David Parkin on losing a legend

FAREWELL then Harry Gration.

THE long-serving BBC presenter died last week at the age of just 71.

The news was greeted with tears by his broadcasting colleagues and total shock by a Yorkshire public who had spent a large part of their lives watching Harry on the telly.

When you see someone that much on the box then it is easy to feel like you know them.

But with Harry we did.

Unlike many others on TV, Harry Gration seemed very much the same man off screen as he was when he was on it.

Likeable, funny, self-deprecating, mickey-taking.

But with a steely determination – whether that was quizzing a politician on the red Look North sofa or riding a tandem with co-presenter Amy Garcia or strapped to weatherman Paul Hudson for a charity challenge for Children In Need or Sport Relief.

It is only 18 months ago that BBC veteran Harry departed the Look North studio stage left after a 42-year career with Auntie.

I’m never sure what qualifies someone to be described as a “legend”.

I suppose over four decades as a thoroughly nice bloke on the telly must qualify.

Mind you, I think becoming a father again at the age of 68 is pretty heroic.

At the time his baby son was born there was much mirth about Harry’s age and how he would cope with a new baby.

He took it all in his stride, said he was looking forward to changing nappies and paid tribute to his wife Helen, 51, and twin 16-year-old boys Harvey and Harrison for their support.

It is desperately sad that his son won’t get to know his father.

Over the years I’ve bumped into Harry at awards ceremonies, business dinners and charity functions.

He often came over for a chat.

My fellow guests were always impressed that such a well known figure from broadcasting took the time to come and say hello.

I was never convinced that he knew who I was, but that didn’t matter.

The important thing was that I, like many others, was fortunate to know him.

You only have to read the tributes to him on social media to realise how many people knew him.

And, much more importantly, liked him.


IN a rather desperate attempt to make sure Harry Gration knew who I was, at the Maggie’s Yorkshire charity ball last year I bid in the auction to play golf with him.

“Harry won’t just play golf with you, he’ll buy you a drink in the bar afterwards and be great company over dinner,” said brilliant auctioneer Richard Smailes.

Looking to encourage further bids, Richard then ad-libbed: “In fact, Harry won’t just do that, he’ll even get in the shower with you!”

I was pondering another bid but put my hand down.

Well, I’ve got a reputation to protect, you know.


I ONCE met Harry at a dinner party hosted by Richard Jackson MBE when he was the High Sheriff of West Yorkshire.

Richard invited some friends from the media to dine with a High Court judge who was visiting Yorkshire.

Conversation bubbled around the table and Harry told us about a 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…’”


FOLLOWING Harry’s retirement, for those who missed seeing him on their TV screen there was still a way to get a Gration fix.

Taking a trip on the number 36 bus which connects Leeds, Harrogate and Ripon.

With leather seats, drinks holders, on-board wi-fi it is a bit like Emirates business class, just with secondhand books rather than vintage champagne.

It boasts recorded announcements by Harry Gration telling passengers what the next stop is and nearby tourist attractions such as Harewood House and Betty’s Tea Rooms.

It would be a lasting tribute if they retain his familiar voice on board.

Harry was very popular with everyone, but particularly with ladies of a certain vintage, as a conversation I overheard once on the number 36 illustrated.

Two mature ladies were sitting together at the front of the top deck.

“Ooh, they’ve got him doing the announcements,” said one woman to her travelling companion.

“Who?” she replied.

“You know, him off the telly, Harry Gration.”

“I thought he was dead.”

“Harry Gration? No, he can’t be, he was presenting Look North last night.”

“Oh, I was thinking of Larry Grayson, that one that used to present The Generation Game.”

Just as I was about to engage with the two ladies about the merits of Isla St Clair over Slack Alice, my stop arrived and I missed the opportunity.


I ALWAYS joked with Harry Gration that he had never forgiven me for beating him in the final of the first ever Lord’s Taverners Yorkshire Balloon Debate.

It is a story I’ve told marginally less than my Arnold Schwarzenegger one, but only just.

Triumphing ahead of not one, but two broadcasting legends (the other one was John Helm the football commentator who has worked at nine World Cups).

Perhaps now can tell the story of what he said when I was announced as the winner of the Balloon Debate following a show of hands by the audience.

I don’t like to brag about the result and I don’t remember the specifics.

But I got 105 votes and he got 28.

As I was presented with a bottle of champagne as a prize Harry walked up to the podium.

Looking magnanimous, he took the microphone and said to the audience: “I’d just like to say a couple of words.”

There was a pause as we waited for the polite platitudes from the man from the BBC.

“F*** off,” said Harry.

It got a bigger laugh than anything I’d said.

But when you are a legend you can do that.


When I observed in this blog that Karen Swainston and her former Barclays colleague Caroline Pullich were the “Cagney and Lacey of regional banking” it went down well – with them.

Apparently they bounded into the Yorkshire Awards and told event host Harry Gration, about my observation.

“If you two are Cagney and Lacey, then he’s Kojak,” said Harry.


I don’t even like lollipops.

Who loves ya, baby.


ANOTHER sudden and very sad loss last week was Rob Adamson.

He was an insolvency and restructuring partner with accountants Armstrong Watson in Leeds.

Rob was both well respected and well liked within the close knit business community in Leeds and will be missed massively.

One of his recent jobs was as joint administrator of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Having spent over two decades at Mazars before joining Armstrong Watson in 2018, I know Rob’s calm and deft approach will have provided support to many business owners who faced financial uncertainty, or in some cases oblivion.

I didn’t know Rob well but always enjoyed chatting to someone I knew was very talented but modest with it.

He’ll be missed.


THANKS to Mike Firth for bringing back happy memories after sending over this photo.

The Yorkshire International Business Convention, which Mike founded and ran for many years, was always a highlight of the year for me.

Where else would you find 1,500 of the biggest movers and shakers in the region and beyond in one place for a day to hear from a host of big names from the worlds of world leadership, politics, diplomacy, entertainment, sport and music?

The photo shows me interviewing former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman outside the convention at the Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate.

I’ve worked out the year must have been 2008.

I knew it was a long time ago, because I still have a fringe.

That was the first YIBC after we had launched TheBusinessDesk.com in November 2007.

My former Yorkshire Post colleague, Greg Wright, is also on the photograph, in the centre, alongside another bloke, who I think was a radio reporter.

OK, it’s not going to replace my photo interviewing Arnold Schwarzenegger as my favourite, but thanks to Mike Firth for sending it over.

I’m told supermodel Elle Macpherson treasures a similar photograph of me interviewing her at the same event.

There are so many people who attended the YIBC that also have fond memories of an annual event which set the standard.

And nothing since has ever come close to replacing it.


THE blog is taking a break next week while I’m on holiday in Menorca.

That’s if I get through a stag do in Brighton unscathed this weekend.

I’m told the coastal town is a free-thinking, bohemian haven for the open-minded.

That’s as may be, but I’m still taking a cagoule.

Have a great weekend.

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