Presenter and author John Grundy

BEST-known for presenting TV shows like Grundy's Wonders and Grundy's Northern Pride, presenter and author John Grundy is a champion of North East architecture.

TV presenter John Grundy
TV presenter John Grundy

BEST-known for presenting TV shows like Grundy's Wonders and Grundy's Northern Pride, presenter and author John Grundy is a champion of North East architecture.

Born in Carlisle, he was a lecturer in English Literature at South Tyneside College for many years before getting into TV.

As well doing live commentaries aboard the Shields Ferry, the 65-year-old is chairman of The Friends of Beamish. He lives with wife Judi, a retired English teacher, in the same terraced house in Gosforth they bought in 1970. The pair have three grown-up children, David, Caroline and Emma, who all live down south, and are grandparents to two-year-old Isabelle and three-month-old Phoebe.

You can catch “An evening with John Grundy” at 10 North East venues during May and June, including the Durham Gala Theatre, Queen’s Hall Arts Centre Hexham and Newcastle’s Live Theatre, which John describes as “a fairly jolly look at the 27 odd years that I’ve been closely involved with the buildings of the North East.”

What’s your first memory?
I was so frightened of the dark space under the stairs in the house I lived in when I was very little. That’s my first half memory but I can very clearly hear my sister crying out when I was lost at the age of three (I was just in a neighbour’s back yard). She was saying “Oh, my little brother”. Family rumour has it that she was wringing her hands.

What were you like as a child?
I think I was quite sweet. My sister’s friend said I had nice knees and when I was about five I was taken to the local art college so that the students could draw my head.

What childhood games did you play?
Marbles, hide and seek, tiggy on high, Japs and English, Cowboys and Indians, the Count of Monte Cristo (no, I don’t know either). I built dens and dug dens and found wonderful secret hiding places in the middle of bushes. I dammed small streams and blew up the dams with bangers. I explored. There was a fantastic freedom in the lives led by boys like me in the early 1950s. I’m not sure how we survived.

What music did you like and what was the first record you bought?
I loved rock ‘n’ roll from the first moment I heard it and I started a lifetime love of American music before I was ten. The first record I bought was “Hound Dog” by Elvis but I loved Bill Haley and Lonny Donegan. In my early teens I discovered The Voice of America radio station and found jazz and the blues. What joy.

Did you have a family pet?
Never. I was a deprived youth but I never let my children have one either. What a nasty man.

Were your school days the best days of your life?
I had great times at school but there was horror there too. Nobody could fail to be frightened of the aptly named Miss Tin, and the Grammar School PE teacher with his “tonk” (a broken chair leg) permanently up his sleeve was hardly a figure of fun. I did like school but on the whole I have to say that I enjoyed being a teacher more than being a pupil.

Were you ever bullied?
Mostly I was too big to be bullied. I was 5ft 6ins by the time I was eleven and first shaved when I was 10. The only time I can recall being bullied was by a group of boys who included someone who went on to become quite well known so I’d better not tell you his name!

What were your favourite TV programmes?
I was 13 or 14 before my family owned a television. I loved watching The Lone Ranger though – at my friend Roger’s house. I was shocked in later years to discover that the name Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s faithful Indian companion, is Spanish for stupid.

What did you want to do when you grew up?
I don’t recall wanting anything. I was a passionate train spotter for a long time so in stereotypical style I probably wanted to be a train driver. By the time I was really thinking about such things I sort of took it for granted that I would become a teacher.

How did you spend your weekends?
I sat for hours on a wall overlooking the main west coast railway line. I hung about outside the chip shop. I walked past Thelma Pringle’s house quite a lot in the hope of catching a glimpse of her. Obviously I went to Brunton Park to watch Carlisle United and to Carlisle Castle to dream of the romantic past. In the summer I played cricket and tennis and played golf on the public course, and from my earliest teens, I would set off on the bus or my bike to explore Cumberland and the Lakes. Camping and walking in the fells – how did my mother have the courage to let me go?

Do you remember your first kiss?
I wasn’t Carlisle’s greatest lover so there weren’t a lot of kisses but I do recall standing in the twilight beneath a laburnum tree at the gate to my only girlfriend’s garden while her father called anxiously for her to come in.

Who was your first love?
She had a laburnum tree by the gate to her garden and she was called Patricia. Where can she be now?

What was the most important thing in the world to you?
Me mam and me sister.

What did you wear then, that you would never wear now?
A dark blue school gaberdene. I used to turn the collar up in a desperate (and unsuccessful) attempt to look as cool as Johnny Rockbun, the class pin-up. I took the belt off, obviously, because that made me look even more sophisticated and I wet my hair and slicked it back which was fine until it dried and the illusion wore off.

How have you changed from your teenage self?
I used to think nothing of running down a mountain to buy a Mars Bar and running back up again to eat it. I couldn’t do that now. Other than that, I don’t feel as if I’ve changed at all. I’m fatter and balder of course, but I think I’m still as silly as I was and I haven’t changed my politics or beliefs or my attitude to other people. I even wear pretty much the same clothes as I used to in those days. It’s a worry.

Where did you go on holiday?
I used to go to the Lake District, camping or bivouacking high up on the fells.

Would the young you be pleased with the adult you?
I do hope so.

If you could go back in time what would tell your 15-year old self?
Kiss more girls.


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