Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Wendy Austin has a Royal blue day at the Palace

Wendy Austin, doyenne of Northern Irish broadcasters, can now style herself MBE.

Yesterday she went to Buckingham Palace and received her gong from Prince Charles, a royal she knows from their mutual charity work.

The pair were obviously at ease with each other and there were smiles all round and they chatted like old pals as Wendy picked up her honour.

“He came over for an event at Hillsborough some years ago when I was chairing the Spirit of Enniskillen, and he was terrific,” she said from the Groucho Club in London, a watering hole favoured by the media.

Wendy, who started her journalistic career at the Belfast Telegraph in the 1970s, got her gong for “services to broadcasting and to the community” and it was awarded to her with both her maiden and her married surnames, Austin and Hewitt.

“I don't know who was kind enough to propose me but it was in the name of Wendy Austin-Hewitt, and that's fine,” she said.

The radio veteran also told photographers to take her name as Hewitt for their picture captions.

The Talkback host, also known for talking back herself — she once told Ulster Unionist John Taylor “I am not your dear girl” — wore a stylish dress she bought at House of Fraser.

Having received the news she was getting the MBE in April — it wasn’t made public until June — Wendy said she had to keep it under her hat “for the longest time I've ever had to keep a secret”.

She added that it wasn't easy concealing her pride at being honoured.

Having left the Palace, where she was decorated alongside a group of Northern Ireland people, Wendy and her husband Frank and grown-up children Niall, Kerry and Clare from her first marriage, headed into central London to paint the town red.

She said she felt right at home and was having a great day.

“I've been chatting with London friends and colleagues from when I worked here, including journalist Peter York (author of the Sloane Ranger Handbook).

“So I've been learning how to be a Sloane,” she said with a laugh.

Asked how she felt to be a Member of the British Empire, Wendy replied: “I feel terrific and there was a great atmosphere when I talked to the other Northern Irish recipients.

“I have been shamelessly wearing my MBE ever since.”

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