100 Legendary Northerners
by Northern Life
TO CELEBRATE OUR 100TH EDITION, HERE ARE SOME OF THE LEGENDARY CHARACTERS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER) THAT DERIVE FROM OUR COUNTIES OR WHO HAVE MADE THESE LANDS THEIR OWN.
1) BRIAN BLESSED
They don’t come much bigger and more brash than Brian Blessed. The mountaineering, acting, presenting, writing, umbilical cord biting (apparently) Mexborough lad is known for his enormous beard and booming voice that some say you can hear from space. Or at least Skegness.
2) ROMBALD THE GIANT
Another, albeit literal, giant of Yorkshire is Rombald. This mythical man is said to have roamed the moors above Ilkley, causing thunder and lightning. Even so, he was petrified of his wife, as legend has it that Mrs Rombald chased him across the tops one day and he made his escape by stepping on a rock and launching himself across the Wharfe valley. On doing so, the rock split in two, creating the Cow and Calf Rocks as we know them today.
3) 4) 5) and 6) THE BEATLES
And now to giants of music. When the Beatles formed in 1960, Liverpool was a Lancastrian city and they played all over it, making their name. Although the Fab Four went on to disperse around the world, and Liverpool split from the Red Rose County to help form Merseyside, there is no doubting their roots in Lancashire.
7) CILLA BLACK
If you went to see the Beatles in the early days at the Cavern Club, it might have been our Cilla who took your coat. Cilla Black quickly impressed with her impromptu sets at the club and went on to have the biggest selling single by a woman in the 1960s Anyone Who Had A Heart – before becoming a popular TV personality with a range of hit shows to her name.
8) WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
Heading right to the opposite side of the country and the other end of the M62 (not that it was around in 1807 when the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire). Wilberforce, a native of Hull, was an independent MP, a philanthropist and one of England’s leading abolitionists, who is still celebrated in his hometown today.
9) BARBARA CASTLE
Another legendary political campaigner from our counties was Dame Barbara Castle. Brought up in Bradford and famously MP for Blackburn, Castle was instrumental in the creation of the Equal Pay Act, the carers’ allowance and child benefit, as well as introducing permanent speed limits, breathalysers and compulsory seatbelts in cars.
10) NICK PARK
Another individual to prove that you don’t always have to pick a side between the red and white roses is Nick Park. The animator, who created Wallace and Gromit, was born in Preston and is renowned for saving Yorkshire’s Wensleydale cheese company from collapse. Park’s most famous creation has a penchant for the produce from Hawes and, whilst on the verge of bankruptcy, the Wensleydale Creamery produced a Wallace and Gromit edition that boosted sales and allowed it to keep trading. And whilst we’re on a food tip, here are a few characters from round our way who are known for their gastronomic delights:
11) MARCO PIERRE WHITE
Leeds chef who started at the Box Tree in Ilkley.
12) JAMES MARTIN
A regular on the pages of Northern Life, chef and Saturday morning TV stalwart, from Malton.
13) VICTORIA WOOD
Prestwich born Wood wrote and starred in numerous sketches, plays, musicals, films and sitcoms over several decades. Remembered fondly for her live comedy acts which were interspersed with her own compositions which she performed at the piano. A force of nature without a doubt.
14) LES DAWSON
A celebrated male version of the above with the main exception being that Les also enjoyed dressing up and impersonating a woman.
15) WALLACE HARTLEY
Forget all about Leonardo Di Caprio, Wallace Hartley was the original hero of the ill fated RMS Titanic. The Lancashire born (Colne to be precise) violinist who played the hymn If Nearer, My God, to Thee as the ship went down, will always be remembered across the world and from the towns folk alike.
16) EMMELINE PANKHURST
A world away from the world of fine dining is Emmeline Pankhurst who was prepared to lay down her life as she protested for the right for women to vote. The Manchester-born suffragette formed the Women’s Social and Political Union and campaigned for equal voting rights, which were achieved just before her death in 1928.
17) and 18) LEONORA COHEN AND MARY
Leeds residents Cohen and Gawthorpe were both associates of Pankhurst, joining the WSPU and campaigning for equal voting rights alongside her.
19) MARGARET MCMILLAN
Although American by birth, McMillan took Bradford to her heart and was one of the powerhouses behind instigating health checks, baths and free meals at schools in the city.
20) TITUS SALT
Not only did Bradford mill owner Titus Salt move out of the city in 1853 and build a special village for his workers so that they may have a better quality of life, he also installed a host of safety features to prevent injuries and illness within his mill at Saltaire.
21) GRACIE FIELDS
Arguably Rochdale’s most famous daughter, Gracie Fields, born Grace Stansfield above a fish and chip shop no less! Was a British actress, singer, comedian and star of cinema. She became one of the top ten film stars in Britain during the 1930s and the highest paid film star in the world in 1937.
22) to 32) YORKSHIRE’S 2012 HEROES
Sporting heroes are highly celebrated around these parts, and none more so than the 11 Yorkshire Olympians who claimed 12 medals between them at the 2012 Olympics. They include Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis Hill, Otley’s Lizzie Deignan and the Brownlee brothers. If Yorkshire was its own country, it would have finished 12 in the final medal table.
33) CAPTAIN SIR TOM MOORE
Although his pace was a little more sedate than that of the 2012 Olympians, Captain Tom Moore inspired a nation that was struggling through the first Covid lockdown in 2020 by walking 100 laps of his garden to celebrate his forthcoming 100th birthday. What started as a little thank you to NHS staff who had treated him, ended up with the public donating £33 million to the Keighley lad’s appeal, so inspired were they by his determination and positivity.
34) to 55) THE PLAYERS OF SHEFFIELD FC AND HALLAM FC
Continuing the sporting theme, the 22 players who made up the world’s first inter-club football match have to be added to this list. It was Boxing Day in 1860 and the two teams lined up against each other. The world’s oldest club, Sheffield, ran out 2-0 winners and the teams play friendly games against each other every year in honour of this fixture.
56) THE CHEF AT HOGHTON TOWER
Another first happened when King James I is said to have knighted a particularly tasty loin of beef during a meal at Hoghton Tower, near Preston in 1617. It was so good, he is said to have proclaimed, “Arise, Sir Loin” and the name sirloin steak stuck. Make your mind up whether you think it is true!
57) to 91) THE 35 PEOPLE WATCHING PULP
Sheffield superstars Pulp topped the charts and toured the world from the mid-1990s, but it wasn’t always that way. By the time they released their breakthrough album His ‘n’ Hers in 1994, they had been together 25 years, plugging away on the local circuit. Their first gig was at Sheffield’s legendary Leadmill venue in 1980, when 35 people witnessed the future hitmakers play early in the afternoon at a festival, where their bass player fell off the front of the stage. Imagine being able to say you were there!
92) HELEN SHARMAN
Talking of Sheffield folk going stratospheric, fellow Steel City resident Helen Sharman became the first British person in space in 1991.
93) FRED DIBNAH
Although he didn’t make it quite as high as Helen Sharman, Fred Dibnah was happiest when looking down on the world. The steeplejack from Bolton was such an engaging character, he became one of Britain’s most loved television personalities.
94) MICHAEL PALIN
From people who liked to travel vertically to someone known for travelling across the world. Michael Palin is renowned for his travelogues, of course, not to mention the Sheffield lad’s previous life as one part of the most famous comedy troupe of all time, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
95) and 96) MORECAMBE AND WISE
As we’re talking comedy, here’s a double act representing both counties. Eric Morecambe was born with the surname Bartholomew, but took the moniker of his home town on Lancashire’s coast for his stage name. Ernie Wise was born in Bramley in Leeds and the duo met on the entertainment circuit in the 1940s. The rest, as they say, is history.
97) 98) and 99) THE BRONTË SISTERS
Providing entertainment for the people more than a hundred years before Morecambe and Wise were the Brontë Sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were born in Thornton in Bradford before moving to Haworth, and are remembered fondly to this day for their poems and novels, such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, respectively.
Yes, you are a Yorkshire and Lancashire legend for reading this amazing magazine. Great work, you.