Celebrating the people who made North Yorkshire great

A new campaign will shine a light on some of the inspirational people from North Yorkshire’s history who have made the county the special place it is today.

Ursula

Great North Yorkshire Sons and Daughters will draw on carefully preserved artefacts from the county’s archives and local history groups to tell the stories of some of the most incredible characters from our past. With the public invited to nominate the figures who helped shape their communities, 10 life stories will be featured before they are put to a public vote to find the greatest son or daughter.

The first in a series of projects entitled Made in North Yorkshire, the campaign will celebrate the values, qualities and achievements that were born here and that continue to influence the county and the rest of the world today.

First in the limelight is Miss Ursula Lascelles, a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse, born into privilege in Sheriff Hutton in 1890. She tended to injured and dying soldiers from all over the world and kept in touch with survivors until she died aged 102. Enlisted to the British Red Cross Hospital in Swinton Grange, Ursula walked away from home comforts to provide help and companionship to the injured in their darkest hours in Britain and France during the First World War.

In her war autograph books, soldiers described the Red Cross as “an emblem of mercy”. The books contain personal tributes to Ursula, who also kept hundreds of letters from soldiers she cared for. She continued to write to soldiers for most of her life.

An extract from her autograph book from solider F Brennan: “Just a soldier who considers it an honour to be allowed to tender his humble and heartfelt thanks for the warm sympathy and kindly attention shown by a little lady nurse whose smile acts as a tonic and whose heart is in the right place.”

The VAD nurse was a role created by the Red Cross during the First World War due to a shortage of professionally trained nurses. VAD nurses were volunteers who helped care for injured soldiers in military hospitals across the UK and Europe.

After WW1 Ursula returned home to Slingsby where her community work and spirit continued and where she cared for her brother, who was suffering from shellshock after serving in the war.

Margaret Mackinder, Slingsby Local History Group Coordinator, said: “I met Ursula when I moved to the village with my husband in 1978. Ursula had a dominant role in the village, she was a forceful character and highly respected because of that.

“She was a very lively little old lady, probably quite eccentric. Her impact on people in the village was strong. I think she had a great impact on North Yorkshire and she brought a huge contribution to the record of North Yorkshire.” 

Ursula’s impact on the world is clear through the tokens of gratitude from soldiers. One of the most prominent records held is a poppy, which was taken from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and added to Ursula’s autograph book in 1918 by Sergeant Raymond L Piper: “La Signy Farm ‘Somme’, Very Sincerely Yours”.

Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council Richard Flinton said: “It is the people who make the place and our values of resilience, honesty and community spirit were Made in North Yorkshire but exported all over the world through the impact of people like Ursula.

“One of the early Red Cross volunteers, she continued to give of her time to the charity all of her life, no doubt inspiring many others to do likewise. And we still have a thriving volunteer army today running our libraries and responding in emergencies.

“But we are also a place of innovation with global influence – did you know the first glider and artificial hand were made right here?

“We would love the public to get involved with Great North Yorkshire Sons and Daughters, so if there is someone who you feel made a difference to your community then get in touch.”

Nominations can be made to MadeInNorthYorkshire@northyorks.gov.uk

Leader of the council Councillor Carl Les said: “We want this campaign to encourage people to learn more about and celebrate their local history and heritage and to explore what it means to be Made in North Yorkshire. The project will cover the whole of the county, so it’s a great opportunity to discover those unknown characters that share the same community spirit,”

Great North Yorkshire Sons and Daughters will be the first in a series of campaigns under the umbrella of Made in North Yorkshire. Further editions will look at the communities, places, food history and heritage that continue to inspire people to live, work and visit God’s Own Country.

Read Ursula’s story and more about Made in North Yorkshire

This story was published 30 January 2020