Robin James Boyle (born March 27 1927; died July 25 2003 aged 76) was a radio broadcaster, and announcer on The Navy Lark.
Obituary[edit | edit source]
Tim McDonald - The Guardian, Wednesday 15 October 2003 07.51 BST
The name of Robin Boyle, who has died at the age of 76, was known to millions of BBC listeners through his long career as presenter of Friday Night Is Music Night, the world's longest-running, live-music radio programme. A tall man with a matinee-idol appearance, he once rescued a soprano, who had missed her cue, by sweeping her up from the wings and delivering her to the microphone to sing, bowing gracefully as he made a dignified exit. It was Boyle at his professional best.
Through mainly employed on the Light Programme, the precursor of Radio 2, he also worked for the Home Service (Radio 4) and the Third Programme (Radio 3). In the days when presenters were expected to turn their hand to any duty that came along, he was sometimes asked to handle three programmes in one day, including live, audience-based comedy hits such as Hancock's Half-Hour and The Navy Lark. Boyle was born into a military family in Folkestone, Kent; his father was an RAF warrant officer, and the family was often on the move. An interest in music developed early, and, by 15, he was the DJ at a Skegness youth club. He joined the army at the same age, using his height to fool the enrolment officers, and, for the next three years, saw action on various fronts, ranging from tank warfare to reconnaisance and the D-Day landings.
Stationed in Hamburg at the end of the war, he joined the British Forces Network (BFN) as a presenter, and also met his future wife, Nancy "Nan" Pomeroy; they married in 1947.
Back in London later that year, Boyle started work on the Light Programme, but, infuriated at the suggestion that he should still have an audition, he returned to Hamburg and the BFN, where, for 18 months, he looked after the German end of the forces request programme Family Favourites, presented in London by Jean Metcalfe. By the time he himself came back to London, all suggestions of an audition had been dropped.
Boyle adored dance music - although he was hardly an accomplished dancer - and it was music programmes that most attracted his interest, and in which he really shone. Early on, he introduced Night Ride and Music While You Work, as well as band shows with such leaders as Stanley Black and Ken Mackintosh - programmes that enabled him to demonstrate his considerable knowledge, not just of big-band standards, but of the Latin-American numbers that played an important role in Black's repertoire.
It is, however, with the long-running Friday Night Is Music Night that Boyle will forever be associated. He had been involved, on and off, with the show almost from its inception in 1953, sharing the presentation with such broadcasters as Philip Slessor, Jimmy Kingsbury and Frank Phillips. But during the 1970s, Boyle came to be the linchpin of the programme. His voice could range from a warm, intimate sotto voce to a declamation of stentorian proportions, and he used it with intelligence, assessing the acoustic of a hall, gauging the mood of an audience, setting the right atmosphere and finding exactly the right vocal tone and timbre. His voice also had its uses in emergencies. On one occasion, there was a bomb scare during the brass band championships at Belle Vue, Manchester. The hasty departure of the sound crew left the public address system useless, and it fell to Boyle to use his powerful - unamplified - vocal chords to guide the audience safely out of the building.
Boyle had an air of authority that could put a nervous soloist or conductor at their ease. He would address his colleagues as "Old love", and could keep a tightly scheduled live broadcast on track by adjusting his script as it went along, milking or curtailing applause, encouraging bows - or simply altering his speed of delivery. In 1987, aged 60, he was kept on by popular demand to present the programme for a few more years.
In retirement, he settled in the Lincolnshire village of South Rauceby, where his hobbies included stripping down car engines and tinkering with motorbikes. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
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Robin was usually uncredited, but his first name was revealed in August 1965, when he complained about a Lillian Gish calendar that had been taken from his office at Broadcasting House[N 1] His surname was revealed in a later episode when CPO Pertwee interrupted Robin's greetings for overseas listeners by asking how 'Mr Boyle, the announcer of this parish,' would greet listeners in China.