TRIBUTES galore, of course, to Hannah Hauxwell – “First Lady of the Dales” and other lustrous salutes.

If it is understandable that millions took Hannah to their hearts on learning of her harsh life and the fortitude, or rather the quiet dignity, with which she faced it, it is nevertheless extraordinary how she joined the ranks of modern “celebrities”.

I stumbled upon a visit Hannah made to Stokesley. A crush of folk was moving across the open square. “What’s going on there?” I asked. “Hannah Hauxwell is in the middle,” someone said. Less attention was paid – a good deal less I might add – when a Senior Royal came to open a business unit.

Loading article content

It’s taken for granted that Hannah was a Yorkshire woman. Yorkshire makes much of her. And no doubt Hannah never considered herself anything other than “Yorkshire”.

But her dale, Baldersdale, was transferred to County Durham in 1974. Or was it? While proclaiming Hannah as their own, many Yorkshire folk appear to accept that the rejigged local authority boundaries cast Teesdale, with its tributaries including Baldersdale, adrift. Whernside, rather than Teesdale’s Mickle Fell, is now generally stated to be Yorkshire’s highest hill. Arkengarthdale, tributary of Swaledale, has become “Yorkshire’s most northerly dale.”

Of course Teesdale was only ever half Yorkshire – the southern bank. But that gave it distinction. Few rivers are county boundaries for almost their full length, as the Tees was (or is). There was romance in passing from one county to another with every crossing of the Tees. And before locals, who cross and re-cross every day, scoff and tell me they’ve no time for romance, let me say, as a Yorkshire Teessider, that I’ve never lost that frisson of romance on my local crossings – Yarm bridge and its downstream companions.

To all right-minded folk the Tees remains the great boundary river of history. That’s official fact as well, for with the local government changes came assurances that they were for administration only. And yet the Yorkshire identity of the tracts south of the Tees handed to Durham and the shortlived Cleveland county, merely for the purpose of, say, repairing roads or emptying bins, is fading all the time.

While Hannah Hauxwell is held up as a Yorkshire icon, do people born south of the Tees in upper Teesdale since 1974 consider themselves “Yorkshire”? Perhaps in honour of Hannah, if for no other reason, they should. “First Lady of the Dales” means the Yorkshire Dales doesn’t it? And if it was Yorkshire earth that produced Hannah, what a betrayal to surrender it.

LEGAL challenges aside, it looks certain that John Worboys, the so-called black-cab rapist, convicted of sexual assaults on 12 women and believed to have attacked up to 100 more, will be released back into society after spending a mere eight years in jail. But hang on, the protests could bring a possible safeguard. Worboys is to be asked – asked mind you – if he is willing to wear a tag.

While his victims are distraught, and you might be apoplectic, at least it seems terribly British. “Sorry about this old chap… dreadful nuisance of course… but would you mind awf ’lly…” British justice at its best – but few will think so.