By Paul Casciato
LONDON (Reuters) - London 2012 may forever change the image of the northern English county of Yorkshire from a rural idyll long past the glory of its Industrial Revolution heyday into an Olympic field of gold.
Athletes from the county, affectionately lampooned in Monty Python's film "Meaning of Life" as the "third world" and cast as the gritty home to unemployed steelworkers in films such as the "Full Monty" have stood such stereotypes on their heads.
The five gold medals won by the likes of athlete Jessica Ennis, put Team Yorkshire, if it were counted as a separate entity, in the Olympic top 11, equal with Australia and ahead of nations such as Canada, world football champions Spain and next Olympic host Brazil.
Michael Palin, a Yorkshireman and star of the Python film that gained global accolades, pokes fun at the outlandish image of deprived Yorkshire by playing an unemployed Catholic millworker unable to support his enormous family.
Palin said his home county, where residents are known for their dry humour, taciturn moods and Viking ancestry, had a lot to be proud of from heptathlete Ennis to London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, who grew up in Yorkshire.
"Coming from Sheffield, I'm hugely proud of Jessica Ennis. And the (rock group) Arctic Monkeys. And Seb Coe for that matter," he told Reuters.
Despite the depiction by Palin of a childhood in the famous "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch in which growing up in a shoebox is considered a luxury, the reality according to the Yorkshire-born Lord Mayor of London David Wootton is very different.
"Yorkshire is truly the home of champions - both in sport and in business," Wootton told Reuters on Wednesday.
Wootton shares his high school alma mater with Alistair and Jonny Brownlee who won gold and bronze in the triathlon on Tuesday and said the London impression of the flat-capped, flinty-eyed, stubborn Yorkshireman is true in only one respect.
"Yorkshire people are quite good at doing things on their own and sometimes that makes people think you're stubborn," he told Reuters.
"To get a gold medal you have to be rather stubborn."
BROODING LANDSCAPES, DALES AND MOORS
Wootton said the brooding landscape of hills, dales and moorland described by Emily Bronte in "Wuthering Heights", may sound a perfect setting for the gruelling training of the Brownlees or cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, but that most of the county's medal winners came from industrial towns.
Yorkshire Post sports reporter Nick Westby, in London for the Olympics, told Reuters that the same work ethic which turned the county into a 19th century coal-mining and manufacturing powerhouse are the backbone of a mind-set that wins medals.
"They're people who put a shift in at the coal face," Westby told Reuters. "And we've got another one to come tomorrow with (women's boxer) Nicola Adams," he said.
Renowned in Britain and parts of the Commonwealth for its doughty cricketers such as Geoffrey Boycott, the county also excels in the tough sport of fell-running where participants scramble up and down hills and mountains often in harsh weather.
One anecdote about the Brownlees, delighting Yorkshire folk who prize understated confidence, has Alistair or his brother out fell-running and stopping to chat with an old school friend as if he had all the time in the world.
Then a group of runners tears past and without batting an eye Brownlee says "Sorry I've got to go, I'm in a race".
"Now that's very Yorkshire," said Sue Kerr, who was born and grew up in Yorkshire.
The 69-year-old grandmother told Reuters that people from the county play on the stereotype for laughs and that humour and deep-seated rivalries are still mainstays of life in an area of the country, where memories run deep.
It may be more than 500 years since the Plantagenet houses of York and Lancaster fought each other for the English throne, but Kerr said Yorkshiremen would band together in any effort to beat Lancashire no matter what the competition.
She said that rather than be embarrassed by their humble beginnings, people from Yorkshire take pride in the effort to achieve, particularly if it's from the bottom rung of the ladder.
"People aren't really ashamed of it in any way at all because they get there in the end, even if they were born in a shoe box."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)