Emsworth leads the way in marking St George’s Day

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As ever, little old Emsworth did us proud yesterday – St George’s Day.

The attractive and historic fishing village straddling the Hampshire/West Sussex border is fast becoming synonymous with its determination to mark the feast day of England’s patron saint.

Nobody bats an eyelid when the Welsh and Irish in March and the Scots in November celebrate their respective saints’ days.

But for some reason the English, perhaps out of some residual guilt for the days of Empire, have been reticent to mark the day with the same exuberance.

The cross of St George appears to many to have been lost in the Union Flag.

Perhaps there remain uncomfortable associations between the English flag and extreme right-wing groups.

But surely those days have largely gone and we should feel unencumbered enough to celebrate April 23 just like our Celtic cousins. With joy not rancour.

If many places are embarrassed to put the flags out on what is also reputed to have been William Shakespeare’s birthday, then they ought to look at Emsworth’s shining example.

Almost 2,000 people turned out in the town yesterday for the celebrations, bringing much sought-after extra business to the community.

But the event also has another praiseworthy element – commemorating soldiers old and young and the part they have played in shaping the modern world.

The town’s association with the armed forces means the two have become inextricably linked.

The town has taken 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, based just across the Sussex border at Thorney Island, to its heart in the past 30 years. Now it is moving to the edge of Salisbury Plain and it bid Emsworth a fond farewell yesterday. It will be replaced by 16 Regiment Royal Artillery and the link will remain, as will future St George’s Day parades.

But we have to wonder, in an area so steeped in military history and with so many links remaining, why it is only Emsworth which puts out the flags in force on April 23.