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UK News Harry Gration funeral: Hundreds line the streets for funeral of BBC star

09:13  02 august  2022
09:13  02 august  2022 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Hundreds lined the streets for the funeral of veteran TV presenter Harry Gration this morning, after the father-of-six died suddenly on June 24, aged 71.

Family, colleagues and friends including cricket legends Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Dickie Bird have been paying their respects to the late BBC star, with crowds of mourners gathering outside the front of York Minster in York well before the thanksgiving service was due to start at 11.30am.

Former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, former fellow presenter Christa Ackroyd, ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot and the Labour MP for Batley and Spen Kim Leadbeater were also all in attendance today to remember the award-winning broadcaster whose career spanned more than 40 years.

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During the service, Mr Gration's sons paid a moving tribute to their 'incomparable' and 'extraordinary' father.

In a speech, sons Harrison, who sang At The River by Aaron Copeland during the service, and Harry said, 'We are so thankful and so honoured to have dad as part of our lives.'

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Mr Gration's wife Helen, 53, thanked attendees for coming, adding that it meant a lot to the family.

'We know that to everyone Harry was a friend, and we know that we shared him with many. But to us, he was husband, dad, and daddy, and we loved him totally,' she said.

'He hoped he might fill a pew or two at our local church. He worried always that it might conflict with a match on the telly. So, I can sense him assessing today with some embarrassment but also some bashful pride. Modesty was always his go-to place,' she added.

Mr Gration and his third wife Helen welcomed their third child Hamilton in 2019, when he was 68 and she was 50. Mrs Gration said their young son Hammie was 'his last gift'. He also has three children from two previous marriages.

Dr John Sentamu also thanked everybody for attending the service and went on to describe Mr Gration as a 'very dear friend and fellow traveller'.

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The former Archbishop of York said, 'It is very fitting to hold this on Yorkshire Day as he loved Yorkshire.'

He spoke of Mr Gration telling him just a few weeks before his death that he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Israel to 'walk in the footsteps of Jesus'.

'When I learnt about his death, I said: 'Cheeky Gration. He has now, in a greater light, walked in death in the footsteps of Jesus',' said Dr Sentamu today.

Earlier Mrs Gration, Harrison and Harvey followed the coffin, which was carried into the centre of the Minster through the Great West Door, decked with white flowers.

It sat before the altar next to a table covered by Gration's multiple awards and honours and with a floral tribute spelling out 'Dad'.

The 71-year-old was born in Bradford and began his career at the BBC by filing match reports for the BBC - at the same time working as a history teacher in the mid-1970s.

Mr Gration joined the corporation in 1978 and Look North in 1982, standing down from the role in 2020. He also spent a stint working on BBC South Today in the 1990s.

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He covered nine Olympic Games for the BBC and won two Royal Television Society (RTS) awards for his sports documentaries: White Rose In Africa in 1992 and Dickie Bird: A Rare Species In 1997. He won the RTS Best Presenter award twice. He was made an MBE for services to broadcasting in 2013.

Mr Gration's co-presenter Amy Garcia of BBC Yorkshire fought back tears when she announced the sudden death of her colleague while live on air, telling viewers from Wakefield that the whole team at Look North were 'absolutely devastated' by the news.

Fittingly, Ms Garcia alongside fellow BBC Look North presenter Keeley Donovan paid tribute to Mr Gration at the service today.

Ms Garcia told the congregation: 'Harry was the heartbeat of the programme and head of the Look North family for four decades.'

She said: 'Often called Mr Yorkshire, he was passionate about the county and its people.'

Ms Garcia said Look North had received thousands of messages from well-wishers since Gration's death.

She said: 'He was their voice. He was on their side. He was their friend too.'

Batley & Spen MP Kim Leadbeater told the congregation about the support Gration gave her when her sister, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016.

Ms Leadbeater said: 'Mum and dad and I will never forget the kindness and compassion he showed us in our hour of need.'

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Outside the minster, former umpire Bird told the PA news agency Gration was a 'Yorkshire legend' and 'a true friend'.

He said: 'I'm still a bit shocked and stunned.

'What meant most to me was his friendship. He was there at the early part of my career. He always supported my career and he did so much for me.

'It's a very, very sad day. I shall miss him. I have a lump in my throat now.'

At the time of his death, tributes flooded in from other broadcasters including BBC's Clive Myrie, LBC's James O'Brien and Channel 5's Dan Walker who called him a 'true gent' and a 'brilliant' presenter.

LBC's James O'Brien tweeted: 'I don't think any broadcasters build a bond with their audience as strong as the ones built by long serving presenters of regional news.

'They are part of the furniture when you're at home and part of home when you're not. Harry Gration embodied this. Thank you and good night.'

Channel 5's Dan Walker, who used to work at the BBC said: 'Harry would often call to talk and once, I'd been hammered in the press for something, he called with the kindest and most helpful words of encouragement. He cared.

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'He was brilliant to work with, wonderful to watch and just a true gentleman. He will be missed by many.'

BBC presenter Clive Myrie also called Harry Gration a 'brilliant broadcaster.'

 People gather outside at the service of thanksgiving for the veteran BBC presenter © Provided by Daily Mail People gather outside at the service of thanksgiving for the veteran BBC presenter Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater arrives at the service. She told the congregation about the support Gration gave her when her sister, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 © Provided by Daily Mail Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater arrives at the service. She told the congregation about the support Gration gave her when her sister, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016

The corporation's director general Tim Davie paid tribute to the late presenter: 'Harry Gration MBE was an outstanding broadcaster and commentator.

'He had a real connection with the public who saw him as one of their own. Loved everywhere, but especially in Yorkshire, he will be hugely missed by his many fans and friends. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.'

Jason Horton, acting director of BBC England, described Gration as 'one of the true broadcasting greats'.

'He was a natural on the television and on radio, adored by our audiences, especially as the trusted face of Look North and South Today,' he added.

'He loved news, sport, his colleagues and fundraising for Children in Need and Comic Relief. Our thoughts are with his family, his friends and everyone across the BBC who he worked with.'

Huddersfield Town FC said in a statement: 'Everyone at HTFC is devastated to learn about the passing of Harry Gration. A true friend to the Club over many years and a true legend of broadcasting across Yorkshire. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.'

Former fellow presenter Christa Ackroyd (pictured right) and ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot (pictured left) were also both at York minster this morning © Provided by Daily Mail Former fellow presenter Christa Ackroyd (pictured right) and ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot (pictured left) were also both at York minster this morning Former cricket umpire Dickie Bird (pictured left) and former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu (pictured right) were among those in attendance © Provided by Daily Mail Former cricket umpire Dickie Bird (pictured left) and former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu (pictured right) were among those in attendance

Leeds United said on Twitter: 'Harry Gration was a magnificent journalist and a pillar of our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Helen and Harry's family. Rest in Peace, Harry.'

Speaking after it was announced he was leaving the BBC in 2020, Mr Gration said: 'I've interviewed every prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, covered every major Look North story even at the expense of my holidays, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.

'I've always lived the story. Horrendous events such as the devastating news of Jo Cox's death, the disastrous floods of recent times, the Bradford riots, Hillsborough, have always affected me. They were always an assault on my county.

'Stand-out moments include raising over £800,000 on a tandem, pushing a sofa and being tied to Paul: three challenges my body will never forget.'

He was also a deputy lieutenant of North Yorkshire and charity champion who regularly ran a 10K for charity in York.

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