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In praise of Keighley

Posted on 17 February 2009 | 2:02pm

A friend up
north tells me that one of the local papers in my home town of Keighley, Yorkshire, has
a report I ought to know about. It says that ‘Politicians and pop stars,
academics and business chiefs are being challenged to say why they love the town where they grew up.’

I am listed with Bafta winning film-maker Simon Beaufoy, recently honoured for
best screenplay for the fabulous Slumdog Millionaire and former Labour Cabinet
heavyweight Denis Healey as being invited to contribute to a new website
championing Keighley.

It says that ‘As Keighlians who have made their mark globally, they can now
help stamp world-wide their town of origin. The site ­ is
the brainchild of the Keighley Town Centre Association, the business-led
organisation which already has more than 200 members both in the public and private sectors.’

It goes on to say that they are hoping local MP Ann Cryer will approach me.

But now that I’m all internet savvy (ish) they don’t need to. I can put my
words on here, put on a link to and away we go. So those who
have no interest in Keighley and its role in my life, cheerio. Those who might,
here is my message for

‘I hear from the local
media that you were hoping Ann Cryer could approach me to ask me to support the
love keighley initiative. I am happy to support it without any reservation and
without any intervention from Ann.

I was born in Keighley and spent the first eleven
years of my life there, first in Oakworth, later in Keighley itself. My Dad,
Donald, was a vet, part of the Campbell, Crabtree and Green practice in
Devonshire Street, opposite the swimming baths. Sadly he had a terrible
accident involving a pig when I was young and eventually he decided to leave
private practice and join the Ministry of Agriculture. I was eleven when we
moved away to Leicester. Had it not been for the accident, I expect we would
have stayed in Keighley for the rest of my upbringing, possibly the rest of our
lives. My parents, though Scots, often said the Keighley years were the
happiest of their lives.

I have many fond memories of the town and the surrounding villages and
countryside where I often went with my Dad on his rounds. When he died four
years ago, many of the mourners at his funeral came from the Keighley area. I
have no family there now but get asked back regularly. In recent times I have
done fundraisers for the Keighley Labour Party and also SportKeighley. The
Labour Party event enabled me to renew a friendship with my best friend from
Utley primary school, John Bailey. I was honoured to be asked to be the guest
speaker at the Keighley Show last year (my Dad was once President) and saddened
when it was called off because of the weather. Ann Cryer, who in my view has
been a terrific MP, has asked me to do this year instead and I will be
delighted to do so, and bring my Mum with me.

Most of my visits north these days are to Burnley to see my football team, but
I also still have a soft spot for Keighley’s rugby league team. When I was
growing up, my ambitions were to play football for Burnley and Scotland,
cricket for Yorkshire and England and rugby league for Keighley and Great
. Sadly, none of these ambitions were fulfilled but hours spent
imagining they might be helped contribute to a happy childhood.

We are nothing without our family and our background and though circumstances
forced us to leave Keighley when I was still growing up, I am very proud to see
it recorded in my passport as my place of birth, and grateful for what it gave
me in the first eleven years of my life. Good luck to the town and to your
initiative celebrating it.’

  • Alina Palimaru

    Alastair, your loyalty is mind-blowing and highly commendable! I renew my calls for Oxford to take the word “loyalty” out of the dictionary and place your picture there instead. Then, they should include in their explanation an exhaustive list of all the people/things/activities/places to which you have been loyal for decades! As they say, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. You’re very wise! Keighley is lucky to be able to associate itself with you!


  • Ben Austwick

    Ah Keighley is a nice place! So is everywhere in Yorkshire, I miss is greatly.

  • Marcus Dillistone

    But you were close weren’t you Alastair – cricket for Scotland, football for Yorkshire, and rugby league for Burnley.

  • Hallymk1

    It’s interesting to me that as I grow older, and use more and more technology to connect beyond my usual networks, I return more to my identity [in-part] as a Brummie. I am more involved in voluntay work there, and use social media to try to effectchange there.

    I wonder whether we just have more opportunity to re-connect now, or whether there is something in our sense of self that is nostalgic for our [collective] past?

    BTW you missed out the Timmy Taylor Brewery! Their Best and Mild are to-die for!

    Shame you left the “terrible accident involving a pig” anecdote hanging…

  • Caroline Hett

    That little write-up is very nice. But it’s all about you. There is nothing in it about Keighley. I have a feeling they wanted you to talk about the place.

  • Ann Cryer

    Dear Alistair Ann says thank you for your kind comments and can i take it you and family will be attending/doing Keighley Show ?

    Best Regards on behalf of AC.

  • Mark Martin

    Keighley is a fine old place. I remember years ago travelling up there to see Batley RL play Keighley RL in the years before it was all Americanised and was Bulldogs versus Cougars. I was over the moon that it still had trolley buses.

  • Rob Atkins

    Who cares ?

  • Wyrdtimes

    Football for Scotland? There are so many takes on that. But the main was is that you’re English me old chum.

  • jamesb

    I liked your post on Keighley and yet it’s a shame isn’t it that the ‘great’ and the ‘good’ tend to leave their home towns in order to become ‘great’ and ‘good’ (I’m originally from Colne, btw, and a BFC fan, tho only occasionally seen as great by my kids on fish n’ chip night). London, particularly, is a gravitational well when it comes to talent.