Heartfelt tributes paid to long-serving ITV sign language translator Alex Duguid

Video report by Julie Harrison

Tributes have been paid to Alex Duguid, who has died at the age of 79.

Alex, from South Shields, has been one of ITV's onscreen Deaf presenters for decades, working as a British Sign Language translator on the company’s flagship programmes.

His Signpost Productions colleagues based in Gateshead said Alex was a friend, colleague, leader, mentor and someone they could trust.

Alex had been unwell for a while and had recently been in hospital. 

His family say he passed away peacefully at home.

In 2019, Alex was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He has been recognised for services to Deaf People and British Sign Language Education, teaching hundreds of people to sign over the years.

At the ceremony, HRH Prince William signed 'Congratulations Alex', a touching gesture, which Alex hoped would raise awareness of the Deaf community.

Reacting to the honour Alex said he had to do a double take as couldn't believe it.

Alex explained that when he received the Royal Correspondence through the post, he had initially mistaken it for a tax letter. He went on to say that he was delighted to discover he was going to receive such an honour.

Alex's experience of growing up Deaf in the North East was made into a documentary in 2017.

Life Stories: Alex Duguid saw Alex takes viewers us on a tour of his hometown, South Shields. During the programme her visits his school in Boston Spa, and the home of his favourite football team, Sunderland AFC.

Alex worked at ITV for almost 25 years and was, at one point, the company's oldest employee.

In that time he worked for Signpost Productions, which is based in Gateshead, providing sign language interpretation for a wide range of ITV programmes, including the much loved soap opera, Coronation street.

It was during an episode of Corrie that Alex became a social media sensation.

A clip went viral after appearing to show the character Liz McDonald (played by actress Beverly Callard) being startled when Alex appeared on screen to interpret the programme.

The video was shared thousands of times online, with viewers saying the unintentional timing was 'comedy gold'.

Alex said soaps can be some of the hardest programmes to sign because of the large numbers of characters and personalities he has to switch between.

Commenting at the time Alex said he couldn't believe the clip had gone viral online:

"I was lost for words really. I only hope that this publicity will raise people's awareness of sign language and the problems deaf people face."

In 2017 Alex's long and successful career in television received further recognition when he collected an 'Outstanding Contribution Award' from the Royal Television Society.

The Managing Director of Signpost Productions, Kenny Toal, paid tribute to Alex, who was proud to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the Deaf community:

"Alex was a one-off. Someone who embraced an environment that had both Deaf and hearing people working side by side.

"He was so supportive of all his colleagues and loved being able to translate content from English to British Sign Language. He was really proud to be a key part in providing this service to his community.

"Alex was very passionate about our Signed Stories, which saw books translated into BSL for young Deaf children. This was something he never had access to growing up and he was so happy that he was able to do this during his time with us.

"There aren't many people who have the influence he had over his lifetime, and his recognition a few years ago, when he was awarded the MBE was fitting.

"We will all miss him."