David Parkin on unsung heroes of business and a Gazza own goal

UNSUNG heroes.

It’s a strange phrase.

I’ve always loved unearthing the unsung heroes of business.

You know, the entrepreneurs who have created something special but also wanted to put something back.

But by highlighting their achievements doesn’t that mean that they are no longer unsung?

That might be the case but many still remain relatively unrecognised.

The Yorkshire Post produced a supplement on Yorkshire Day last week listing the “great and good” of the county.

Leafing through it I was left feeling pretty uninspired.

All of them, every one, had letters either before or after their name.

No hidden gems there then.

More like a quick Google of Yorkshire recipients of honours.

I could write you a list as long as your arm of people around the county, many in the business world, who deserve honours.

And then I’d have a pretty substantial wager that none of them will ever get them.

Because of the archaic approach that those civil servants who have done their time always get honours added to politicians lavishing honours on their lackeys it means that when it comes to business there are not many gongs left to go round.

And it doesn’t help that the people who advise on honours lack insight and imagination.

It all conspires to mean that the people who really do deserve public recognition often don’t get it.

When I was at TheBusinessDesk.com we launched the Business Masters Awards to celebrate business success.

It included the ventures who had survived the start-up phase to reach their third year in business.

Having experienced it I often think it very similar to the footage in David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II where baby iguanas are trying to evade hordes of racer snakes in their quest for survival.

Then there were the firms who were thriving despite having to overcome gritty challenges.

And then there were the Business Masters Ambassadors.

We honoured Mike Firth, a no-nonsense entrepreneur who has faced plenty of challenges in business but has achieved much, not least creating and delivering the Yorkshire International Business Convention which brought the likes of Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and George HW Bush to Yorkshire to speak to a huge business audience.

Another winner was Colin Graves, the founder of convenience store chain Costcutter who is now the most powerful man in English cricket as chairman of the ECB.

And then there is the phenomenon that is Keith Loudon.

It is certainly not unfair to describe Keith as a veteran Leeds stockbroker given that he is well into his 80s and still working at Redmayne-Bentley.

And it would be amiss to describe him as an unsung hero given he is a former Lord Mayor of Leeds and has been awarded an OBE and an honorary doctorate by Leeds Beckett University.

But at a time when he could easily rest on his laurels, Keith is tackling a massive challenge for a cause which is close to his heart.

He has pledged to walk one million steps in support of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

In typical understated Yorkshire style, Keith describes his challenge as “a long way”.

Keith said: “Medical research has made fantastically successful progress in areas such as heart disease and cancer. In comparison little has so far been spent on research into Alzheimer’s – we are not even sure of the exact causes of the disease, never mind a cure. One in five people over 65 will be affected by Alzheimer’s and for each one of those there is a family who are also affected.”

He hopes to complete his challenge, which he started in May, before the end of this year.

“This is a cause close to my heart as I have first-hand experience of supporting a loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. We must fight and see that future generations do not suffer from this situation.”

Keith’s wife Betty has Alzheimer’s and he has been her principal carer for several years.

Sadly most of us, at some stage, will either have to cope with the disease as a sufferer or a carer.

“Alzheimer’s is a physical disease which attacks the brain. It’s like parts of the brain close down one at a time. It may start with loss of short-term memory and forgetting where ‘things’ are left. If the situation continues the person may not know where they are or recognise who are near and dear to them. They may have delusions and fears. At the moment there is no cure or significant way to delay the onset. An eminent medical expert said it affects both the person with dementia and carer. Ultimately the parts of the brain that keep our bodies alive and functioning close down,” said Keith.

I know, from first hand experience, how Keith has offered advice to other families coping with the disease.

He has been a longtime reader of this blog but if I thought giving him an award would get him onside then I was wrong.

“More pictures and a bit shorter,” was the reply to one blog.

And he replied to another, where I mentioned the tramp who plays a penny whistle in City Square in Leeds, with the words: “You are getting back on form. You deserve a silver penny whistle to be blown at the other side of City Square, or perhaps you should blow your own trumpet.”

All I can say is I’m glad he likes me.

You can support Keith in his fundraising at his Just Giving page:


You can also find out more about Keith’s chosen charity, Alzheimer’s Research at:



FOR those who believe I spend my life lunching and lounging on yachts – and all the time in between playing golf – I have news for you.

I played only my second game of golf of 2018 this week.

And I paid for it.

Having successfully bid for a round of golf at a charity auction run by Leeds digital agency twentysix, I joined the firm’s managing director Ryan Scott and finance director Rob Jobbins for 18 holes at Scarcroft Golf Club in Leeds.

Our foursome was completed by Simon Weaver, the manager of Harrogate Town AFC, which has just embarked on its first season in the National League, which is the one below the Football League.

All three of my fellow players were great company and over a beer after the game the talk turned to football and I recounted one of the stories Guy Mowbray, the BBC football commentator, had told when he won the Lord’s Taverners Balloon Debate speaking about Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne.

I was somewhat proud of being able to drop the names of the BBC’s leading commentator and one of our greatest players into conversation.

“I played against Gazza once,” said Simon, recounting his experience of lining up against the larger than life Geordie when he was nearing the end of his career and played four games for Boston United.

I decided not to bother telling my story about my best five-a-side goal.

Have a great weekend.

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