The First of August has been Swiss National Day since 1891, commemorating the birth of the Swiss Confederation by the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291.
My first experience of this festive occasion was in 1956, on my very first visit to Switzerland, when it poured with rain – a frequent occurrence on that day. As a Swiss resident, with all my descendants now of Swiss nationality, I usually join in the celebrations in the traditional manner, attending a bonfire and fireworks, with a barbecue somewhere in the background, though I don’t go in for flag-waving and try to avoid the speeches by local politicians.
This year, however, I am in England and have learnt to my great surprise that the First of August is also Yorkshire Day. This was instituted in 1975 as a mark of protest against the Local Government reorganisation of 1974 which abolished the traditional division of Yorkshire into three Ridings. From the website of the Yorkshire Ridings Society I discovered a new tradition:
“Each year, on that day, members of the Yorkshire Ridings Society read a declaration of the integrity of Yorkshire at four of the Bars of York. A reading is held facing into each of the three ridings and into the city. In recent years a reading has been held in the city centre, too.
“I, (name), being a resident of the [West/North/East] Riding of Yorkshire [or City of York] declare:
That Yorkshire is three Ridings and the City of York, with these Boundaries of 1134 years standing;
That the address of all places in these Ridings is Yorkshire;
That all persons born therein or resident therein and loyal to the Ridings are Yorkshiremen and women;
That any person or corporate body which deliberately ignores or denies the aforementioned shall forfeit all claim to Yorkshire status.
These declarations made this Yorkshire Day [year].
God Save the Queen!”
As my parents were both born and brought up in the West Riding I’ve always considered myself an honorary White Rose, so I am surprised that I had never heard of this until now. However, a wonderful video has been released today featuring a few famous Yorkshire tykes, singing the Yorkshire anthem On Ilkley Moor Baht’at. Do click on the link, and enjoy it!! The famous rocks on Ilkley Moor (seen in this clip) are known as the Cow and Calf.
I’m always grateful for an opportunity to raise my glass in a toast. Today, I have three grounds for doing so:
Firstly, in honour of all my Yorkshire forebears; secondly, in honour of my adopted home and my offspring; and thirdly, in honour of our good neighbour Ron who is celebrating his birthday today.
I shall pop round to see him later with a birthday cake, a block of Swiss chocolate and some Yorkshire tea!