The ‘voice of Radio 4’ (and Rocket FM) Peter Donaldson has died of cancer, aged 70. A great supporter of Lewes’ community radio station since its early days, a recording of Peter’s reassuring and authoritative tones still herald the hourly news on Rocket FM. He also lent his voice to Dilly Barlow’s radio play The Trial of the Bonfire Boys and Rocket programmes including The Sunday Papers with Martin Leeburn.
Martin Leeburn said: “He was the kindest person you could meet and had many friends in Lewes. He was a keen member of Lewes Bowling Green Society and for years recorded the introduction to the Lewes Arms Panto.”
Peter was a committed member of South Street Bonfire Society. SSBS’s Roz Bassford-South said in a blog: “As the ‘quintessential voice of Radio 4’ he’ll be remembered by many. But some of us remember the less public side of him. Always a kind friend, always ready with a quick-witted comment, always with a smile on his face and usually with a pint in his hand! Of course he’s irreplaceable because men like Peter are a one-off. Bonfire has lost one of its true characters today and our bonfire will burn just a little less brightly at South Street.”
BBC director-general Tony Hall said Donaldson was the “quintessential voice of Radio 4”. The station’s controller, Gwyneth Williams, said he was “a magnificent broadcaster.”
Roger Stamp, chairman of East Sussex Radio Society, Rocket FM’s organising body, said: “Peter was an absolute gentleman and a great supporter of Rocket – he will be greatly missed.”
One of the driving forces behind Rocket FM, Peter Flanagan, paid a personal tribute to Peter on his Rocket FM show this evening: “Peter Donaldson was a good friend to Rocket FM. His support and encouragement over the years meant a great deal to the organisers and his regular recorded hourly presence, announcing the news, made it so much easier for all of us to believe we were genuinely ‘doing’ radio.
“I feel privileged to have made Peter’s acquaintance. On occasion, I voiced doubts that I or Rocket as a whole were up to a particular challenge that faced us. Peter would inevitably dismiss my misgivings by making me feel that absolutely no one was better equipped to deal with the issue and make a success of it. When I told him, earlier this year, that we intended to bring Rocket back this autumn, after a year’s rest, his response was such a warm and genuinely enthusiastic, ‘well of course you would, dear boy’. I found that reassurance he would give … so energising and empowering.”
Picture credits: Kevin Brinkhurst (top) and Roz Bassford-South (above, left)