OUR neighbours, Yorkshire, have their ‘Tykes’ and we have the Lincolnshire Yellow Bellies. Readers will know that I remain a die-hard Tyke and I am proud of ‘God’s Own County’. In a way I rather like the DN Doncaster post code in our addresses which is used right across Northern Lincolnshire. Sometimes I wonder how such a very large county like Lincolnshire has never been able to muster a County Cricket team when its catchment area stretches from the Humber to The Wash. It does have one similarity to Yorkshire in that it was once also divided into its ‘ridings’.
Well, enough of that, for there is no doubt that Lincolnshire can boast some worthy heritage. From the top of Boston Stump you can see the birthplaces of some of the world’s greatest explorers - Matthew Flinders, George Bass, Sir Joseph Banks and Sir John Franklin. They took Lincolnshire names to many a foreign soil. And this wonderful county also gave us Alfred Tennyson and Grantham’s ‘IronLady’, Margaret Thatcher. The renowned Isaac Newton who came from Woolsthorpe was himself educated at Grantham, nor should we forget that those brave pioneers, The Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Lincolnshire in 1607 in search of religious freedom.
The philosophical nature of the old Lincolnshire mind has, not surprisingly, thrown up a hotchpotch of theories in regard to the origin of the term ‘Yellow Bellies’. There are those who suggest it may have come from the fact that Lincolnshire Regiment wore a yellow waistcoated uniform. Then others think it may be associated with the yellow colour of the County’s Victorian stage coaches.
Time was when the ague, so common in the damp and wet wastes of the county, used to leave its victims with yellow skins. The wolds sheep trailed their bellies in yellow clay and even this fact may have some connection with the term.
Folklore recounts that if Lincolnshire folk put a shilling on their bellies on going to bed and slept flat on their backs, then the ‘bob’ would have turned into a golden sovereign. Well, many a Yorkshireman can tell a tale but not as far fetched as that one! Of course many a Lincolnshire family used to keep a pig, and after the killing the curing bacon sides turned yellow. Some reckoned that some locals ate so much bacon that they themselves turned yellow.
One theory relates to the low-lying district of Elloe, near Holbeach, which in its Saxon Wapentake was known as ‘Ye Elloe Bellie’. Whatever the origin of the title it is still regarded with humour and affection and is certainly never thought of as meaning timid or frightened. However, it does not hang in the atmosphere quite like it did but I for one hope it never fades away.
Next week in Part 35 - Pride in the Job.