David Parkin meets a Judge, a Sheriff and Royston Vasey royalty

I WENT up before a judge this week.

I know what you’re thinking: not before time.

But be fair – I haven’t been in any bother since the tag came off.

So fortunately the long arm of the law didn’t so much mean I had my collar felt as put a friendly arm around my shoulder.

I met The Hon Mr Justice Barling (or Sir Gerald to his friends), a High Court Judge of the Chancery Division, at a dinner at the beautiful home of the new High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, C Richard Jackson MBE, DL (or Jacko to his friends).

The role is a royal appointment for a year and among the responsibilities of the High Sheriff, they must ensure the welfare of visiting High Court Judges, attend on them at Court and offer them hospitality.

Hence the dinner hosted by Richard.

So why was I there?

Well due to join Sir Gerald was The Hon Mr Justice Nicklin (Sir Matthew), one of the youngest High Court Judges (he’s even younger than me) and a media specialist.

So Richard dusted off his Filofax and invited a few media types including me, Harry Gration and an old chum of his from Junior Chamber days, Robert McClements.

Unfortunately Mr Justice Nicklin was called back to London at short notice and so we all gathered for dinner with Mr Justice Barling, a specialist in European law and former President of the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

It’s fair to say that I probably had less in common with him.

But it turned out that Sir Gerald was born in Preston, where I studied in journalism, and, as you might expect of such a figure, was erudite, engaging and utterly charming over a fascinating dinner.

Richard was also able to explain the history and responsibilities that go with his new role.

“I’m almost 1,000 years old!” he declared, telling us that there have been High Sheriffs since medieval times with the original ‘Shire Reeves’ royal officials appointed to enforce the King’s interests in a county, collect revenues and enforce law and order.

Their extensive powers meant they could seize money and land from people but their modern-day equivalents now do the job unpaid and cop for all their own expenses as well.

Apparently Sheriffs are mentioned in 27 of the 63 clauses of Magna Carta of 1215.

Tony Hancock was right – she didn’t die in vain.

Richard Jackson is an entrepreneur whose family business was the Leeds suit manufacturer Centaur Clothes.

He has been involved in many different ventures since selling Centaur, ranging from motoring to medical to property and investment.

He also raised millions and millions of pounds for the Prince’s Trust as its Yorkshire chairman.

Richard and his wife Elaine were wonderful hosts and before dinner I leafed through a book charting Richard’s experiences during the gruelling nine-day East African Safari Classic Rally last year.

He and co-driver Ryan Champion were joint winners of the epic adventure in their classic 1974 Porsche 911 after racing across 2,000 miles of the toughest terrain in Kenya and Tanzania, including getting stuck in some huge mud holes.

Over dinner I chatted to Robert’s wife, Martina McClements, who is an actress.

She told me I might have seen her in the BBC series The League of Gentlemen.

“You know the schoolboy that Herr Lipp buries alive with only a snorkel to breathe through?”

“I played his mother.”

Alles klar.


IT is always said that the UK and US are separated by a common language.

Indeed Jon Sopel’s brilliant book If Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes from Trump’s America turns the spotlight on the stark difference between Britain and America.

Despite that we are probably closer to the US than any other nation (well, until goes to North Korea in search of a Nobel Prize) and our trading links are stronger than ever.

According to Beverley-born Harriet Cross, the British Government’s Consul General to New England, there has never been a better time for Yorkshire businesses to export to the US.

That was the message that she brought to Leeds last week when she spoke at an ExportExchange breakfast event hosted by law firm Clarion.

ExportExchange is a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative aimed at supporting overseas trade in the Leeds City Region supported by the Department for International Trade and the Leeds Enterprise Partnership.

I compered the event, which was attended by fledgling and experienced exporters and featured a panel discussion including Harriet’s colleague Kirsten Chambers, Consul and Head of Trade & Investment at the British Consulate General in New England and two Yorkshire entrepreneurs, Chris Black of Leeds-based jukebox manufacturer Sound Leisure and Mike Pickles of £40m turnover plastic storage box manufacturer Really Useful Products, which is based in Normanton.

Harriet and Kirsten highlighted the many opportunities for UK firms in the States but also some of the pitfalls, one of which is language.

They said firms need to make sure their communications and websites are written with an American audience in mind and Harriet said that some words which we take for granted in Britain just don’t exist in America – such as bespoke.

As you can see from the photograph above, Mike is something of a flamboyant dresser and I said he was the best dressed former accountant I had met.

“I suppose you could call me a creative accountant,” he said with a smile.

I was also able to tell Chris that one of his products had once left me deeply embarrassed.

KPMG has a Sound Leisure jukebox in the coffee bar in the lobby of its Leeds office. I was once waiting for a meeting with managing partner Chris Hearld and some trendy tunes by Oasis and Coldplay were playing on the jukebox.

However by the time Chris turned up it was playing a track by S Club 7 and, given I was the only person in the cafe, he looked at me like I must have chosen that track.

I hadn’t. I actually had not made a choice because I couldn’t find anything by Bucks Fizz.


AS good years go, 1966 wasn’t a bad one for Ray Wilson.

The full-back won the FA Cup with Everton and then was in the England team which won the World Cup later that summer.

Ray died this week at the age of 83. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago.

Born in Derbyshire, he spent most of his club career at Huddersfield Town before moving to Everton.

He lived most of his life in Huddersfield and ran an undertakers business in the town.

I sat next to Ray at a sporting dinner in Leeds some years ago. What struck me was what a quietly spoken and modest man he was given his achievement of being a member of the only England team to ever hold the World Cup aloft.

He told me that he was flattered to be invited to sporting events but that he didn’t like public speaking so only attended as a guest.

In a sport which can often be brash, ego-driven and uncaring, Ray Wilson was a class act both on and off the pitch.


THE Yorkshire Post’s online coverage of the Sunday Times Rich List included a photo gallery of all the people from the region named in the list.

Technology entrepreneur and Sports Internet founder Peter Wilkinson was included but unfortunately the photo that accompanied his listing was of another Peter Wilkinson – the Scarborough-based business figure.

Now that worried me as also in the Rich List was Leeds logistics entrepreneur Steve Parkin and I wondered whether my photo might be used instead of his and that might have cost me a few rounds of drinks.


THE last word from Wednesday’s dinner party at the home of the High Sheriff must go to BBC legend Harry Gration.

Harry was telling us about the recent story featured by BBC Look North on a woman sex addict from Yorkshire who said that five times a day wasn’t enough.

Much thought and discussion was put into how the programme could cover such a story with care and sympathy and without being sensational.

“Then we were recording the links to later items in the programme and I said that perhaps on this occasion I shouldn’t look at the camera and say: ‘Still to come…’”

Have a great weekend.

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