James Delingpole: The Greatest Living Yorkshireman: could he be fallible?

Share
Related Topics

Sir Michael Parkinson's dad was so wonderful that every day before he went down the pit, come blizzard or hurricane, he'd rescue two drowning toddlers from the village pond, pluck a stranded kitten from out of the village tree, give the village scallywags a firm but fair clip round the ear, then come home briefly to the Parkinson shoebox to help the Labour Party write its manifesto for the new NHS while supervising rehearsals for the colliery brass band.

The Greatest Living Yorkshireman doesn't actually say this in his bestselling Parky: My Autobiography, but I think we can safely take it as read. Parkinson idolised his coalminer father Jack, once crying for a whole hour over a photograph he found two years after the old man's death.

Jack, Parky claims, was a man "full of life and laughter". He was poor but happily so: "He would say: 'If you don't have money, you never miss it.' He didn't care." Every day, Jack would walk three miles to Grimesthorpe Colliery where he'd spend eight hours underground and earn seven shillings a shift. But he wanted better for young Michael, who went to grammar school, got a job on the local newspaper and through hard work, bluff Northern charm and sheer, uncompromising ruddy genius eventually became the greatest chat show host in the land.

But now one of Parky's cousins is telling a different story. If Jack was a saint, claims Michael Tonge, in a pamphlet produced for his relatives, it was very much of the plaster variety. The real Jack, he says, was "bombastic, arrogant, interfering, grumpy, selfish and money-grabbing". And he apparently wasn't even a great miner. "I've spoken to some old miners. They told me he was not a good deputy to work for. They said he was a hateful man... I cannot find anyone who will give him a good name."

Parky is furious. So furious that he has threatened to sue both Tonge and the newspaper that reprinted his allegations, the Barnsley Chronicle. (The very same paper where Michael first honed his journalistic art after leaving school.) Tonge is reportedly defiant: "I'm not worried about legal action... I won't be consulting a solicitor because I haven't got one."

Poor Parky: it surely can't be pleasant for so distinguished a figure to have his version of reality challenged by a redundant glass factory worker. On the other hand, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde on the death of Little Nell, it's the sort of story that requires a heart of stone not to burst out laughing.

Perfect though Parky is in so many diverse ways, it cannot have escaped the notice of even his most ardent fans that the man's self- mythologising tendencies border on the idolatrous. To listen to Parky hold forth sometimes, you would imagine that he was the only journalist ever to have turned a half-way decent sentence; to read him on the art of interviewing celebrities, you'd find it surprising that Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton hadn't yet been executed by firing squad for their temerity in diverging so outrageously from the Master's one true style.

"I am not interviewing war criminals or paedophiles. I'm interviewing people whose only crime is to entertain people," he once thundered when accused of being unduly deferential to his guests. But there are quite a few of us who would like to know a little bit more about our favourite celebrities than is vouchsafed by Parky's "So tell me, Sir Paul McCartney, when exactly did you start being quite so amazing?" interrogation technique.

A journalist's first duty is to the truth. Parky ought surely to have realised that by now. And if he hasn't, maybe that cousin has done him a favour. Calling a spade a spade. It's what Yorkshiremen are supposed to do. So what, exactly is Parky's problem?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week