THEY refused to go home. More than 10,000 remained to say a tuneful farewell to Royal Ascot at York at the final communal singing. STEVE CARROLL was with them.

TO the sound of the band, they swayed.

Whether that was a result of the catchy tune, the scorching sunlight or a day of heavy partying is anyone's guess.

But, from the first notes of Rule Britannia, it was a final act that everyone was determined to enjoy.

This time, unlike the rest of the week, the racecourse had opened the Ebor Stand to all. They flocked in their thousands to wave Royal Ascot at York a fond farewell.

The Ebor had been home to the region's great and good. Now they all mixed together in a spirit of solidarity.

Belting out the classics, the voices climbed ever higher as Happy Wanderer, My Old Man and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot were played impeccably by the band of the Irish Guards. When the first bars of We'll Meet Again struck up, there was the hope that this just might be the case - that perhaps we would all reconvene in 12 months time to revel in another five days of top hats, top horses and top Yorkshire hospitality. But to the present, and the communal singing - a Royal Ascot tradition - was something the predominantly local crowd on Saturday really took to their hearts.

Who was to say that Yorkers could not compete with the Ascot set? If their voices were anything to go by, they did the city proud.

It had been a week when the dullest part of the event had been the overcast conditions overhead, but fate smiled on Knavesmire during the singing as the baking conditions and the smiles etched on the faces of those who remained told its own story of what a success York had seen.

You can keep the po-faced, Frobisher can stay at home. As the Union Flags were waved, the packed stands showed those who had not travelled north just what they had been missing.

The biggest cheers were reserved for the favourites, songs sung with gusto by an audience which did not want a fantastic day to end.

But end it did, the final bars of Land Of Hope and Glory faded away, and we left knowing we had been part of something very special.

Updated: 10:34 Monday, June 20, 2005