Listeners in far-flung corners of the globe tuning in their short-wave radio sets to the World Service 30 or 40 years ago would, no doubt, if asked to name a voice who represented the BBC, who was the authoritative voice of Britain, have suggested Paddy Feeny. For 36 years on Saturday afternoons he guided overseas listeners through the myriad of sporting events and fixtures on Saturday Special. “It’s a combination of timing, co-ordination, understanding the subject and a pinch of telepathy" he explained in 1993 just two years before he stood down.
|1978 heat of Young Scientist of the Year. The full programme can be found on YouTube|
To listeners and viewers at home, however, Paddy's talents as a presenter were aimed at a younger audience; from question master on the inter-school quiz Top of the Form, narrating programmes for schools, presenter of Young Scientist of the Year, and in the process making a unlikely TV star out of boffin Professor Heinz Wolff, to spinning the discs on Junior Choice.
Paddy was born in Liverpool in 1931 and educated at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire. "From the age of five onwards I knew I wanted to do some kind of job in the entertainment business." His first job was as a film projectionist and he progressed to stage electrician, stage manager and "an extremely bad actor" Having passed a BBC audition his first broadcast was in the radio play Duel of Honour for the BBC in Birmingham in 1952 where, he later recalled, his first line was one that years later he still did not understand: "You mean that you admit that Dujarier was one of your seconds."
|A typically jokey biog for Paddy from|
London Calling April 1981
As early as 1963 Paddy began his association with Top of the Form, initially alongside Geoffrey Wheeler for three years on the BBC TV version (1963-66) and then a longer run on the radio version between 1978 and 1985, sharing duties with Tim Gudgin. This edition of Top of the Form dates from 28 October 1980 and features a contest between Hessle High School and Hornsea School and Institute of Further Education.
|Records Round the World was a long-running BBC World Service show.|
In 1966 and 1967 Paddy co-presented with Judith Chalmers and Maggie Clews
with the show also heard on Wednesday lunchtimes on the BBC
On domestic radio Paddy occasionally presented Children's Favourites and looked after its successor Junior Choice between Leslie Crowther and Ed Stewart (1967-68). He teamed up with Judith Chalmers for Records Round the World (1966-67) a weekly World Service/Light Programme simulcast. Together with Tim Gudgin and Bob Holness he introduced the Home Service regional opt-out news bulletin South-East (1967). Further radio appearances for the junior end of the listenership included various schools programmes, the Saturday afternoon compendium 4th Dimension and the Radio 2 natural history quiz Give Us a Conch (1984-85).
|Recording the Radio 4 schools programme Springboard (1969-73)|
When all this other work fell away Paddy maintained his position at the helm of Saturday Special until his final show on 24 June 1995. He also appeared on the World Service series At Home with... (1984), the sports quiz Game, Set and Match (1993-95) and the station's Feedback equivalent Write On (1987-96). Here's an edition of Write On from January 1996.
“In over 40 years of broadcasting, I have kept to one maxim,” Feeny explained, “that I am involved in a relationship with one person, not millions. I want the listeners to relate to me as a friend.”
Paddy died earlier this week after a short illness. Mike Costello paid tribute to him on the BBC World Service.
Paddy Feeny 1931-2018