Dear Reader: John Craven's lost memories + in the police cells

Started at the Harrogate Advertiser - BBC Countryfile presenter John Craven.
Started at the Harrogate Advertiser - BBC Countryfile presenter John Craven.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Everyone has to start somewhere and John Craven started at the Harrogate Advertiser.

I know this for a fact because the veteran presenter of BBC TV’s Countryfile show once made a nostalgic return to the original wellspring of his success at our old building on Montpellier Hill, now the Slug & Lettuce pub.

It wasn’t what you could describe as an emotional return for the man famed for his cuddly sweaters and measured delivery.

He was nice enough but appeared to have very few interesting tales or clear memories of his early years in Harrogate.

At one point he even called Cold Bath Road “Cold Harbour Road.”

I learned last week of another famous BBC TV presenter called John who made his first impact in Harrogate.

The Friends of Harrogate Hospital, who are organising an Old Time Music Hall charity event at the Royal Hall, had got in touch to tell me this other John had been involved in an accident on stage with two ponies at Harrogate Theatre a long time ago as a young production assistant.

I’m not saying I wasn’t convinced but a few days later I found myself in the dark of our archive room with one of the Friends of Harrogate Hospital leafing through dusty old bound copies of the newspaper.

Lo and behold, there was the story about it in the Harrogate Advertiser of December 1960.

And the man concerned was someone else known for his love of jumpers, the late John Noakes of Blue Peter fame.

I bet this game-for-anything, tousled-haired presenter would have had some better tales up his woolen cardy sleeve.

In the police cells...

Who makes sure prisoners, sorry, detainees are treated the way they should be in a police cell?

After a visit by two publically-spirited retirees last week I now know the answer.

It’s more than a merely administrative matter, bearing in mind the occasional national news stories about tragic incidents in police stations.

My two interviewees, both very nice gents, had come to our newspaper office to discuss what they do as volunteers in the Independent Custody Visitors scheme.

To put it simply, having arrived unannounced at a police station, the volunteers check on the welfare of detainees and the conditions in which they are held and whether their rights are being met.

The idea of these anonymous guardian angels is reassuring and, well, I suppose I must have looked impressed, so, before I knew it, my two visitors were wondering if I, too, might consider volunteering?

I said I wasn’t sure I was the right man for the job, a thought which hardened when they said I was also free to come along on one of their visits to a North Yorkshire police station.

There were a few provisos, they added.

I couldn’t talk to any of the detainees.

I couldn’t talk to any of the police officers.

And I couldn’t watch what these hard-working Independent Custody Visitors were doing.