Yorkshire Day fitting to say 'goodnight' to Harry Gration, one of region's finest - Christa Ackroyd

I don’t usually celebrate Yorkshire Day. Not because I do not appreciate this fair county of ours but on the basis that if we are from here and we have stayed here, we get to live it every single day. And that makes us the lucky ones.

I suppose I also have certain reservations about anything which puts us in the past, from cloth caps and whippets to Yorkshire puddings and knurr and spell. There is enough stereotyping goes on without adding to it..

I also do not do scenery. I know, I know, we have some of the best in the country. And for most that is what makes Yorkshire so special. But I have too many ants in my pants, too many places to go and people to meet to sit and stare at the view, with one exception – the view when you turn the corner on top of the North York Moors and see for the first time Whitby Abbey high on the cliff tops. But even then that has more to do with reliving childhood memories than the vista. Are we nearly there, dad?

My father would be mortified. All his life he carried a complex camera with half a dozen lenses and a light metre with which to capture images the length and breadth of Yorkshire. He loved a view, did my dad and he would be mortified that at my time of life I haven’t slowed down enough to see what he saw, appreciate what he felt every corner he turned on our Sunday trips in our little green Morris Minor with camera in the glove compartment and a picnic in the boot.

Much missed: Broadcaster Harry Gration was a man of quiet faith who exemplified it by living a life filled with good deeds, says Christa Ackroyd. Picture: Andrew Higgins

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Harry Gration: Lord John Sentamu to preach at his friend's funeral on Yorkshire ...

On Monday, August 1, two of them come will together, which means for me Yorkshire Day will from now on hold a special place in my heart. The funeral of my dear pal Harry Gration will be held fittingly at York Minster. Not because he was just the best example of what it is to be Yorkshire, though he was, but because he was also a quiet man of faith.

Of all the thousands of tributes made since his passing more than a month ago now, it is the words spoken by former Archbishop of York John Sentamu that will live with me and I hope bring comfort to his family as he preaches once again in that most hallowed of ancient monuments reminding us all of what Harry meant to the wider family of Yorkshire.

John Sentamu presided over what is said to be the most important building in Yorkshire for 15 years. Harry was there reporting when he was installed as Archbishop and Primate of all England to the sound of African drums and also conducted the last interview with him when he retired just a few months before Harry’s own retirement from the BBC. The two became firm friends and the Archbishop christened the youngest of Harry’s six children.

So his words on Monday will have special meaning. But it is Archbishop Sentamu’s summing up of Harry the man which I will take with me on this saddest of sad days for those who knew and loved him. Harry was, and I paraphrase the words, not a man to wear his faith on his sleeve, though it was real, but instead to exemplify it by living a life filled with good deeds. Some of you will have been touched by them and by him. As I was.

When I left the BBC some ten years ago now he always kept in touch and we met up regularly. When my husband was seriously ill and fighting for his life in hospital, he quietly came to visit. And when my mum died, he found the time in his busy work schedule to attend her funeral. He didn’t know her well. But he knew me inside out. And he knew I needed him there. And it meant the world to me. That is what being a true friend is, sharing the good times and there were so, so many of them, and the bad. And in doing so making life that much easier to navigate.

Friendships are sacred. Lasting friendships even more so. Harry had a knack of keeping them alive. And so Monday will be incredibly sad for so many. They say funerals are closure, a full stop on a life well lived. But I don’t believe that for a moment. That suggests our story ends and it shouldn’t do. Instead funerals should make us truly grateful for all we have experienced together but also for life itself. And I will always be grateful that Harry and I collided in ours.

And so on Monday I will join so many who will feel the same. York Minster is a big building to fill, though I know it will be filled by those who knew him, those who loved him and the public who were proud to have called him one of our own. Just as he proud to have served them wholeheartedly until the day he died.

He would be so proud that York Minster has been chosen as a place to celebrate his life. But then, as a man of faith, he would not believe it to be the end either. So Harry, until we meet again, what memories we made, what times we shared. And above all what fun we had. Yorkshire will do you proud on Yorkshire Day. Just as you did Yorkshire proud for so long. And so we will smile and say goodnight. But never goodbye.