Duggie Brown: My Yorkshire

DUGGIE Brown started in showbiz at the Armthorpe Working Men’s Club and was part of the original line-up for television’s The Comedians. He’s now rehearsing for a straight role as the Rev Patrick Brontë.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

I think I’d have been about five or six years old and it was in Bradford where one of my aunties, Aunty Myrtle, had a pub. I was absolutely fascinated by the way the dray horses walked and turned. Even more wondrous was their ability to back the cart into the pub yard. It was interesting to hear as well the way that “Bradford” was pronounced. Bradfordians always put a “t” in the middle instead of the “d”, and it’s only people from outside who use the middle “d”. Odd, that.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

They say that home is where the heart is, and while I am Rotherham-born, and very proud of it, the missus and I now live in Tickhill. I’m away such a lot that Jackie hires in a gardener to do the beds and borders, but I mow the lawn. I love doing that. It’s not a huge patch, just a nice-sized garden, but I can go up and down, up and down, and it clears the brain and I leave all the stress behind. I’m also very fond of Doncaster Racecourse (more grass).

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What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

I’m a keen golfer, so a few rounds at Fulford would be bliss. I’ve played there many, many times, and I always remember one occasion when I was in a charity game, with (among others) Sir Henry Cooper, Jimmy Hill, and the Australian Peter Senior. Peter brought with him his famous long putter and we all wondered at it, and I said to Jimmy something like, “Have you got anything to rival that, Jim?” and he pointed at his chin and said “this’ll equal that any day of the week”.

Do you have a favourite day out?

Plenty. I’m a keen cyclist, so I get all over the place, and one thing that interests me is all the RAF bases we have in Yorkshire – and in Lincolnshire. I’ve been known to cross the border and go to RAF Scampton, where the little local churchyard has so many of the memorials to very brave lads. But then I like the ride along Royd’s Hill up into Dinnington, and Vernon Road and Broom Road near where I grew up, and I have memories of the farm that used to be there. I’m just into my 70s now. I’ve got to that lovely stage when to “stop and stare” is hugely enjoyable.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

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Seb Coe. Now a peer of the realm, no less. I am a great admirer of people who set themselves goals, and then go out and fully achieve them. Seb was not only a remarkable athlete, but is also now a politician, and one of the organisers of next year’s Olympics and I know that he won’t let us down. If he could find a little time in his busy schedule to meet up for lunch, there are dozens of questions I want to ask him.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

The late and much-missed Ian Carmichael, who was born in Hull. I loved him from the moment I first saw him in I’m All Right Jack, the perfect foil to Peter Sellers. Mr Carmichael was a hugely gifted performer, smooth, urbane, and with a perfect sense of timing. I don’t think that he ever gave a bad performance and he was Yorkshire to the core.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

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Thyborough Golf Club because it’s right there and you don’t expect it to be. Sadly, I am not a member because of my work schedules, but I’ve had many a happy round there. But then there’s Brodsworth Hall which I love and Tickhill duck pond and so many other places to discover.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The people, naturally. They know how to have a laugh and enjoy themselves but they also appreciate value for money. When they give you their word, the deal is sealed and done. I loved that line from Roy Hattersley a few years ago that “you should never ask a man if he is from Yorkshire, because if he is, he will undoubtedly tell you, and if he isn’t, why bother to humiliate him?” That sums us all up.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

I don’t have a season ticket any more, but I also look in the paper to see how my three teams are doing – Rotherham, Doncaster and Leeds – and I watch as much golf as I can, and always look at the results. I can remember when Charlie Williams played for Donnie Rovers and there was one game where there was the opportunity to go up a league… it was the last shot of the match, the key one. And it was missed. Deliberately – because the Rovers couldn’t afford to be promoted and play with the bigger boys.

Do you have a favourite pub?

We are very fond of the King Billy, at Oldcoates, which is nice and handy for us, and were they do a great food deal between 4pm and 6.30pm. The team there look after us well, and we’ve never had a bad meal. So hats off to Rachel, Alan and Jamie.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

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Taylor’s of Tickhill which is one of the best grocery shops in the county to my mind. I remember going in there after we’d been in the town for, oh, over a decade, and the big boss came out of the back and said “Hello, Duggie, are you working somewhere nearby?” and I had to tell him “I’ve lived here 10 years now!” Shows you how long it is before you are fully accepted in a Yorkshire town, eh? I remember one very bad winter, the roads were nearly impassable and I was coming back from Doncaster. There was a blackout, thick snow and it took ages. And I rounded the corner into Tickhill and Taylor’s window was all lit up, very Christmassy, lots of decorations. They had their own generator. It fair cheered my heart up!

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

The admirable Dickie Bird. A one-off, unique. Look how far he’s come from his very humble beginnings. We’ve been on the same speaking platform on many an occasion, and he never fails to make me chuckle. The stories about Dickie are legion. And nearly all true.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Not half. I’ve never really warmed to south of Watford. I remember being on a TV programme once where we were discussing the merits of Yorkshire and living up here and with me were Brian Glover and Michael Parkinson. Brian and I were in a studio up here and Parkie was in London, and raving about the glories of the county. And then I thought “Hang on, where does he live now?” and I asked him. His reply was “Henley on Thames”, and I thought, fair dos, but how can a man who lives in posher than posh Henley still claim to be passionate about Yorkshire?” Something to ponder, eh?

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

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Ashley Jackson, one of the best instinctive painters that we have. I’ve been on many a cruise where Ashley and I have been part of the “attractions”, and I’ve never ceased to wonder at his style and creativity.

* Duggie Brown plays Rev Patrick Brontë in Northern Broadsides’ production of We Are Three Sisters from next month.