#YEP125: Reporting on events that have shaped Leeds’ history

2001: Nelson Mandela addresses the people of Leeds on stage at Millennium Square.
2001: Nelson Mandela addresses the people of Leeds on stage at Millennium Square.
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As the YEP prepares to mark its 125th birthday next month, Paul Robinson looks back at some of the biggest stories covered by the paper.

The Yorkshire Evening Post’s first ever edition promised that the paper’s main business would be “news of all kinds”.

And so it has proved, with the YEP reporting on a succession of massive stories during its 125-year history.

Here’s a reminder of 10 of the events or eras that have made front page news since the paper hit the streets of Leeds back on September 1, 1890:

* Huge numbers of people turned out for the unveiling of the Black Prince statue in City Square in 1903.

The statue of Edward of Woodstock – a royal figure famous for his battles with the French in the 14th century – was commissioned by industrialist Thomas Walter Harding, who described its subject as “the flower of English chivalry”.

* The YEP endeavoured to keep the spirits of its readers up during the First World War by printing letters home from Yorkshiremen embroiled in the conflict.

Private Arthur Hollings, of Leeds, wrote from the Somme to his father: “The honour of being first over the lid belonged to the 10th and 13th platoons of the Pals Battalion. Lt Tom Willey led the 13th platoon with the cry ‘Come on 13, give them hell!’.”

* Crowds thronged the streets on August 19, 1931, as the Graf Zeppelin airship flew over Leeds.

The YEP told how its appearance caused Loiners to “irrevocably lose their reputation for calmness in the stampede that followed news the Graf was over the city”.

* The YEP was with Leeds United every step of the way as they dominated English football under managerial great Don Revie during the 1960s and 1970s. Transformed by Revie from Second Division also-rans, Leeds won two league titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and two European Fairs Cups before ‘The Don’ took the England job in 1974.

* Leeds suffered one of its worst ever disasters in December 1975 when fire ravaged Kirkgate Market.

The blaze caused around £7m of damage and destroyed two-thirds of a landmark building that dated back to 1857.

* Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – the Yorkshire Ripper – butchered 13 women during a reign of terror that began in 1975.

Women were told to stay indoors after dark while men everywhere fell under suspicion until Bradford lorry driver Sutcliffe was caught by chance in Sheffield in 1981.

* The miners’ strike of 1984 and 1985 put Yorkshire at the heart of a titanic struggle between Margaret Thatcher’s government and union leader Arthur Scargill’s pitworkers.

Miners and police clashed on picket lines, with the largest confrontation, at a coke plant outside Sheffield in the summer of 1984, now occupying a notorious place in the history books as the Battle of Orgreave.

* The eyes of the entertainment world repeatedly turned to Leeds during the 1980s as Roundhay Park played host to some of the biggest names in music.

Acts hitting the stage included The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Genesis and Madonna. U2 and Robbie Williams also rocked Roundhay Park in 1997 and 2006 respectively.

* Thousands of well-wishers packed Leeds’s Millennium Square in 2001 to greet former South African leader Nelson Mandela during his first official trip to the north of England.

Speaking as he was awarded the freedom of the city, Mr Mandela said: “Apartheid was seen to diminish the dignity of all humankind.

“The people of the city of Leeds were no exception. We remember them for their outstanding and unstinting support.”

* The death of Leeds-born showbiz legend Jimmy Savile in 2011 drew tributes from across the city and beyond.

A year later, however, the former Top of the Pops host’s reputation lay in tatters following his exposure as one of the UK’s most prolific known sexual predators.