Michael Parkinson: How star got pal to fix first date with future wife after bus meet-up

It was a relationship that lasted for more than sixty years – but TV chat show king Michael Parkinson nearly missed out on the love of his life Mary after a chance meeting on a bus in Doncaster.
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As tributes continue to pour in for Sir Michael after his death at the age of 88, the story of his working days in Doncaster and how he came to meet his future wife while travelling on a bus to a council meeting have resurfaced.

Barnsley-born, Sir Michael worked on the Yorkshire Evening Post in Scot Lane at the very start of his career, before working in national newspapers and becoming the king of TV chat shows in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Here, in his own words, from his 2008 book "Parky - My Autobiography", he explains his early life as a reporter – and how he came to meet Mary.

Michael Parkinson met wife Mary while on his way to cover a council meeting in Tickhill. (Photo: Getty)Michael Parkinson met wife Mary while on his way to cover a council meeting in Tickhill. (Photo: Getty)
Michael Parkinson met wife Mary while on his way to cover a council meeting in Tickhill. (Photo: Getty)

"Eventually, I moved from Barnsley to Doncaster to work on the Yorkshire Evening Post. I chose Doncaster because in those days it was a journalists' town. Two evening and three local papers were printed there.

"It also had a racecourse, a decent football team, one or two agreeable pubs and a few good-looking girls. I met one on a bus and married her.

"I remember the very moment I first saw Mary Heneghan. I was on the upper deck of a double-decker travelling from Doncaster to the mining village of Tickhill. With me was my colleague Denis Cassidy.

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"We were on our way to a council meeting when this tall and slender girl with reddish gold hair and a red duffel coat sat behind us. Denis, who was good at chatting people up, introduced us. When I turned to look at her I remember thinking I could gaze upon that face for a long time without tiring.

"She said she was a teacher on her way to earn some extra money with a keep-fit class in Tickhill. When she'd gone I told Denis I might be in love. He said I should call her. I said I didn't have her number. He said she told us which school she worked at so what more information did a trained journalist require?

"I said I was too shy to ring the school. He said: 'Don't be so bloody stupid. I'll ring for you.' And he did, pretending to be me, which is how I came to date Mary for the first time.

Pathetic really, and yet the start of a partnership lasting 50 years. We married in Doncaster. Mary made her own wedding dress; I looked as if I had made my own suit. "

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During his career in Doncaster, Sir Michael covered a number of key stories, the most important being the death of Doncaster footballer David Pegg in the 1958 Munich Air Disaster.

The Highfields-born starlet was one of eight Manchester United players and 22 people who lost their lives when their plane crashed on a German runway on the way back from a European fixture.

Sir Michael was given the task of covering David’s funeral, beginning his evocactive piece with the line ‘even the sky cried’ as he explained how mourners had stood in the rain as the cortege passed.