In my estimation, the greatest Yorkshireman who ever lived was James Cook.
When Shirley and I were in New Zealand in 2012, we visited the town of Gisborne. It was here on October 8th 1769 that "The Endeavour", skippered by Captain Cook, made its first landfall, anchoring just off-shore in what Cook later called Poverty Bay. Today there's a monument there - paid for by New Zealand schoolchildren back in 1906. Once it stood proudly on the shoreline but today this "landing monument" is rather hemmed in by trees and dockside buildings.
|Cook's Landing Monument
Gisborne, New Zealand
|Cook's Cove near Tolaga Bay
Further up the coast, near Tolaga Bay, we also had a magical walk to unspoilt Cook's Cove where "The Endeavour" anchored for a couple of days. The botanist, Joseph Banks, collected many previously unknown plant specimens here and to Cook's great relief contact with local Maori people was happy and peaceful. Down in Poverty Bay several Maori men had been killed during an angry skirmish.
Oh dear - this blogpost has gone off in a direction I never intended. Let me get back on track, back to our recent visit to the North Yorkshire coast. This is sometimes known as Cook Country.
|Cook Monument on Easby Moor, North Yorkshire
Cook was born in Marton near Middlesbrough on November 7th 1728. Soon afterwards his family moved to the village of Great Ayton with which my own family has historic links. On the moor above the village, a great stone monument was erected in 1827 in memory of Captain Cook. Down in the village itself there's another much smaller monument erected on the site of Cook's childhood home. This humble cottage was dismantled and shipped to Melbourne, Australia in the 1930's. It was carefully re-erected there and is now a popular tourist destination.
|Captain Cook birthplace monument
in Great Ayton, Yorkshire
In Great Ayton there's also a little museum dedicated to Cook and there's another one in the coastal village of Staithes which is where Cook's seafaring career began. It was funny when Shirley and I went in there. We were the only visitors but in the upstairs section the elderly proprietor was sound asleep in his armchair surrounded by a mass of pictures, books, souvenirs and artefacts - all to do with Captain Cook.
Of course I have known about James Cook all my life but visiting the places he knew as a youth was like completing the dots we had made down in New Zealand. There we also stayed on The South Island's Banks Peninsula (named after Joseph Banks) and over on the west coast we spotted the snowy summit of New Zealand's tallest peak which is perhaps predictably called Mount Cook even though the Maori have a different name for it - Aurangi - which means something like "cloud piercer".