Gerard Dugdill is the Campaign Manager of the British Counties Campaign, which seeks to restore official recognition for the 92 traditional British Counties
Imagine if your name was changed against your will. John Smith became John Smith-&-Jones, because you lived next door to Mr Jones. Dorothy Black became Dorothy Grey and then Dorothy White.
Smith laughed, then protested. He tried a variety of brush off tactics until, with deepening resentment, he tried desperately to stop the avalanche of references to Mr Smith-&-Jones by ripping up all mail and returning to senders in tiny pieces. To no avail. The letters kept coming…
In 1974, on April Fool’s Day, certain citizens of, for example, ancient Lancashire found themselves in Greater Manchester, Yorkshire in Lancashire, Hampshire in Dorset, Northumberland and Durham in Tyne & Wear.
In Scotland, Glaswegians have shifted from Lanarkshire to Strathclyde, then sort of back to Glasgow. Men of Stirlingshire and Perthshire have gone to Central and back. Men of Roxburghshire have disappeared into Borders.
In Wales – or England? – folk of Newport went from Monmouthshire to Gwent, then in 1996, to a beyond bizarre mix of Newport, Monmouthshire, and a version of Gwent simultaneously killed off and brought back.
Poor Wales, defenceless beyond repair. Only Wikipedia, presumably upon instruction, can officiously carry the disingenuous spirit of our legal, accounting, and insolvency, quack-speak-ridden times:
“Monmouthshire (Welsh: Sir Fynwy) is a principal area with the style of ‘county’ in South East Wales.”
All the while of course, when you complained, the letter writers – the Land Registry, say – insisted that your name hadn’t really changed, but only for “administrative” purposes. You are perfectly entitled to refer to your previous name, Ms White, even though everybody who matters now calls you just that, save the odd annoying reference to Ms Grey still slipping through.
Those “arrogant officials” have long since decided. Who did they consult? Whose wishes did they comply with?
The indignation of years of bullying, indifference, wasted money, identity denial, identity crisis, and confusion has prompted an online petition from Pamela Moorhouse.
“It needs to be mandatory for all councils to tell everyone about the historic counties, tell how the Heath Government in 1974 removed and replaced them with the present historic nonsense names, and ignored all objections.
“Why, when being forced into Humberside, were we told ‘We’ve come to get rid of your traditional areas’ if it was all admin only? The first Government statements at the time of the change were ‘That’s it! All the traditional areas have now gone! There are none left anywhere anymore!’ Does anyone else remember?
“Nobody wanted their history changing, so they ‘pushed objectors away’, and now lie to everyone, saying that the new counties have always existed.
“Ours does it by implication. ‘Would you like to know about people who lived in 50s North East Lincolnshire?’, knowing quite well that NEL wasn’t created till 1996, introduced by our then MP Austin Mitchell, carefully as everyone in Grimsby wanted historic Lincolnshire back, after getting rid of Humberside, but the council didn’t want us back in Lincs, so suggested NEL as a compromise.
“So if it’s the people’s choice, the new counties will remain and valuable history will be lost forever, as millions are currently in ignorance about the events of 74, confirmed by people’s memories in our smart survey results.
“Can these views be published so everyone knows about 74, and the new councils keeping an eye on us for 20 years so we didn’t sneak back to the old counties? Or at least part of them?
“But we must have full education, as millions have never heard of the traditional counties.”
A Government White Paper next month will repeortedly address these grievances. Please do sign the petition.