Flying the flag for Yorkshire in the border town of Earby

Mike and Gemma Lonsdale at The White Lion

Mike and Gemma Lonsdale at The White Lion - Credit: Archant

It seems there is some confusion on the streets of Earby as to what county it’s in. Paul Mackenzie went along to sort it out

In years to come there may be a statue of James Jackman in Earby. He’d be facing west, feet set firmly on Yorkshire soil, defiantly waving a white rose flag and possibly gesturing with two fingers in the direction of Lancashire.

James is the man who struck a blow for tradition, history and God’s Own County by fighting for the right of a Yorkshire town to celebrate Yorkshire Day. Incredibly though, his colleagues on the town council in Earby, which stands a few miles inside Yorkshire’s western border, would only agree to buy a white rose flag to mark the occasion if he would consent to them also purchasing a red rose flag to be flown on Lancashire Day.

In the 1974 re-jig of county council areas Earby fell under the administration of Lancashire County Council. The actual county border didn’t move of course, but still the decision caused a degree of confusion which has become rather ingrained as the years have passed.

Earby is home to the Yorkshire Dales Lead Mining Museum, so the Yorkshire roots go deep here but although the town stands proudly in Yorkshire’s West Riding, there are some – mainly expansionists from across the county divide – who believe it belongs to Lancashire.

Yorkshire Life’s not-entirely-scientific research on the streets of Earby found a roughly 50/50 split of opinion, with almost all those who said the town is in Lancashire being too young to remember 1974.

These border territories have become the battleground for our county’s identity – the places where Yorkshire common sense meets impudent Lancastrian cheek and gives it a withering look.

Most Read

Yes, Lancashire County Council provides services here – and by all accounts they make a decent fist of it, for Lancastrians – but this is Yorkshire and no amount of bureaucratic tinkering will change that.

There are those who claim that Earby is a town with an identity crisis. Don’t be taken in. They will claim as ‘evidence’ that Lancashire Life outsells Yorkshire Life in the newsagent’s shop. Well, we’re an inquisitive lot in Yorkshire, always keen to learn new things about those strange folk from over the border.

These naysayers will also put forward a case for there being more red roses grown in Earby than white. Twaddle. Most of them are a dusky pink. And anyway, look how many homes have glorious white roses emblazoned in stained glass on windows and doors.

And should you need further persuading, have a chat with James. He is a fourth generation Earbier, who despite being born more than a decade after the local government shake-up, is well aware which county the town is in.

The 27-year-old who joined the town council a couple of years ago said: ‘Lancashire County Council provide good services but with that comes the idea that we are in Lancashire, there’s no mention of the historic links.

‘This place was built in Yorkshire, there’s a white rose on the Earby coat of arms. We were never asked about the so-called boundary change, we were forced into it. And it never changed the actual border, only the administrative area looked after by the county councils. Being a rebellious chap, I didn’t want to stand for it.’

Instead, he argued the case for a white rose flag to be flown from the county offices to celebrate Yorkshire Day on August 1, a proposal his colleagues agreed to as long as they could fly a red rose flag on Lancashire Day, whenever that is.

‘I wasn’t particularly happy about making the deal, but it was the only way I could get my way,’ he said, showing the kind of diplomacy and people skills Yorkshire is famous for.

And now James is planning bigger and better celebrations next year. ‘I handed out a few little Yorkshire flags this year,’ he said. ‘But it would be nice to do a little more in the future. This is a great town for getting behind things so it would be good to hold some traditional games and events next year.’

And while you’re there, enjoying the fun and games, keep an eye out for Lancastrians sneaking over, jealous of all we’ve got and wanting to pinch our border.

Do you live in Earby and disagree with anything in this article?

Try the version in Lancashire Life for an alternative view

Comments powered by Disqus