David Parkin on a funny old week

David Parkin on a funny old week

IT’S been a funny old week.

That was one of my Dad’s regular expressions and given he died on Sunday, I think he’d agree.

Some people choose sports people as their heroes, some choose leaders of nations, for me it was my father.

He inspired me to go into journalism and certainly has to take a fair share of the blame for my taste in films, music, books and clothes.

And my sense of humour.

When I was younger and my parents attempted to discuss a future when they weren’t here I would not want to consider it.

Now I have to face up to that reality with my Dad gone.

That’s my parents with me just after I was born.
My girlfriend says I still sleep like that.

At times like this some people try to offer comfort by saying “they were a good age” or had “a good innings”.

But for those left behind the time you had with them was never enough.

Dad had a bleed on the brain five-and-a-half years ago which, very like a stroke, severely affected his ability to speak and walk.

That alone was enough but the doctors told us about a catalogue of other health issues and how he lived so long was testament to his strength and spirit – and unbelievably devoted care from my Mum.

Leslie Charles Parkin, better known as Les, was born in Cardiff before the Second World War (he didn’t like his age being disclosed so I won’t start now) and his brother Jack, who was considerably older, joined the army at the outbreak of the war and was captured by the Germans before Dunkirk.

Jack spent more than five years in prisoner of war camps in Poland and Germany and my Dad remembered that his family spent most of the war not knowing whether his brother was alive or dead.

They eventually received word that he was a prisoner, but it came two days after my Dad’s mum died of cancer.

He left school with few qualifications and got a job aged 15 as an office boy working in the photographic dark rooms of the Western Mail, Wales’ national newspaper.

He joined a Cardiff photographic and press agency as a photographer where he remembers being sent to get some shots of a boozy literary figure in West Wales called Dylan Thomas.

Dad, aged about 18 or 19, spent three days living with the legendary poet at his Boathouse home in Laugharne, sleeping on a mattress in the cupboard under the stairs.

His photographs of the Welsh poet graced the cover of John O’London’s Weekly, a literary magazine which featured regular contributions from writers including Winston Churchill, Arnold Bennett and Somerset Maugham.

The photograph showed Thomas lighting a cigarette, one of his hands was heavily bandaged due to a drunken fall at Browns Hotel in Laugharne.

The experience clearly made an impression on Dad as he named the house he had built when my parents got married and where my sister and I grew up, ‘Dylarne’.

After two years National Service with the Royal Artillery and time working in London, he got a job on a press agency called Raymonds in Derby run by a former Indian Army officer called John Twells and Klaus Jacoby, who had travelled to Britain from his home in Eastern Europe to escape the Nazis.

Dad became chief photographer as Raymonds became one of the biggest regional news agencies in the country and, more importantly, he met and married the agency’s only female reporter, Pat.

He won awards for his news, wedding and portraits photographs and during Derby County’s glory days under Brian Clough, his shots regularly featured on the front and back pages of national newspapers.

When one of the Great Train Robbers, Tom Wisbey, escaped onto the roof of Leicester jail in 1966, Dad was sent up in a helicopter with his camera to get exclusive pictures.

“Suddenly there were armed police everywhere and they had their guns trained on us because, apparently, they thought we might be trying to pluck the prisoner to freedom,” Dad remembered some years ago when paying tribute to his late colleague Mike Kernahan.

“Cool as a cucumber, Mike, who was on the ground covering the story, got to a public phone box, as you did in those days, and told the police: ‘Don’t shoot. He’s one of ours’.”

‘Cloughie’ played a big part in Dad’s life and they became good friends as he covered Derby County’s glory days when the club won league titles under Brian Clough and Dave Mackay and travelled across Europe with the team to cover their matches.

When Brian Clough won the European Cup when he was manager of Nottingham Forest he was allowed to have the cup for one night to get photographs with it.

Cloughie took the cup to a celebration dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Derby and phoned Dad to come and take some photographs.

He was due to go out for dinner with friends so the legendary manager invited them all to join him and ordered champagne to celebrate.

My father’s photo below shows Brian Clough and his wife Barbara with my Mum.

When I was studying English literature at school I remember asking Dad of his memories of spending time with a giant like Dylan Thomas.

He admitted he was too young to appreciate Thomas’s genius and couldn’t remember any significant utterances from the great man.

“But I do remember he had just got back from a trip to America where he had been in Hollywood and been on a film set that he said would be one of the greatest westerns ever made.

“It was called Shane.”

Dad and I watched Shane many times together.

And he reminded me of the main character, played by Alan Ladd: strong and stoic, proud and humble, interested in others and always trying to do the right thing.

A hero indeed.

:::

THE funeral of Ross Pullan was held at Selby Abbey yesterday.

Ross died of a heart attack two weeks ago aged just 60.

Hundreds of people crammed into the 950 year-old abbey to hear an incredibly uplifting, funny, inspiring and sentimental eulogy by entrepreneur Jonny Hick about Ross, for whom the description well loved would be an understatement.

Jonny quoted many of Ross’s friends and family including his old pals from Junior Chamber International days such as Martin Allison, Richard Jackson and Sir Gary Verity.

He also mentioned my small tribute to Ross in this blog a couple of weeks ago.

Several people sent it on to Ross’s wife Joanne and daughter Grace.

I was surprised, but also deeply honoured, that they had used some of my words on the front of the order of service:

“A proud Yorkshireman, who Yorkshire can be very proud of.”

At the end of quite a challenging week it was nice to think that something I wrote had perhaps been some small comfort to a grieving family.

Cheers Ross.

My goodness you’ll be missed by so many.

:::

I WAS banned from somewhere this week.

And no, before you ask, it wasn’t the Ivy.

I was due to attend the Yorkshire Legal Awards last night in Leeds as a guest of a large law firm.

However earlier this week the managing partner of the firm called me and said he was very embarrassed to tell me that when he had submitted his guest list to the event organisers, Barker Brooks, he was told that I was a “competitor” of theirs and would not be welcome.

My reaction was a combination of disbelief and hilarity.

I should probably take this ban as a compliment.

I don’t know anybody from Barker Brooks but a glance at its website suggests it considers itself a large events and publishing business based in Leeds.

Two of its main events are the Yorkshire Legal Awards and the Yorkshire Accountancy Awards.

I’m not sure if I was unwelcome because the company feared I might be looking to steal one of their events.

But believe me, the last thing the world needs is more awards for lawyers and accountants.

The Barker Brooks website also told me that the firm has a team of people with a “wealth of experience covering events, publishing, sales and design” and invites visitors to get to know the team.

Unfortunately there are only two people listed on the page.

Gaye Wright is the operations director of Barker Brooks.

According to the website she is “the walking definition of the term ‘Lynchpin’”.

Given they are a publishing business you might think they would know it is traditionally spelt linchpin.

Then there is chairman Les Charneca, who, “much to the envy of his colleagues, divides his time between Harrogate and Chamonix.

“When he’s not devoting his abundant energy to business matters, he can usually be found snowboarding, mountain biking, racing Ferraris or headbanging along to a disturbing collection of dubious glam metal throwbacks”.

Apparently “Les is a tricky man to sum up”.

I can think of a word.

Have a great weekend.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing such a great tribute to our Dad.

    It would have been a very tough piece to write I am sure – but you summed it up perfectly calling him a hero.

    Reply
  2. David,
    The last time we met you made a comment that has stuck with me. You said ‘everyone has a story to tell’. Well that was certainty the case with your dad. You did a great job in help tell it in this blog and fascinating it was too. Great memories for you too. Best wishes and condolences from Laura and I to you, your mum and sister. Catch up soon.

    Reply

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