FOND memories were stirred at the funeral of a man whose face was once one of the best-known on North East television.
Maxwell Deas, who has died aged 92, was head of religious programmes at Tyne Tees Television until retiring in 1986. His funeral was held at St Gabriel’s, Sunderland.
In his job he met and interviewed many charismatic world figures including Pope Paul VI, boxer Muhammad Ali, war hero Douglas Bader and American evangelist Billy Graham.
But many will remember him for the Epilogue, the short religious broadcast which used to bring the day’s programme schedule to a close. In an interview with The Journal published on his retirement, Maxwell said he had been responsible for more than 10,000 Tyne Tees Epilogues, delivering many himself but also putting other North East religious leaders into the nightly slot.
A devout Anglican, he said: “Whenever I attend a church occasion, I find I’m on the look-out for potential Epilogians, as we call them – someone who you feel has the ability to confirm and deepen the faith of the committed Christian and, hopefully, establish some form of communication with those viewers who think religion is irrelevant.”
He accepted that more people switched off the Epilogue than watched it but argued that it helped many viewers, particularly the elderly, to cope with their anxieties.
Mr Deas, who also presented shows such as Poetry of the People and Hello Sunday, as well as producing for the network, was also a keen actor who is immortalised as the vicar in one of the opening scenes of the Tyneside-set Michael Caine thriller Get Carter.
His widow, Joy, recalled their first meeting at Sunderland Empire when she was in the show Oklahoma and Maxwell was representing Tyne Tees who were running a beauty contest called Glamour Trail.
“He thought I was one of the contestants. Max was a bit of a ladies’ man, very tall and handsome.
“I remember him driving me home and we talked for two hours. I told my sister, ‘I’ve met the most wonderful man and I’m going to marry him’.”
Joy was 22 years his junior but they were duly married and had two children, Richard and Maxine, who produced four grandchildren.
Richard Deas said: “He was my father but I feel I’ve lost a friend.”
Born in Sunderland, Maxwell Deas worked as a public relations officer before joining the new Tyne Tees Television in 1958, the year before it went on air.
He spent some time “spreading the gospel of TV advertising” before turning to the Gospels proper.
After a period as a station ‘host’, looking after stars such as Shirley Bassey, he became an enthusiastic head of religious programmes.
His audience with the Pope at the Vatican came in 1973, when he was presented with a bronze medallion. He met Ali in 1977 when they discussed his Muslim faith.