Harry Gration obituary

harry gration obituary
© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: BBC/PA

Harry Gration, who has died suddenly aged 71, was one of Britain’s longest-serving regional TV news presenters, anchoring Look North for most of four decades from the BBC’s studios in Leeds. He was also known to national audiences for his rugby league coverage as a radio commentator and TV presenter.

Through two periods fronting Look North, from 1982 to 1994 and 1999 to 2020, the Yorkshire-born broadcaster became an institution.

“I’ve always lived the story,” he told the Yorkshire Post on his departure. “Horrendous events such as the news of Jo Cox’s death, the Bradford riots, Hillsborough, have always affected me.”

When Gration won the first of his two Royal Television Society regional presenter of the year awards (2015 and 2017), the judges noted: “His emotional involvement with Yorkshire’s biggest moments – notably Le Tour de France – really connects with viewers.”

However, he disappeared from BBC North for five years when he felt that his “lightness of touch” style was falling out of favour with his bosses. In 1994, he left to take a PR job with Rugby Football League, his favourite sport’s governing body, in Leeds. “They weren’t terribly unhappy about losing me,” he later said of his BBC bosses. “I was a bit of a square peg in a round hole.”

However, he soon regretted the move and returned to television as an anchor of the BBC’s South Today in Southampton (1995-99). When Look North suffered a drop in ratings, he was lured back to it. “I agreed, on condition that I was allowed to present the programme in my own way,” he said.

harry gration obituary
© Provided by The Guardian Harry Gration, left, with Dickie Bird in 2013. Gration won a Royal Television Society award for his documentary about the cricket umpire –Dickie Bird: A Rare Species (1996). Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

His way included getting out of the studio to the scene of some of the region’s big stories, even stationing himself in a rescue boat during the 2007 floods. Colleagues remarked on Gration’s energy and enthusiasm, and his second spell in Leeds, with Amy Garcia as his co-presenter from 2013, brought him a considerable following.

The presenter’s status was confirmed when Jeremy Clarkson, a fellow Yorkshireman, featured him as one of three celebrities from the county who helped when, for Top Gear in 2010, the Robin Reliant he was driving there repeatedly rolled over.

A native of Bradford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Harry was the son of Nina (nee Smith) and Morris Gration, a chemist. After attending Leeds grammar school and St Peter’s school, York, he trained as a teacher, eventually becoming head of history at Rodillian school (now the Rodillian academy), in Lofthouse, between Leeds and Wakefield.

Out of the classroom, Gration’s love of rugby league led him to commentate for BBC Radio Leeds, beginning with a Batley v York match in 1971. He also reported on other sports and thought he had secured an exclusive interview in 1974 after hurrying to Leeds United football club’s Elland Road ground and arriving as Brian Clough was leaving the boardroom after being sacked as manager. He made the mistake of asking Clough: “Brian, can you give me two words for Radio Leeds?”

In 1978, Gration gave up teaching when the station offered him a three-month contract to cover sport. He stayed for four years, becoming sports editor in 1980, as well as covering general news, before switching to TV.

One of his early studio interviews, with Dennis Skinner, ended up on the bloopers show Auntie’s Bloomers. A technical fault with the Labour MP’s microphone meant that a producer had to crawl under the desk to attach another one while Gration carried on as if nothing was happening. “He made the most of it, suggesting we were trying to gag his controversial views!” Gration recalled.

Taking on challenges such as riding the Tour de France’s Yorkshire grand départ on a tandem and walking 130 miles in a three-legged race helped to raise more than £1m for Sport Relief, Children in Need and other charities.

During his early years presenting Look North, Gration was also seen nationally as a stand-in presenter on Sunday Grandstand in 1987 and Final Score between 1986 and 1989.

As well as commentating on rugby league for national radio (1983-93), he presented TV coverage of the sport in the Super League Show from 2006 to 2011 and was a judo and taekwondo commentator for Olympics coverage between 1988 and 2004.

Gration also fronted the networked BBC series Goin’ Places (1986), featuring country shows and sports such as horse-driving trials, slalom canoeing and drag racing. Two sports documentaries he presented, White Rose in Africa (1992) and Dickie Bird: A Rare Species (1996), won Royal Television Society awards.

He was appointed MBE in 2013 and became deputy lieutenant of North Yorkshire in 2019.

Gration’s first two marriages, to Hilary Gardner (1974) and Rowena Cluness (1984), ended in divorce. In 2001, he married Helen Chene. She survives him, along with their three sons, Harrison, Harvey and Hamilton, as well as Hannah, the daughter of his first marriage, and Frederick and Samuel, the sons of the second.

• Harry John Gration, broadcaster, born 22 October 1950; died 24 June 2022

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Palay-Palay  National ParkAbout PagudpudFive Levels of Aguinid FallsIntroducing San Pascual, MasbateMount Manmanoc ItineraryAdventures in Fortune Island of Nasugbu | LakwatseroNext Level Mobile Photography with Sony Xperia XZ1 | LakwatseroScuba Diving in Siargao: Discovering the Underwater Treasures of Daku Island | LakwatseroAbout Davao CityHow to Get to AndaJanuary: Cebu & IloiloHow to Get to Mines View ParkKamay ni Hesus: Pilgrimage Site in Lucban | LakwatseroPoon Hill: Three Days of Himalayan AdventureCalvary Hill Cemetery of SagadaHow to Get to TambobongMilford SoundTen Things To Do in Sagada: Bucket List for NewbiesDahoyhoy FallsPilot for a Day: The Ultra Light Aircraft Experience | LakwatseroReal Coffee and Tea Cafe of Boracay | LakwatseroGhorepani Poon Hill TrekAbout Maniwaya IslandHow to Get to Binanga FallsPalo Alto Falls of Baras, Rizal | LakwatseroExplore Moscow: Best Things to Do in the City | LakwatseroStairway to HeavenMount Guiting-Guiting Overnight Trek Complete ItineraryCape Melville LighthouseLa Cathedral Café: Restaurant with a View in IntramurosKapurpurawan Rock Formation: White and BeautifulDay Hike ItineraryThe Sandbox at AlvieraHow to go to Mararison IslandA Weekend of Adventures in South Cebu and DumagueteCalayan Island: A Virtual Diary of Our Epic Journey | LakwatseroFaro de Isla Jintotolo (Jintotolo Island Lighthouse)Low’s PeakAbout Taal VolcanoHow to Get to Mag-aso Falls of BoholSamar: Biri Rock Formations Up Close | LakwatseroBonbon BeachIntroducing Jomalig IslandAbout Cotabato CityAbout TabukLeyte Landing Memorial: A Memorial for a Fulfilled Promise | LakwatseroSilyang Bato, Mount MaramiPanimahawa Ridge and Cedar Falls Day Hike ItineraryFun in the World’s Best IslandSample Albay ItinerariesMagpupungko Beach and Tidal Pools6 Tips for Living in the Philippines | LakwatseroDaraga Church: The Nuestra Señora dela Porteria ChurchTulgao Rice TerracesCape Melville Lighthouse (Faro del Cabo Melville)Canyoneering to Kawasan FallsLake FewaLong Weekend: Five-Day Suggested Itineraries in Luzon | LakwatseroAbout CaponesThe Wichcraft Café of Zamboanga City | LakwatseroHow to Get to GuiuanAll-Female FloorHow to Get to Neri’s VilleDiotay’s EateryShort but Sweet Melaka Getaway | LakwatseroHow to Get to Tinuy-An FallsOslob: The Lost Grandeur of Tumalog Falls | LakwatseroIlocos ItineraryDitumabo Falls: The Mother Falls of San Luis, Aurora!Biking in Kalinga: Trek and Bike to TabukParadise Garden: A Haven for Sea TurtlesSiargao: Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pools | LakwatseroAbout Bucas GrandeCoral GardenSagadaA Walk in Sangay Siapo Island Before it is Gone? | LakwatseroAmbaguio-Akiki ItineraryCorregidor Island Lighthouse (Faro dela Isla de Corregidor)Faro de Punta de Malabrigo (Malabrigo Point Lighthouse)About CulionNaidi Hill LighthouseBoquete IslandHow to Commute to Temple of LeahCatanduanes: The Heritage Church of Bato | Lakwatsero1. White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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Cruz Grande IslandBasilica de San Martin de ToursBaguio Budget Stay: Upstairs Bed & Bath | LakwatseroBiking in Batanes: Batan Island Loop | LakwatseroCandaba Bird SanctuaryCape EngañoAbout HungduanIligan Tourism Triangle: Mimbalut, Tinago & Maria CristinaAbout Jose PanganibanCadapdapan Rice TerracesHow to Get to Casaroro FallsKiltepan: Sagada’s Best Sunrise | LakwatseroBeguet: Colorado Falls of Tuba | LakwatseroFollow the Call of the Great Outdoors: Go Out & Get More | LakwatseroSanga-Sanga ReefMasbate City: Where to Eat in the City | LakwatseroAbout Carabao IslandRain Vortex at the Jewel of ChangiPacsafe Venturesafe 65L GII Travel PackIrakoWhere to Stay in CarmenHow to Get to Tangadan FallsHow to Get to Samal Island