1. ITV Report

Former Tyne Tees presenter Mike Neville MBE has died

Mike Neville presenting North East Tonight in 2005 Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

He was the face, and voice, of the North East. For more than four decades, Mike Neville brought the news of the day to viewers across the region. In doing so, he became a friend to thousands.

He died on Wednesday 6th September at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead after a short battle with cancer.

Mike was born in Willington Quay, North Tyneside, on 17th Oct in 1936. He was a pupil at Anderson Potter Infant and Junior School, then Stephenson Memorial Secondary Modern in Howdon. He left school at 15 before completing his two years’ National Service in the 1950s. He married his wife Pam in 1962.

Mike described himself as 'a true Geordie'; born a stone's throw from the River Tyne. Mike started his career, not in the studio, but on the stage. The young actor made the move to Tyne Tees in 1962, just three years after the station went on air, working first as a continuity announcer.

Mike left Tyne Tees to join the BBC in Newcastle two years later, becoming the face of the nightly news programme, Look North. By now, North East viewers had taken Mike to their hearts, and he also enjoyed national fame, appearing on the magazine show Nationwide. Even so, Mike chose not to make a permanent move to London, remaining instead in the region he knew and loved.

In 1996, Mike left the BBC and returned to where his broadcasting career had begun, at Tyne Tees Television.

It was during these years that Mike conducted some of his most memorable interviews, including one with author Dame Catherine Cookson, to mark her 90th birthday.

I am deeply saddened at the death of my friend and former colleague Mike Neville. My thoughts are with his wife Pam, and his family.

I remember as a child skipping to the theme tune before watching the TV news with my Dad. We always watched Mike Neville. I never imagined I would have the privilege of working with him.

When I was a weather presenter with Tyne Tees, Mike invited me to join him and a host of other north east personalities on the BBC set of "Children in Need". I recall he put us all at our ease and made it a great fun, fundraising event.

Later, when we worked together on the ITV Tyne Tees news, it was wonderful to watch Mike's expertise as a Presenter. Mike had a tremendous ability to connect with the viewers. It was like whatever happened on air, good or bad, for better or worse, we were all in it together ! Live transmissions can be very unpredictable and Mike was never ruffled by anything that happened. I will always remember seeing Noel Edmonds’ Gotcha stunt, when Noel tricked Mike into ad libbing for 7 minutes. That takes some skill !

Mike was also a brilliant actor. We had great fun making programmes such as "Christmas Past" at Beamish Museum. We all played character parts in period costume. Mike was anchor and actor, smoothly transitioning between the two.

Mike was exactly the same off-camera as he was on. He was great fun to be with, full of hilarious stories and always on good form.

We have lost a dear friend. But Mike will always be a North East icon and legend."

– Pam Royle, Friend & Broadcaster

I am truly saddened at the death of our dear friend and former colleague. Mike was a broadcasting legend - and for me, he was an inspirational mentor. I was incredibly lucky to have the daily privilege of sitting alongside Mike in a live studio, observing, learning - and often laughing - as he generously shared his experience with this young sports reporter. His gravitas, charisma, humour - seamless transitions from hard news to softer stories, and always with that avuncular friendliness and warmth that made Mike such a welcome visitor in so many living rooms every evening.

It's not an overstatement to say that Mike is part of the fabric of the north east. The millions of us who've taken part in the Great North Run over the years, might not be aware that the event's success is largely down to him. His active support for Brendan Foster's idea from day one was contagious, and the pictures of him firing the starting cannon at the first Great North Run in 1981 sum up Mike's proud support for our region. I will raise a glass to Mike, and smile with great affection at my memories of a great man. My thoughts are with Mike's wife, Pam, and their family.

– Ian Payne, Friend & Broadcaster
Mike Neville Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

I did used to miss Mike Neville when I went away. He interviewed me lots and lots of times over the years. What I love about the region - and therefore symbolised by Mike Neville - was that the region love their own so whatever I did whether it was a minor success or a bigger success it was always celebrated in the North East and it was always celebrated by Mike Neville ..... so with Mike, it was like he was proud of me like as if my Dad was interviewing me, do you know what I mean, there was a real sense of pride in everything I did, for Mike."

– Denise Welch, actor

For broadcaster Nicholas Owen, Mike Neville was simply 'the best in the business'. The pair worked together in the 1980s and were reunited on screen for this Tyne Tees documentary in 2002.

Wherever I go, when people say 'didn't you used to work in the North East?' and I say yes, I used to work with a chap called Mike Neville and anybody who's been in this part of the world whether they were brought up here or only visited it or worked in it for a bit would go 'Mike Neville! - yes'. Everybody felt they knew him. He was simply the best at what he did. There's nobody I have worked with since, and I've worked with the best in the business, people say, nobody had quite his blend of professional skill with enormous human warmth. That was why Mike was so very good."

– Nicholas Owen, Friend & Broadcaster

The North East certainly treasured the star in its midst. Mike's likeness appeared not only on TV screens but in other, less obvious places - in a mural on the Tyne and Wear Metro and in model form, for a parade to mark the millennium. Mike's iconic status meant he was showered with awards and recognition, both during his career - and in retirement.

In 1990 Mike was presented with an MBE for his services to broadcasting. He received an honorary doctorate from Northumbria University and was granted the Freedom of Gateshead.

Of course, the key to Mike's success throughout was his relationship with the North East public.

In turn, they delighted in Mike's on- and off-screen friendship with Tyne Tees weatherman Bob Johnson.

Mike with weatherman and friend Bob Johnson Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

We had never met before when I joined Tyne Tees and I was being shown round the newsroom, then introduced to people and somebody said 'This is Bob and we shook hands and I swear there was a spark. There was this instant reaction... and we've spoken ever since."

– Mike, on his friendship with Bob Johnson

Whether raising a laugh with Bob or delivering the most serious of news stories, Mike Neville was a constant, entertaining and reassuring presence to his legion of fans.

Mike was simply a broadcasting legend.

Recently asked to front a series of stories on the UK’s aging population which had the working title ‘80 is the new 60’, he quipped: ‘Or in my case, 80 is the new 90!’.

Turning down our invitation to face what he called the new ‘high definition cameras’, he told us “I’m enjoying retirement so much, I honestly don’t feel I’m quite ready for a comeback!”

All of us at ITV Tyne Tees are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mike Neville, a dear colleague and friend. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family at this very difficult time.

Mike was the face and voice of news in the North East for decades and those of us who had the privilege of working with him will never forget his skill as a presenter, his entertaining presence and his wonderful camaraderie. Like thousands of north east viewers, many members of the team grew up watching him in admiration on TV. He felt like one of the family.

We have lost a great man, a North East legend."

– Michaela Byrne, Head of News, ITV Tyne Tees

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