THE fact that Tullie House Museum tried to play the geography card to “keep the £2 million bronze relic Roman helmet in Cumbria” should have been ridiculed from the start. But no, the media went along with it.
Cumbria, as we were all told in 1974 when it was created by the Conservative government as part of its disastrous local government reorganisation, was purely an administrative area and not an attempt to roll away 2,000 years of history.
The helmet was found, by a student from the North East of England, on farmland near Crosby Garrett, near Kirkby Stephen, which is in Westmorland.
Tullie House Museum is in Cumberland. So how can it get away with playing the “keep it local” card? It is like the British Museum trying to keep the Elgin Marbles because London is in the European Union, so hard luck Athens.
The answer is that the media have forgotten that the traditional counties still exist, on opposite sides of the Orton Scar, with a great big mountain range between them. Cumberland looks to Newcastle for its soul mates. Westmorland looks to Lancaster, Preston, Blackpool and the rest of Lancashire.
So there is no foundation for the helmet going to Carlisle. And the buyer of the helmet needs pay no attention to the emotional blackmail Tullie House is still trying to apply even now to be able to show it.
Even Radio Cumbria, the very name and existence of which is part of the attempt to re-write history, tried to point out this anomaly to a Tullie House spokesman. But to no avail. The spokesman didn’t even seem to understand the question.
There are so many officials, politicians and bureaucrats who have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth of Cumbria, mainly to play the game of grabbing funds from the European Union regional policy, that they don’t even know there are two distinct counties.
If the helmet belongs anywhere it is probably in the Museum of Lakeland Life in Kendal.
But that seems unlikely, unless the anonymous purchaser was a Westmerian who actually understand history and intends to put it on public show in the county to which it really belongs.