Such is his passion for his birthplace that Keith Madeley is often referred to as `Mr Yorkshire'.
His chairmanship of the Yorkshire Society and his devotion to all things Yorkshire, have made him a highly regarded, well respected and much recognised member of the local business and professional community.
A Bradfordian by birth, Keith now lives in Leeds but has strong connections with the Wakefield area and indeed, the whole of Yorkshire. Well known across Wakefield, Keith is often to be found at Nostell Priory where he is chairman of www.xperience.gb.com, a web and media specialist based at Nostell House.
As well as this, he is a highly regarded financial services and innovative product development expert and is the voluntary head of many local organisations.
His story is one which reads like the `local boy made good' scenario and it was at the tender
Ageg of 16, leaving school with only a couple of `O levels' that he took his first steps on the career ladder - a move which was to take him away from his beloved Yorkshire to the other end of the country.
Keith's first love was the railways and it was at the age of just 14, while he was still at Carlton Grammar School in Bradford that he became president of the school’s Carlton Rail Fans Society and found himself organising trips around engine sheds in the early 1960s.
He said: “I’m afraid I left school with only two `O levels’ to my name and was desperately keen to get a job on the railways, starting as a clerk at Bradford’s Foster Square. By the time I was 18 I found myself applying for a national vacancy with British Rail, not thinking for a moment I would get the job, obviously because of my age.’’
However Keith did get the job – but had to move away from Yorkshire – and found himself working as Hither Green Sidings, a massive rail yard in Kent.
“I was working as an advanced train information clerk and I was in my element,’’ he said.
Various positions later – still in the South of England – Keith found himself promoted again and became Britain’s youngest station manager in his early 20s and in charge of 30 staff.
“My father always told me to listen and learn. Never tread on people because it’s a long way down so I always tried to get on well and respect the people I worked with – and I hoped they would do the same to me,’’ said Keith.
At 23 Keith was on the move again, this time to a mainline station in Orpington, Kent but this was also at a time of unrest and uncertainty with the rail unions in the early 1970s and he decided his heart lay in Yorkshire so he headed home.
“It was a difficult time. I had two small children at the time and I was very concerned about what was going to happen to the men working on the railways. I came back to Yorkshire and managed to get on the short list for a computer software manager – a very different job to what I had been doing.’’
In a similar way to his rise on the railways, Keith enjoyed success in his new role and took his first steps into the financial services world, later setting up his own Yorkshire Investment Group and later Manor Financial Management Ltd.
However, despite his success, he has never forgotten his early life on the railways and over the years has sometimes found himself called The Fat Controller, bearing a resemblance to the popular Thomas the Tank Engine character. Only last year he adopted this guise with good humour to became Mr October in the Yorkshire Ridings magazine 2007 calendar.
It was following his move into the financial services world that a whole host of opportunities opened up for him to promote his beloved Yorkshire. One of the vice-presidents of the Yorkshire Society, established in the early 1980s, encouraged him to join and he has never looked back.
“I came on board in 2002 as chairman when we had 83 members and 65 corporate members. My plan was to double the membership. In 2004 I managed to secure HRH The Duke of York as our patron and now we have around 700 individual members and 300 corporate members. Our aim is simply to promote Yorkshire and all that’s best about this wonderful county of England,’’ said Keith.
In more recent years Keith found himself the driving force behind having a suit length designed for the Yorkshire Society. Although very subtle, the unique blue fabric features the word `Yorkshire’ gently interwoven in the pinstripe.
He was particularly proud to wear his `Yorkshire suit’ during the 2007 Bollywood Film Festival which readers will remember came to Yorkshire for the annual awards ceremony with many events being based at the National Media Museum in Bradford. This coup was pulled off by the Yorkshire Tourist Board and beat off global competition to host Bollywood’s equivalent of The Oscars.
The suit was designed in Bradford, woven in Keighley and finished in Huddersfield, making it a real Yorkshire effort. People can buy a Yorkshire suit length from Leeds tailor Raymond Andrews, who is known across the region for his traditional tailoring methods. So far the suiting has been purchased for business suits by many men and women proud to wear the name of Yorkshire.
As well as his many roles and connections within the county, Keith’s main aim is to spread the good name of Yorkshire. He does this in many ways including being Director and Chairman of Business Development for North of England Excellence, being a founding director of Yorkshire Foundation Ltd, being chairman of the Duke of York’s Community Initiative and so much more.
“A lot of my roles are voluntary and I am keen to promote the strengths of Yorkshire. We have everything here – beautiful scenery, major cities, countryside, seaside resorts, sites of historical importance – and I do everything I can to publicise Yorkshire.
“Along with other Yorkshire people, for example artist Ashley Jackson and sculptor Graham Ibberson, I always work for the good of Yorkshire. Because I have links across the county, I can help promote Yorkshire in many ways,’’ he said.
Keith is particularly keen on regenerating our towns and cities.
“Look at Leeds! What a wonderful city this has become in recent years with its cosmopolitan shopping arcades, waterfront developments and transport links. It really is a great city and is up there with the best of British. Lots of friends come here to Leeds and simply say the city certainly has the wow factor.
“Let’s put Yorkshire firmly on the international map and make Yorkshire Day August 1 a noteable event in the calendar. ‘’
Just recently Keith says a new website has been launched called www.yorkshire-icons.com which acknowledges Yorkshire’s finest. Names given iconic status and included in the hall of fame include Sir Michael Parkinson (Barnsley), Dame Judi Dench (York), Patrick Stewart (Mirfield), the late Jan Tomlinson (Leeds), Freddie Trueman (Maltby) and so many more.
Keith said: “It’s a great privilege to come from Yorkshire and we should encourage people to know more about our wonderful county. Promote it wherever you can – whether it’s for shopping, holidays, the coastline, the countryside – and be proud to be a Yorkshireman or Yorkshirewoman. It’s the greatest county in England!!’’