IT WAS like he’d never been away – a North East legend of our living rooms seamlessly back on air.
After six years of retirement, respected broadcaster Mike Neville again raised the microphone for one day only.
And nothing much has changed since he disappeared from regional news bulletins after taking ill in 2005.
Reducing co-hosts to creases of laughter and reliving a time when TV news was in its infancy, the former face of tea-time for North East families yesterday pushed back the years.
He was appearing on city hospitals station Radio Tyneside, which was formed 60 years ago, initially to bring live reports of Newcastle United football matches to patients.
The charity, run by volunteers, is a full 24-hour music, news and sport station with Mike as its president.
It still provides live coverage from St James’ Park and the commentary is also played inside the stadium for visually-impaired fans to follow.
Mike, 74, has been involved with the station for 20 years, and in his heyday would broadcast live Christmas Eve specials from the Radio Tyneside studios in the city’s Claremont Road.
The news anchorman came out of retirement to launch a 60th anniversary appeal for what is thought to be the oldest hospital radio station in the country.
“I have so loved my retirement, I think I was born to do nothing,” said Mike.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with my grandchildren, picking them up and taking them to school. It’s amazing how quickly the days still go even out of broadcasting. But it always feels like home being in front of a mic and being back in the studio, surrounded by equipment I still have no idea what is for.
“It sounds ridiculous but every day in my career was a highlight. I remember my very early days with Tyne Tees where I started in 1962 and we were new, television was new and we used to go in to the studio on our days off just to be part of the atmosphere. When I moved to the BBC in New Bridge Street in Newcastle, we had these tiny little studios and you passed the engineers and spent so much time with them. It was like a real family. That sounds corny but it’s true.”
Among celebrities he interviewed were Bing Crosby, Tony Blair, Bob Hope and Larry Hagman, who famously played JR Ewing in Dallas.
Mike, from Whickham, Gateshead, told listeners for the pre-recorded show how six years ago he was close to death when a blood clot left him on a hospital emergency ward.
“I had a clot which meant if they hadn’t got me to hospital in time they would have had to take my leg off and within six hours I would have died,” he said. The staff at Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital could not be better. I always say they didn’t just save my leg – they saved my life.
“It made me realise even more how hospital radio is immensely important because it keeps families in touch, and it lifts the spirits of patients who are generally going through a lot.”
Presenters Cara Hall and Alistair Baker joined Mike in the studio at their Newcastle HQ to reminisce about his broadcasting and journalism career.
Starting out at the Daily Mail, he completed Army national service in 1955 before joining Tyne Tees in 1962.
:: THE Mike Neville broadcast will be aired on Radio Tyneside’s magazine show on Sunday on www.radiotyneside.co.uk at 1575AM and on the hospital network, hospedia