden.
But for Roy the White Rose campaign is about far more than misty-eyed Eh By Gum nostalgia or even caricature Yorkshire bloody-mindedness. He believes that Saddleworth has suffered over the years through its shotgun marriage to its western neighbours. He argues that Saddleworths rural Pennine villages have little in common with the rest of industrial Oldham and that for decades money has been siphoned from Saddleworth to tackle pressing urban problems elsewhere in the borough.
Ideally, he would like to see Saddleworth combined with similar Pennine communities to the east to form a new authority whose residents would have more in common with each other and which would understand the special needs of the villages.
But thats a fight for another day. Right now its enough to see that Yorkshire flag flying.