David Parkin on the genius of Terry Jones, special memories of David Jones and a Monty Python moment at the barbers

FAREWELL then Terry Jones.

The co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died this week at the age of 77.

As his great friend and fellow Monty Python member Michael Palin eloquently observed, Jones was multi-talented, hilarious and a really nice bloke.

Palin added: “Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full.

“He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.”

Not a bad tribute.

Plenty of journalists and photographers I knew who met Terry Jones testified to his genuine warmth, humour and humanity.

In the same way everyone has both their favourite Monty Python sketch or scene from one of their groundbreaking films, they almost certainly have a favourite line, probably uttered, written or directed by Terry Jones.

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy,” from the Life of Brian is likely to be up there, as is Mr Creosote from The Meaning of Life.

It was uttered in that high-pitched voice that Jones adopted for his female characters, apparently inspired by his mother.

He was the most unconvincing female impersonator since Les Dawson’s Ada, but that’s what made it funny. 

Starting with The Goon Show on the BBC in the early 1950s, every generation since has embraced anarchic comedy performers who shared a passion for the completely bonkers.

The Monty Python team made their TV debut 50 years ago and are still making audiences laugh.

They inspired those who came after such as The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents and Little Britain.

Unlike many other British comedy performers they successfully made the leap across the Atlantic and Jones and his madcap pals were credited with inspiring the creators of The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park as well as Saturday Night Live, Mike Myers’ Austin Powers and performers such as Jim Carrey.

I’m not sure whether it was included in his last will and testament, but I can exclusively reveal how Terry Jones wanted to shuffle off this mortal coil – to quote John Cleese from the Dead Parrot sketch.

More than 20 years ago I was working on the business desk of the Cardiff-based Western Mail, Wales’ national newspaper.

One of the news reporters was sent out to interview former Python star Terry Jones who was visiting his native country.

Born in Colwyn Bay in North Wales, Terry Jones had a home near the small market town of Llandiloes in Powys in Mid Wales, an area that used to be known as Montgomeryshire.

In his interview with my then colleague, Sion Barry – who is now the business editor of Media Wales – Terry Jones said he wanted to be buried in a Hamer’s pork pie from his favourite butchers in Llandiloes.

Given Sion has an endearing touch of the absurd to him and is certainly a frustrated comedy writer and performer, I’m not sure whether he encouraged Terry Jones to reveal his dying wish or the former Python just came out with it in the course of the newspaper interview.

But what it does show is that Terry Jones did not confine his madcap creativity to his writing and performing – it ran through his whole life.

And we are all better off for that.

I don’t know whether it is a sign, but one of the racing tips on Radio 4’s Today programme is running in the 1.50pm at Doncaster today.

It’s called Pork Pie.

Better leave the last line to the man himself.



IT is always nice to know that people share my views.

It is rare, but I like it when it happens.

Particularly when I have an opinion of someone as a bloody good bloke – and other people who knew him better than me agree.

I shared a few memories of former Next chief executive and chairman Sir David Jones after his recent death.

It brought some poignant recollections from others who knew him.

Robin Johnson was the Leeds-based but globe trotting international mergers and acquisitions partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

Robin has recently moved to run the global firm’s Chicago office.

He worked with David Jones for many years both at Next and his personal investments – some of which I mentioned in my tribute to him.

Robin told me a few particular memories of David Jones.

“When one of his best friends died in an aircraft crash, he personally took control of the business for the widow and found a safe buyer for it

“For various tax reasons the deal had to be completed in Monaco.

“I and a young associate flew in the night before completion and in the morning I was looking for the associate but couldn’t find her so went off to the pre-closing myself and got everything sorted. The CEO of the buyer flew in that morning and went straight to the closing which was happening at noon.

“At 11.30am the associate turned up with David. I asked her where she had been while I was sorting the documents. Embarrassed, she looked at David and he said sorry she had done such a good job he had invited to her for brunch overlooking the harbour!

“That business got sold for £65m and as far as I know David didn’t take a penny in commission, it all went to the widow.”

Robin also revealed that during the times he spent at Next’s headquarters at Enderby near Leicester, he discovered current Next boss Simon Wolfson is a pub quiz expert and David Jones loved Roy Orbison.

 He also remembered: “I was working late at Enderby on a deal – it had been a long week – and David and his chief financial officer David Keens decided I was too tired to drive home back to Leeds.

“David’s driver drove me home from Leicester to Leeds. My car was at Enderby and my wife asked how I was going to get my car. The next morning the car turned up having been driven to my home by one of David’s team. Unbeknown to me David had gone into my coat pocket and taken the car keys.

Robin agreed with David Jones’ views on corporate governance, which he expanded upon in the final chapter of his autobiography, Next To Me.

“Too many companies box tick . David ensured Next non-executive directors didn’t,” added Robin.

Mark Bates, a business adviser based in North Yorkshire also recalled meeting Sir David Jones.

“I remember him telling me once the best manager of a business is one that leads it. They take time to know their people, encourage them and support them when wrong decisions have been made.

“You were right about his attention span. I presented him with two of my business cards once, one for him and one to pass onto someone he felt should also speak with me. As I gave the cards to him he said thank you and took a couple of paces before stopping and turning to me and with a smile and a wink said “not many people get me to stop” before walking off.”

Former Grant Thornton partner Will Lifford remembers first meeting David Jones in the 1970s.

“I first came across David in 1973-1974; I was a trainee accountant  – we were then called articled clerks – on the audit of Kays Mail Order in Worcester. David was the accountant responsible for the purchase ledger, and I remember thinking at the time how impressive he was, and also how nice he was.

“We next met years later on the London train (when he was at Grattan), and we got talking about the Kays’ days.  He amazed me when he recalled the names of some of the audit team. The way he dealt with his illness over all those years was inspiring.”

Will is keeping busy after retiring from the accountancy world – he is chair of Yorkshire Housing, on the board of the agriculture industry’s levy body and, perhaps most challengingly, is on the board of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which regulates MPs’ pay and expenses.

You need plenty of batteries for your calculator with that job.


IF you were walking past a barbers in North Leeds this month and saw a bizarre sight, can I please apologise. 

It was me.

Rather than just getting my usual trim, I decided to experiment with one of the other services the barbershop offers.

A nose wax.

A couple of minutes later I was sitting in the chair with a cotton bud dunked in green wax sticking out of each nostril.

That was the easy bit.

When the wax dried and the barber yanked the buds out of my nostrils taking most of my nasal hairs with them, it was akin to some medieval torture.

As I stared at myself in the barbershop mirror it reminded me of that image so beloved of comedy shows, possibly like Monty Python, who used to portray mad people as sitting with two pencils up their nose and their pants on their head.

Have a great weekend.

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