5 July 2006


Yorkshire has been the homeland of so many great people. The recent death of "Fiery" Fred Trueman - a cricketing legend and a typical Yorkshireman - led me to think about other great men and women who have emerged from this paradise on Earth. My top ten would include the charismatic football manager Brian Clough, cricketer Geoff Boycott, sculptress Barabara Hepworth, inventor of stainless steel - Harry Brearley, gifted writer of "Wuthering Heights" fame - Emily Bronte, artist David Hockney, slavery reformer William Wilberforce, poet Ted Hughes, pop music trailblazer - Jarvis Cocker, failed parliamentary plotter Guy Fawkes... but my number one Yorkshire hero of all time has to be Captain James Cook (1728 -1779). His life details are summarised below.

Cook was born in a small village near Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, and learnt his trade in small sailing ships known as 'cats', in which he journeyed up and down the coast from the Tyne to the Thames. He later served with the Royal Navy, and in 1768 won the appointment of commander of the Endeavour.

In 1769 Venus was due to pass in front of the Sun, a rare event that can be used to measure the distance of the Sun from the Earth. The Royal Society decided to send astronomers to the Pacific to record the transit of the planet, and enlisted the Navy's help. The Navy agreed, as long as one of their officers was in charge of the boat.

Cook was chosen as commander, and the Whitby-built HM Endeavour was acquired and fitted out. After calling in on Tahiti to witness the transit of Venus, Cook sailed down to 40ยบ latitude but found there was no land.

In accordance with his instruction he turned and headed towards New Zealand, which had previously been 'discovered' by the Dutchman Abel Tasman. During the rest of the voyage Cook and his crew charted New Zealand, sailed the east coast of Australia and rediscovered the Torres Strait.

In 1772-5, not satisfied by his previous exploits, he made a second voyage of discovery, this time to chart the Atlantic.

Cook was a practical seaman, who understood the importance of vitamin C to maintain the health of his crew, but on his third and final journey, in command of the Resolution, he did not deal so well with the Hawaiians he encountered when he landed on their island .

Misjudging the situation, he took their king hostage, after some hostility. Then during a brawl in another part of the island, one of the Hawaiian chiefs, Chief Kalimu, was killed by one of Cook's party. News of this reached the king just as Captain Cook was leading his hostage down to the Resolution.

The Hawaiians had by now started to distrust Cook's intentions, and attacked the English group. Cook remained aloof from the fighting, until one warrior crept up behind him and hit him on the head with a large club. Other warriors then joined in attacking him with daggers, causing him to fall in the water. Cook managed to get his head up again, but another warrior gave him a shattering blow - and Cook went down for the last time.

Well those are my alltime greatest Yorkshiremen - including a couple of women. I considered including Arthur Clewley but quickly rejected that absurd idea. Can anyone suggest any other great Yorkshire people I might have missed out?


  1. I knew Freddy Trueman, he was definately a character, I didn't usually agree with his politics or his views on race relations, but he was always kind and polite towards me and the other staff.

  2. Sean Bean!

    I wouldn't call him "great," but I would definitely call him...


    Worth watching.

    (Blushes, slinks away.)

  3. Emily's sister, Charlotte, not so much for JANE EYRE (which is fine) but for her even better book, the ruthlessly unromantic VILLETTE, one of the great unsung British novels (and there are quite a few.)

  4. Sean Bean is most definitely great, Alkelda. Rowrr!

    Michael Palin must be close to achieving his own kind of greatness by this point, I should think.

  5. Hmmmm, there's the Football Goalkeeper David Seaman, who was born and brought up in Rotherham and went to the same Secondary School as I did.

    Depends on whether you think he's great or not though lol.

  6. ADDENDUM - Don Revie, Brian Glover, J.B. Priestley, Barry Hines, Andrew Marvell, Kate Rusby, Vin Garbutt, Michael Vaughan, Dickie Bird, Samuel Holberry (The Chartist martyr), Robin Hood (probably), Helen Sharman (first British person in Space), Joe Cocker... and last but not least the man and the woman in the street - dockers, farm workers, steelworkers, millworkers, cleaners, drivers, shop workers, ship builders, schooolteachers, nurses, social workers, carpenters, bricklayers, soldiers - those who live in the shadows of anonymity, the backbone of society, the unsung heroes of the ages... they're the best Yorkshire people of all.

  7. Eleanor,
    When I think of someone "great," I usually think of him or her as having some sort of legacy. It doesn't seem quite right to call someone "great" who's forty-something and still alive!

  8. Using nature as a metaphor for greatness, Sean Bean really would be a bean while James Cook would be a blue whale or a vast forest. I'm surprised that intelligent freethinking ladies like Alkelda and Eleanor should stoop to shallow lusting after superficial filmstars like Sean who used to live on my street years back and was locally considered to be a nancy boy.

  9. Tsk, tsk, Yorkshire Pudding. Jealousy does not become you! You're just as comely as Sean Bean, anyway.

  10. Alkeda! Me jealous of Sean Bean? Tsk tsk - how dare you madam! Any more of that and I will instruct my men to leave you stranded on some distant Pacific shore. Another point - I like to keep a clean blog so please no more of this "comely" vulgarity!

  11. Yorkshire Pudding,
    Before your men can leave me stranded on some distant Pacific shore, I will fight them all with cutlass in hand and a daggar in my teeth. Yo ho ho.

  12. P.S. I suppose you would have preferred I use the words "hot ass" to "comely," eh?

  13. True, Alkelda, greatness is generally associated with a lasting legacy. But, since YP didn't specify traditional usage or modern slang, he left the door open for a bit of blushing over Mr. Bean, didn't he?

    Oh, and sorry for lowering the tone of your blog with such thoughts, YP. I guess we're even now, eh? ;)

  14. Fred was one of the best bowlers I've ever seen, a genius indeed. Not so sure about Geoff Boycott though, but if it's cricketers you're after, how about the Yorkshire captain Michael Vaughan who delivered us the Ashes? Oh bugger! He was born in Lancashire wasn't he?

  15. Mr Parrot - Michael Vaughan was NOT born in Lancashire. This is a sick rumour put about by the gutter press.AND Geoff Boycott has been unfairly maligned by people who know bugger all about cricket. He is a true giant of the game. Where Fred was "Fiery" Geoff was "Stubborn" but it worked!
    Eleanor & Alkelda - You are starting to remind me of the kind of women who guffaw over male strippers like The Chippendales. The only time I have a "hot ass" is when I have taken a hot bath. AND Alkelda - take a look at the map babe - you are ALREADY stranded on a distant Pacific shore - Doh!

  16. Ah, and so racist jibes are born! MV was born in Manchester which was west of the Pennines the last time I looked, and in the Red Rose county.

    As I've said before, I have nothing against the White Rose given that most of my folk originated there, at least the ones with good sense to do a flit.

    Truth is that we both live in two great counties.

    We are tolerant and accommodating, clever and articulate. And if anyone wants a fight, well we've got one we made earlier!

  17. My builders arent great yorkshire men. Aha - I have discovered they are from WIGAN!
    Speaking as one who has earned their living in Leeds for 7 years, the bloke who used to run the butty van on Leyland Street in Leeds 2 years ago - now HE was a great Yorkshire man. Gorgeous butties and dead cheap. Just don't get me started on Pontefract.
    (caveat - I am from Warrington and therefore am obliged to genetically distrust ALL White Rose RL teams :-))
    Fred Trueman was a gent.

  18. Yorkshire Pudding, You've got me. After seven years of living on the Pacific Coast, I still think of myself as an Easterner.

    For the record, Chippendales strippers only make me guffaw in the sense that I find it hilarious that women are supposed to find them attractive.

    I did, however, enjoy "The Full Monty" right up to the end credits. I guffawed, too.

  19. By the way, every time I see the title of your post, I think of the song "Cape Cod Girls." I think there's potential for a new version of the song.

  20. But aren't we both blessed with the greatest gift of all. To be an Englishman. There is nothing better.

  21. Bernard Ingham wrote a book called 50 Yorkshire greats which included only 4 women or thereabouts apparently. Upon being challenged on woman's hour why there wern't more women in it he told jenni Murrray to write her own book if she could think of 50 great women. Yorkshire folk get up and do stuff while other people talk about it.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits