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Parkinson honoured by former employer after death aged 88

Sir Michael Parkinson’s hometown weekly and former employer has dedicated its front page to the journalist after his death aged 88.

The Barnsley Chronicle has remembered the chat show host, who worked at the newspaper early in his career.

Sir Michael, born in Cudworth, near Barnsley, trained on the South Yorkshire Times after leaving school aged 15.

He joined the Chronicle in 1956 after National Service but quit shortly after, following a row with editor Ronnie Yates.

Barnsley Parky

According to an obituary by the paper, the argument concerned “an article promoting Yates’ belief that hanging criminals was a good thing”.

Sir Michael returned to guest edit the Chronicle for a week in 2014.

Recalling the experience, Chronicle editor Andrew Harrod said: “Nothing was too much trouble for a man who had not been enjoying the best of health in the months prior.

“One of his first ports of call that week was to Barnsley Hospice. When he arrived, there was a real buzz of excitement around the place – as if a member of the royal family was paying a visit.

“He didn’t just breeze in to shake a few hands, pose for a quick photo opportunity and leave. He genuinely wanted to learn more about the challenges the hospice faced and if there was anything he could do to help. And after being briefed by the chief executive, he then quietly went on an impromptu tour to meet the residents and staff.

“I walked around with him and vividly recall him entering one room where he politely introduced himself – he certainly didn’t presume people would know who he was – to one resident who clearly didn’t have much time left.

“His chat show host persona took over and he spent a good 10 minutes chatting to the woman, asking her about her life, her family and her experience of being cared for at the hospice.

“As we left the room, she beamed: ‘I can’t believe I’ve just been interviewed by Michael Parkinson… I feel like one of them celebrities. I can die a happy woman now.’

“I don’t mind admitting it was enough to bring a lump to the throat of even this seasoned journalist. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.

“There were other things he did too in that week. He freely gave up his time to film a promotional video for the launch of Barnsley Hospital’s Tiny Hearts Appeal. As you’d expect, he did it all in one take.

“He politely dealt with numerous requests from local TV and radio to talk about why he was back in Barnsley; he accompanied reporters out on stories and met some of our readers.

“He didn’t have to do any of this. And before anyone thinks it, he didn’t charge a penny that week. In fact he insisted on paying all his own expenses.”

After leaving the Chronicle, Sir Michael went on to the Doncaster offfice of the Yorkshire Evening Post, where he met his future wife Mary Henneghan, and the YEP’s sister daily the Yorkshire Post also splashed on his death today.

YP Parky

He subsequently worked for The Guardian, Daily Express, Granada Television and the Sunday Times before getting his big break.

Sir Michael’s chat show ‘Parkinson’ ran on the BBC from 1971 until 1982, then 1988 to 2004. It subsequently aired on ITV until 2007.

Sir Michael, who died on Wednesday, had three sons – Andrew, Nicholas and Michael.

A statement issued by his family said: “After a brief illness, Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family.

“The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”