Archive for the ‘Memoir Man’ Category

Autobiography of Teesside folk legend Vin Garbutt tops Amazon charts

Posted on: December 22nd, 2021 by admin No Comments

The autobiography Vin Garbutt wrote in his final years rocketed to number one in Amazon’s Biographies of Folk Musicians chart within 24 hours of its release in paperback and ebook versions.

Folk legend Vin, who was 69, passed away on June 6 2017 after undergoing heart surgery at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

He had begun working on All The Very Best! with the help of journalist Michael McGeary in 2014 and the first draft was completed a few days before Vin died.

Just under 1,000 hardback copies were pre-ordered by folk fans as far away as Australia and Canada and have been shipped across the world from Loftus, North Yorkshire, by Vin’s wife, Pat.

Vin’s son Louis, who has managed the project together with his mam, Pat, said: “We were delighted that so many people put their faith in us and were prepared to order the book without even seeing it.

“We’ve sent the books out now, but it was a mammoth task and we thank people for bearing with us and for their patience.

“Some of the first fans to receive the book have already read it, and it’s been lovely to hear their positive comments.

“The book truly captures Dad’s spirit and his outlook on life and we’re really proud of the way it’s turned out.”

The book has a five-star rating on Amazon and one fan wrote on Vin’s Facebook page: “It’s a great read. Just like Vin’s performances. You will laugh and cry at Vin’s recollections. Loved every word of this book.”

Born in South Bank, Middlesbrough, on November 20 1947, Vin became known as the funniest man on the worldwide folk scene.

But while his patter was hilarious, his songs were often deadly serious, tackling issues from unemployment in the North-East to oppression and injustice wherever he saw it in the world.

He recorded 12 studio albums and three live albums and was the subject of a full-length feature film, Teesside Troubadour.

He was the first British folk artist to tour Australia and he played to packed out venues across the globe. In 2001 he was named Best Live Act at the 2001 BBC Folk Awards and received an honorary degree from Teesside University.

Vin was also shunned by elements of the mainstream folk world because of his outspoken views but he refused to be silenced, even at considerable cost to his career.

Next year will see three important milestones. As well as being the fifth anniversary of Vin’s death and the year he would have turned 75, it’s also 50 years since he released his iconic debut album, Valley of Tees.

All The Very Best! includes many previously unseen photos from Vin’s life and

contributions from some of Vin’s friends and admirers from the folk world, including Tom Paxton, Loudon Wainwright III, Eric Bogle, Christy Moore, Mike Harding, Barbara Dixon and Jasper Carrott, as well as from fans and the people who knew Vin best.

The book is available in hardback, paperback and ebook editions from and selected independent bookshops.

Book sales reach grand total in late surgeon’s memory

Posted on: February 8th, 2021 by admin No Comments

Sales of the autobiography of the late orthopaedic surgeon John Anderson, who transformed thousands of Teesside lives by introducing joint replacement to the region, have raised £1,000 for charity.

The Man Behind The Mask tells the story of steelworker’s son, John Anderson’s journey from the streets of Middlesbrough town centre to being honoured by the Queen for his contribution to medicine.

The book was initially published privately for family and friends, but after John’s death last August it was reprinted in aid of Middlesbrough Lourdes Fund and the NSPCC and featured on Teesside Live.

Sales have just reached £1,000 and all the money has been handed over to the two good causes, thanks to Mr Anderson’s family covering the printing costs.

“Dad’s Catholic faith was important to him and during his life he had given money to the Lourdes fund mainly to help people who were unable to pay for the pilgrimage themselves,” said Mr Anderson’s daughter, Rachael.

“He also loved children and his career in the medical world will have shown him the great work the NSPCC does to help those who need it most.

“I’m sure he would have been delighted to see so much money raised from sales of his book going to help such worthwhile causes.”

Keith Tillotson, director of the Diocese of Middlesbrough Lourdes Pilgrimage, said: “We’re extremely grateful for this money, which is almost enough to pay for a supported pilgrim who otherwise could not afford it to go to Lourdes.

“Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel our 2020 and 2021 pilgrimages but the donation will be put to good use when we return in May 2020.”

Many of the people who bought the book were former patients who spoke so highly of John’s brilliance as a surgeon and how having their hips or knees replaced had made such a difference to them.

Michael McGeary, The Memoir Man

Katy Carmen, NSPCC fundraising manager for the North East, said: “This is a wonderful donation in memory of Mr Anderson, and will make a genuine difference in the lives of hundreds of children across the region and the country.

“Every £4 donated to Childline means our counsellors can answer another call, email or message from a child who desperately needs their support. Through the generous donation raised by this book, Mr Anderson is helping us make 2021 a better year for children, and we could not be more grateful.”

Michael McGeary, who helped write the book through his business, The Memoir Man, said: “Many of the people who bought the book were former patients who spoke so highly of John’s brilliance as a surgeon and how having their hips or knees replaced had made such a difference to them.

“But the other consistent thread in the emails we received was how kind and caring he was, always taking the trouble to follow up on his patients and see how they were doing even many years later.

“Many former colleagues also ordered copies of the book and they also praised John for his dedication to his work as well as the warmth of his personality.

“The messages were incredibly touching and were all passed on to John’s widow, Freda, and the family. Many added a donation in his memory to the cost of the book, helping boost the funds raised even further.”

One reader, Pamela Warne, wrote saying: “I bought a copy of this book for my mam and she really enjoyed reading it. Many years ago John Anderson replaced both my dad’s knee joints, which were extremely successful. 

“I’ve just finished reading this book myself and it was so interesting and enjoyable to read that I couldn’t put it down. I’m so glad I bought it, as it was nice to read about John’s family and his life.”

Mr Anderson, who would have been 80 last month (January), was a founder member of the National Joint Registry Committee and was awarded the CBE for services to medicine in 2004, receiving the award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

“Being able to serve the people of my hometown in the way I did was a wonderful privilege,” he wrote in the book. 

“It would be very hard to beat the feeling of seeing the happiness that a new hip or knee joint gave my patients and the transformation in their lives that followed. That’s all the reward I could ever ask for.”

In his role as chief of service for the trauma division he oversaw plastic surgery, maxillofacial surgery, spinal surgery, ear, nose and throat surgery, A&E and orthopaedics, first at Middlesbrough General Hospital and then James Cook University Hospital.

The book costs £8 plus £1.50 P&P. For further details please email   

Me, privilege and the Dimbleby Dynasty

Posted on: July 15th, 2018 by admin No Comments

American investor Anthony Pompliano recently upset the sensitive world of the Twitterati with his list of habits of the most successful people he’s met.

It read like a nine-point synopsis of every self-help or management motivational book you’ve never read.

Of all the hundreds of sarcastic responses the Tweet elicited, my favourite came from Alex Peysakhovich (@alex_peys), who replaced the list with…

The most successful people I’ve met: 

  1. Are born rich. It’s really easy that way.

He’s got a point. After all, that single accident of birth is far more likely to shape your future prospects than reading constantly, working out daily, having a laser focus and every other one of “Pomp’s” checklist put together.

Here’s an example from my own life. When I was in my early 20s I was lucky enough to land a week’s work experience on the Richmond and Twickenham Times during my one-year NCTJ Pre-Entry Certificate in Newspaper Journalism at Darlington College of Technology.

I took a train to London and on my first day, the paper’s owner, broadcasting legend David Dimbleby, popped in to see how that week’s edition was coming along.

While he was there, he mentioned that, coincidentally, his son was also on work experience that week, but instead of spending it with a weekly local paper he would be working as part of the team that put together the Daily Telegraph’s esteemed Peterborough diary column (where another Old Etonian, George Osborne, got his break in journalism). Nice gig.

While my primary school, secondary school and sixth form college in working class areas of Middlesbrough have all since closed, Henry attended Eton and was slightly better connected than me, being a member of the country’s pre-eminent broadcasting dynasty.

Mr Dimbleby told us that young Henry would very much appreciate being fed any amusing snippets of news we came across that might be of use to the column – and suggested we would be paid a tip-off fee if they were used.

To my surprise, considering I didn’t yet have my media law qualification, the newspaper sent me on my own to Richmond Magistrates Court and told me to pick up as many court stories as I could.

The very first case I saw concerned a director of electronics giant GEC, who had been caught driving his luxury car at 60 miles per hour in a 30 zone.

Before giving the sentence, the presiding magistrate took a look at the form containing details of the defendant’s earnings.

“Is this figure per month or per year?” he enquired as he peered incredulously over his spectacles. It was, the director replied somewhat sheepishly, with the issue of fat cats being very much on the media agenda of the day, the former.

The exchange seemed to fit the Peterborough bill and I passed it on to Henry as requested and was delighted to see it printed in the following morning’s paper. No by-line, of course, and I never did see that tip-off fee either, but a “thank you” would have been nice.

Henry’s career and mine continued on diverging planes. I spent a decade with my local newspaper on Teesside, the Evening Gazette. I worked in most departments and took pride in reporting on events in the community where I grew up. My own expectations played a part in me never advancing my career by applying to a national paper. I suppose I subconsciously thought I’d already reached my level.

After that I spent 14 years in Middlesbrough Football Club’s media department and I’m now a freelance ghostwriter of autobiographies and PR consultant.

Henry worked with a firm of management consultants before he and his colleague John Vincent left to set up restaurant chain Leon. They have since been awarded MBEs for their work helping to improve the quality of school dinners – presumably that included adding Eton Mess to the menu.

Leon, I understand, is all about offering a better class of fast food. It hasn’t made it as far north as Middlesbrough, however. When I enter my postcode on their website branch checker, it responds helpfully – and presumably in received pronunciation – that my location “is not anywhere we know. But how about you visit us in our Carnaby Street restaurant?”

His father did venture north at least once. I know this because attended an edition of Question Time he chaired at Teesside University in 2010. It seemed odd to me that not one of the panel had any apparent link to the region.

Two of the seven were from Essex and five – including the chair and the two journalists – were privately educated, despite the recording taking place in a borough that has no private schools at all. That’s 71% of them, roughly ten times the percentage of the population who attend private schools. What are the chances of that? Don’t ask me, I failed my O level Maths.

I hope I don’t sound bitter. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my career so far and I’m grateful to the Dimblebys for that week back in 1990. Henry may well have been a far brighter spark than I ever was – although that expensive education will have helped there.

But there’s no doubt that the considerable advantages of privilege, be they family connections or money, start early in this country.

David has announced his intention to step down after 25 years at the Question Time helm and his son from his second marriage, Fred, is already making a pitch to follow in his father’s footsteps one day. Or perhaps inherit his Uncle Jonathan’s chair at the programme’s Radio 4 counterpart, Any Questions.

In 2016 the press covered a school Brexit debate Fred chaired, with the adversaries including his elder brother’s Eton contemporary Jacob Rees-Mogg and journalist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris. I’m not sure we’d have attracted those two along to my old comprehensive.

Fred has been offered a place at Keble College, Oxford, to read History and is apparently keen to pursue a career in journalism. I’m sure he’ll get all the work experience he needs on his way up the ladder and expect to see him on my TV screen before too long.

But if he wants to broaden his life experience as well as his work experience, I’d highly recommend that he does what I did and travel to the other end of the country to spend a week at a regional newspaper up in the North East. If he’s interested, I’ll even put in a good word for him.




The Mystery of Mr Grebbit

Posted on: April 21st, 2015 by admin No Comments

WILDThe mystery of Mr Grebbit has been solved.

Benedict was very excited when a new classroom assistant joined the staff at his nursery.

“Who’s the new man working in your classroom,” Mammy asked him.

“That’s Mr Grebbit,” Benedict replied.

It was a somewhat unusual name, we thought, but at the same time it seemed to suit him. Being sociable types, we greeted Mr Grebbit every morning as we dropped our little one off. Not that he seemed to be too friendly back – maybe we were being over-familiar, we wondered.

Anyway, Benedict was clearly very fond of him, so he was doing a good job, as were all the other staff. Benedict became more and more settled and was clearly making excellent progress.

Ocassionally Benedict came home wearing a reward sticker that he told us proudly Mr Grebbit had given him.

At Christmas, a friend with a toddler in the same class asked us what the male class assistant was called. She knew that unlike his classmates, Benedict took pride in remembering all his teachers’ names. We were happy to help. “That’ll be Mr Grebbit,” we confidently informed her.

But as time went on, something didn’t seem quite right. One night, some months later, I chatted with the assistant about how the day had gone.

“That’s not Mr Grebbit,” scoffed Benedict as he toddled down the path afterwards.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“That’s Mr Johnson,” he said, with that, “Dad, your such an idiot” tone perfected only by three-year-olds.

I was momentarily stunned into silence.

“But you said he was Mr Grebbit,” I eventually protested. Benedict flatly denied it. His unshakable position was that Mammy and Daddy had completely made this up and that he had absolutely no idea what we were on about.

For a while, Mr Grebbit became a household in-joke, although we didn’t actually know what the joke was, or who it was on, only that it raised a smile for all three of us. We’d regularly give him a namecheck, only for Benedict to smile and say, “Not Mr Grebbit, Daddy!” Soon he was mentioned less and less.

Only occasionally did we lie in bed pondering the day’s events and wonder once more how Benedict had got himself so confused. And we did feel a little bit guilty about passing on this information to our friend, who was still oblivious as to why one of her Christmas cards stayed on a table in the run up to the holiday break, unopened and unloved.

But today, at last, all became clear at last. Lyndsey was collecting Benedict from school when he came out with an extraordinary claim.

“Mr Grebbit did a poo on the chair!” he said, just as the male classroom assistant passed by.

“Benedict, don’t be so rude,” said Lyndsey.

With impressive awareness, Benedict saw that his Mammy was blushing in the staff member’s direction.

“No,” he said, remembering his parents’ problem with this particular issue. “This is Mr Grebbit,” he said.

At that he point to a chair. Upon it sat a baggy, green stuffed frog. After this revelation, everything started to fall into place.        

There was Mr Grebbit, sitting right there. With a special reward sticker dispenser in his froggy little mouth.