Parky… From Pit Village to Saturday Night TV Star

From a young child growing up in a Yorkshire Pit Village, to Newspaper apprentice to Saturday night TV star, Parky (Sir Michael Parkinson) enchanted the audience at the Henley Literary Festival with stories and anecdotes of his remarkable journey interspersed with clips from his legendary Saturday night show.

Interviewed by his son, Mike Parkinson, Sir Michael told stories about his young journalist days when he used to go out and report on a bike  wearing a Fedora hat (with elastic on!) and after finally getting his bi-line (name above a story) he made a bit of a cock-up (literally!).  The article The Greatest Wedding in Barnsley, he wrote, “The bride presented the groom with some cufflinks and groom presented the bride with an electric cock!”.  Afterwards the Editor sent round a style guide which said, “In future all clocks, whether electric or not should be called timepieces!”

Parkinson the TV show started in 1971 and was only supposed to be a 10 week summer filler. Over the years Parky has interviewed over 2000 guests, from huge Hollywood stars, to new comedy talent to scientists.  Sir Billy Connolly (who Parky gave him his first TV break) and Dame Edna Everage made the most appearances on the show (15 times).  The success Parky said was due to the “careful booking and chemistry between the guests.”

There were moments of sadness when Sir Michael talked and showed clips of his interviews with the sporting legends; Muhammed Ali and George Best who he got to know well personally.  Mike (Jnr) recalled that “He never let me touch the ball in the garden” and asked by his teacher what he did at the weekend he told them, “I played football with George Best!”   The teacher replied, “Say that again and you’ll be in detention.”

Catherine Bramwell-Booth, granddaughter of the Salvation Army’s Founder, General William Booth was one of Parkinson’s favourite guests.  She was 97 at the time of the interview and was brilliant at taking Sir Michael to task, particularly when he said about him betting on her living until 100.  Parky, said, “She was one very remarkable lady and she died aged 104!”

Asked by a member of the audience about his love of cricket and whether England could win down under and should Ben Stokes go.  He replied, “I don’t think that he will go.  The video was shocking.  It is sad as he is a most gifted player and great entertainer.  I know with George Best, who was like a brother, when he got drunk we knew we had to take home.”

It was a shame that Parky didn’t have more time to tell more stories.  One would have loved to have heard more about his times backstage with his guests including the notorious Rod Hull and Emu.

Having interviewed many legends over the years… we’re sure many will agree he’s now a legend in his own right.


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