Harry Gration was always just himself, and that was more than enough - Christa Ackroyd

Sometimes life has a way of stopping you in your tracks, of reminding you of its fragility.

Friends and colleagues, the late Harry Gration and correspondent Christa Ackroyd.
Friends and colleagues, the late Harry Gration and correspondent Christa Ackroyd.

Of telling you to live each day as if it were your last with no regrets. Last week was such a week.

With the sad, untimely death of Harry Gration I lost more than a former work colleague. I have lost someone whom I could rely on totally.

Someone who knew me inside out, accepted my strengths and my weaknesses and who in knowing him made me a better person. I have lost one of my best friends.

We were on the face of it an unlikely TV couple but we clicked from day one. We got each other.

More importantly we liked each other.

Our friendship wasn’t an act, it was genuine.

To the outside world our TV marriage may have appeared as me the nagging wife, he the henpecked husband, but we were always equals. Never did we have to script an ad lib or plan an interview.

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We just felt it telepathically. It came naturally. So much so we often forget we were broadcasting live on television.

At the saddest of stories we cried together. Yet sometimes we laughed till we cried. As I used to say to him imagine being paid to sit on the sofa all day chatting to your best friend.

Seventeen years ago almost to the day I lost another wonderful man from another sofa in another TV studio. And in another newspaper I also wrote my column.

It was just as impossible to express how I am feeling.

Words are easy, or they should be as a journalist, but not when they are about someone you love.

Richard Whiteley was also more than a co-anchor. He too was a great friend. How strange I was at his house in Portugal with his widow

Kathy when I took the call to say we had lost Harry. But how fitting she was there. She understood. She knows what Harry’s wife and family are going through because she has been there.

And she knows how I am feeling. Which is more than I do. May they be sharing a chilled glass of white wine in that TV studio in the sky. They deserve it.

There is another irony which occurs to me as I write this column. Look North inviting me to rejoin Harry’s former work colleagues on the red sofa after almost a decade would not have been lost on him either. He would have smiled at that. But understood why I couldn’t.

I have spoken to many people who loved Harry this week while I have been abroad and will treasure the reminiscences I shared with them, particularly with Christine Talbot when she said Harry had recently told an audience I was the best journalist he had ever worked with.

That sounds so boastful but it’s not meant to be. I just never knew.

And I will treasure that he said that, just as I treasure his last text messages so full of love and plans for the future. Harry was beginning to enjoy retirement. It takes time. And that was something he sadly didn’t have.

He simply didn’t have long enough to take time for himself and for the family he loved more than anything in the world after a wonderful career. And that makes me sad.

Yet I have to remember that only a few weeks ago he came to my birthday party. Only a few days ago we arranged to have lunch and a glass of wine together.

This week once again we would have slipped into the easy way of laughter, gossip and inconsequential chat that really good friends share.

And I would have left with a hug and a cheery ‘‘see you soon old girl’’ feeling better about the world for having spent time with him.

Because I was no different to the millions of people whose lives he touched. He gave of his time, he gave of his unique sense of humour, he gave of himself completely to everyone he met. And those he didn’t.

Everyone felt they knew Harry and they did.

His popularity was more than his longevity as a broadcaster.

It was more than a shared passion for God’s own county.

The truth is what you saw was what you got. He was Harry off screen and on. And that is a rare gift.

Harry Gration wasn’t slick, he wasn’t rehearsed, he was real. And amid the frippery of television he was completely without ego.

He shared himself openly and wholeheartedly and that was his uniqueness. He spoke to us through that little box in the corner of our living rooms as if the camera wasn’t there.

For almost four decades he found a place in our homes and in our hearts. And he never stopped being amazed at his good fortune.

He would have found the outpouring of love, and yes it was love, overwhelming and unbelievable.

But this week Yorkshire has been his and thoroughly deserved.

I will end with the exact words he wrote to me after a major fundraising event I had hosted for Ukraine .

“I am so, so proud of you”was his last text three days before he died. “Love you H x.”

Love you too Harry.

From the ‘‘old girl’’ who is proud to have sat beside you on a sofa for almost 14 years, but more proud that we remained the best of friends, strong and true to the last.

RIP My Old Friend.

You were just Harry. And trust me that was always enough. More than enough.