Archetypal tyke Sir Bernard Ingham tries to capture the essence of "Yorkshireness" in a new book of photographs of the county. Mike Priestley talks to him about his theory.

SIR BERNARD Ingham loves Yorkshire. He hasn't lived here full-time since 1965, but his roots are still deep in the county.

He regularly visits his brother, who farms at Sowerby. He is a member of the Council of Huddersfield University. He writes a monthly column for the Hebden Bridge Times, which gave him his first job 51 years ago to this very day. He appreciates the motives that drive proud Tykes to want independence for the county.

"If the Scots can have independence, then in terms of being a viable unit Yorkshire can too," he said over the telephone from his London home. "It's larger, it has more population, it has every asset you could need. If we are playing that narrow game, Yorkshire is entitled to independence and its own Parliament."

Then he changed tack.

"But is that what we want today?" he demanded. "It's playing into the hands of those people who want to break up the United Kingdom and let Europe rule the various parts. We ought to be a United Kingdom within Europe, not ruled from Brussels," he adds, taking the William Hague line that he was pioneering long before the cry was taken up by his fellow Yorkshireman who became leader of the Conservative Party.

Lady Thatcher's former press secretary admits that he is unlikely to relocate himself in Yorkshire. He is too busy for that with his broadcasting, journalism, after-dinner speaking and directorships, which require a London base. Besides, his son and grandchildren live in the capital and he wants to remain near them.

But he has his own slice of Yorkshire there with him in the form of his accent, which is still unmistakably Pennine Yorkshire after 34 years away.

"I've never found a Yorkshire accent a disadvantage," he said. "There are always the snooty devils who deride an accent, but the longer I've been here the more the accent has been an asset and cut-glass accents have lost their charm. I think a Yorkshire accent is taken as a mark of having lived in the real world."

Sir Bernard's affection for his home county shines through the text he has written for a new book crammed with excellent colour photographs, Yorkshire Millennium (Dalesman, £16.99).

In it, the man who Yorkshire-born columnist the late Jean Rook once described as "a cross between Heathcliff and a pit bull terrier" outlines the historical influences which have gone into creating that most peculiar of phenomena, the Yorkshire character.

He quotes fellow Tyke Ted Hughes as saying that our ancestry could be traced to the matings of the Celts with the Vikings, and to "the rogues and vagabonds who sought refuge in the moorland that later inspired the Bronte sisters to their several masterpieces".

Then there's the Pennine factor, to which Sir Bernard lays claim.

"They don't come much more angular, taciturm, private, single-minded, stubborn, opinionated, more gallows-humoured, determined or industrious than true Pennine people," he writes. "They provide the caricature for Yorkshiremen as a whole."

Then he goes on to quote the occasion when Holmfirth artist Ashley Jackson was asked to switch on the Christmas lights, "for nowt", at a Pennine town and was pressed by the organiser to "bring along someone famous an' all".

Yorkshire people are grimly determined and utterly convinced "that the grass is far from greener on the other side of the fence", writes Sir Bernard. And to demonstrate that reluctance to be impressed with other places, he quotes the father of Lesley Garrett, the opera singer, when she set off to find fame and fortune in London. "What do yer want to go to London for?" he demanded. "It's nowt but 20 Doncasters end to end."

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, has discovered the down side to Tykes and seven years ago vowed that he would never again take a Yorkshireman on one of his expeditions.

"Once bitten twice shy, and several times bitten, then you make a rule about it," Sir Bernard quotes him as saying. "People from Yorkshire, we have found, are dour and nurse a grudge. One thing you can't put up with on expeditions are people who search for trouble, then nurse it when they have found it."

One particularly grudge Sir Bernard nurses is against former Prime Mininster Ted Heath, who meddled with the boundaries and ridings a quarter of a century ago. However, he doesn't think it did anything to weaken Tyke pride and sense of identity

"If anything, he has reinforced it," he writes. "We don't take kindly to offcumdens mucking us about."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.