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Feather's Miscellany: The Ilkley Moor Tykes

The Romans were in for a big surprise when they came up against the Yorkshire Tykes, as John Waddington-Feather reveals.

In days of yore when Rome did rule
And Caesar’s eagles spanned the Earth,
They made their way to regions cool
To set up camps across the North.

At Olicanum one such base
Was built to keep the Tykes in check,
Now better known, a lovely place,
As Ilkley with its moor and beck.

A health-spa not so long ago
Which Darwin favoured for a cure;
Its watering-holes still on the go
With goodly ales an added lure.

But to my Roman tale of yore
As to their camp a legion trod,
Their eagle standard to the fore,
The symbol of their emperor god.

When suddenly from a roadside cave,
Which stood beside the moorland way,
A cry rang out: “We Tykes are brave!
We’ll beat you Romans any day!”

And scarce believing what he heard,
The Centurion cried: “Halt!” and ordered
Two picked men to sort him out,
And in they went; the clamour

Sounding loud and long – then silence
Till taunting came another yell:
“One Tyke can beat five Romans, two pence
To a pound, and beat them well!”

Aghast, the Centurion sent in twenty
Of his best into the cave;
All hell broke loose again, plenty
Of noise and sword-play brave.

Then utter silence once again,
Till out there crawled a legionnaire,
His shattered helmet sliced in twain –
he looked no longer debonair!

The Guard hand-picked to show a scruffy Tyke
Inside a cave the might of Rome;
Now he looked an utter twit,
A mangled meal the cat brings home.

The Centurion asked him what went wrong:
“I thought I could rely on you.”
The Guardsman gasped: “We’re being strung along –
There isn’t one in there, but two!”

John Waddington-Feather ©

Tyke = a nickname for a Yorkshireman

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