My Yorkshire: Matthew Schellhorn

Matthew Schellhorn reflects on what attracts him to the county of his birth.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory? I was born in Doncaster Royal Infirmary and l was brought up in Hatfield, which is a few miles outside the town. I remember visiting my grandparents, who lived ln Cantley, but I especially remember singing in the choir of the parish church, St Lawrence. Piano lessons started when I was about six, and I remember my teacher very well indeed. She was very rigorous and very structured and she also told me, in later years, that I was the only one of her pupils who stayed on the piano stool when the lesson finished.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? It has to be the area where I grew up in South Yorkshire. l loved – and still love – the flatness of it, and the particular light you get. There’s one stretch that stands out, and it’s the landscape as you approach Sheffield. It seems to rear up, away from the levels, and goes suddenly into all those steep hills and onward to the Peak District.

What's your idea of a perfect day out, or a perfect weekend out, in Yorkshire? To my shame, I hardly know the north of the county at all, and that’s something I should like to rectify. So it’ll be a trip up to Ripon, and then the road to Whitby for a wander around, a lunch of fish and chips (and maybe a pint!) and then on to Scarborough for a wander around the castle.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view? People never believe me, but there is the most magical nature reserve just outside Doncaster, which runs alongside the River Don and the canal. When I was a youngster, we’d take a picnic up there on a fine day.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? The unforgettable Ernie Wise. There are so many happy memories of watching Morecambe and Wise’s TV shows, and particularly their Christmas “specials”. Theirs was such an amazing talent that, when the programmes are repeated, they can still make me laugh joyously and the ratings go through the roof. Timeless fun.

lf you had to name your Yorkshire “hidden gem”, what would it be? In the middle of The Shambles in York you will find the house that used to be home to Margaret Clitherow, who was martyred for her faith in the time of Elizabeth I. There’s a plaque on the wall but so many people seem to just pass on by, which is a shame, as she was a remarkable woman.

lf you could choose somewhere or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? May I have the run of Brodsworth Hall? I have a fascination with old properties and especially the “backstairs areas” where you see the reality, rather than the splendour.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Those of us who see it from within, and the one that is perceived by outsiders. We know that the county in warm and welcoming, humorous and self-effacing – but with a slight reserve towards strangers until they get to know us, and we them. From outside the border, others sometimes see us as very protective and proud of who and what we are.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? The Bay Horse in Hatfield holds a lot of very good memories for me. At one time, they did a very good rabbit pie.

Do you have a favourite food shop? My own regime is that I always have a good meal on the evening before I play anyway, and then limit myself on the day that I do. If the date is in Yorkshire, then I’ll be seeking out a good Indian restaurant.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? We have become far more diverse in what we do, and how we live. Retail outlets have certainly grown a lot, and the arts, creativity and live performance have burgeoned.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? It’s a horribly selfish thing, but I’d move it all slightly closer to London, so that I wouldn’t have to take so much time in getting here to perform.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Beverley-born Cardinal John Fisher, who died for his faith in 1535, on Tower Hill. He had defied Henry VIII and his demands to divorce Katherine of Aragn, and said, very plain, that the King was not the supreme head of the Church of England.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yes. It seems to have fed organically into what I do and what. Love. I think that the openness of so many people has developed my musical tastes.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book / author / artist / CD / performer. It has to be Dame Janet Baker – who was, like me, from Hatfield. She conquered stages all over the world with her performances in lieder and opera.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? Go to any one of our fine religious buildings – Fountains Abbey, Selby Abbey, Beverley Minster, Roche Abbey. Each place will become very special to the visitor.

This article was originally published in The Yorkshire Post on 12 January 2019