Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Peter Donaldson

I shall be pressing on this Tuesday, as on many previous Tuesdays, to raise a glass to Peter Donaldson. Sadly he won't be there - Peter, doyenne of Radio 4 newsreaders, has died, aged 70.

He was an immensely lovable man. For a number of years, right up to this Autumn, he summoned us to "Donaldson Days" - lunchtime re-unions at a pub near Broadcasting House, which were merry, mischievous, and life-affirming. On a good sunny day, the alleyway would be chock-a-block with current and former radio staff from across departments - drama, light ent, current affairs, sport, newsroom and presentation - a testimony to the way Peter maintained wide-ranging friendships across generations.

After his full retirement, Peter would arrive from his base in Sussex, exchanging Greek cordialities with all, and then effortlessly move around the various groups to catch up. In previous years, Donaldson Days were sometimes called after Peter had done a casual shift overnight - but that never dulled the twinkle in his eyes.

And, in contrast to the un-matched gravity that Peter could bring to serious news-reading, there was always a twinkle in his eye at work.  He pulled off that difficult balance of being a BBC manager, as "Chief Announcer", for many years, whilst maintaining an hilarious and healthy disdain for some of the changes going on around him. He helped spot a new generation of talent for Radio 4 presentation, which has provided a backbone for its continued success. If you were lucky enough to have a voice training session with him, as hundreds did, you got the best of the BBC, in learning about both technique and ethos. Yamas, Peter.

(I wrote a little about Peter's rich pre-BBC career here.  There's much closer insight about the fun of
working with Peter from Corrie Corfield.)

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