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'Trailblazer' Wendy Austin bids farewell to BBC

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Wendy Austin in Belfast on March 13th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Wendy Austin in Belfast on March 13th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster.  Presenting 'Breakfast Special' with Seamus McKee.  1982

Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster. Presenting 'Breakfast Special' with Seamus McKee. 1982

Wendy Austin in Belfast on March 13th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Veteran BBC broadcaster Wendy Austin was hailed a "trailblazer" as she marked her last day at the corporation.

Wendy is one of the best-known faces and voices on BBC Northern Ireland, working on Good Morning Ulster, Talkback and Inside Business for the past five years. Her last show will air on Saturday.

She started out in the East Antrim Times in 1972, followed by two years at the Belfast Telegraph (1974-76). She then went to Downtown Radio (1976) before starting at BBC NI on her 25th birthday on November 19, 1976.

In 2012 she was awarded the MBE for her contribution to broadcasting.

In a segment on Talkback on Friday dedicated to the broadcaster, host William Crawley said it was a "really important day" as they said farewell to one of their “most distinguished, most admired colleagues”.

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Wendy Austin and William Crawley

Wendy Austin and William Crawley

Wendy Austin and William Crawley

Wendy said it was “a very peculiar scenario” to be leaving the corporation.

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Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster.  1987

Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster. 1987

“It slightly came home to me yesterday when I popped in to bring the remainder of my bits of pieces out of my drawer home," she said.

“I found that I had left my pass at home and I realised that's actually what it's going to be like from now on, when I won't have a pass and I won't be able to get in here.

"I can buy a different shaped handbag from now on. I always have a handbag with a little pocket in the side so the pass is in there and I know where it is."

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster lead tributes to the 68-year-old.

"I have been interviewed many times by Wendy Austin for a number of programmes for the BBC and Wendy, to me, has always been there,” she said.

“She was a trailblazer for women in broadcasting and indeed, women in the public eye.

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Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster.  Presenting 'Breakfast Special' with Seamus McKee.  1981

Wendy Austin: BBC Radio Ulster. Presenting 'Breakfast Special' with Seamus McKee. 1981

“When I was a young politician in my early 20s, there weren't too many women on the airwaves - interviewing or being interviewed.

“But Wendy was there simply doing her job through some very difficult times in our country. I think the fact she was simply doing her job as a woman and getting on with it is a very powerful statement in and of itself.

“I want to wish Wendy, her husband Frank and all her family every good wish for the future and I'm sure, and very much hope, that it's not the last time that we hear her dulcet tones."

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, wished Belfast-born Wendy well in her “retirement”.

"I have very fond memories of working with you. I suppose two things stick out in my mind: the time we were doing the campaign on Streptococcus B and how kind and understanding you were to me as chair of the health committee at that stage.

“I was also going through a period of depression and I know there were times you found me a wee bit emotional so I wanted to thank you for your great support at that time.

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Journalist Wendy Austin, received her Honary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for the contribution to broadcasting from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. Picture by Robert Ingram 30/06/05.

Journalist Wendy Austin, received her Honary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for the contribution to broadcasting from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. Picture by Robert Ingram 30/06/05.

“Also one of the fondest memories I have is the night you and I and Aoise [her daughter] met with Helen Pankhurst up in Stormont at the screening of the film, Suffragette.

“I just think you're a great woman. You're a trailblazer in media and wishing you all the best."

Veteran BBC war reporter Kate Adie text into the show to send her best wishes to Wendy.

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Wendy Austin provided by the BBC

Wendy Austin provided by the BBC

She wrote: "Give my best regards to Wendy and tell her I remember it made me so happy to see that I wasn't the only one to cover riots wearing a good pair of high heels. Professional with style."

UTV presenter Pamela Ballantine said there “wasn’t a mission” that Wendy was going to retire for good.

"Wendy had just left Downtown when I started. She always gave as good as she got from the presenters, who were predominantly male, and tried to put her off reading the news by doing jolly japes but Wendy was always able to hold her own and put the boys in their place.

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Wendy Austin in Belfast on March 13th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Wendy Austin in Belfast on March 13th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

“It has always been a pleasure to hear Wendy on the radio, see Wendy on the telly and any event you go to that Wendy's hosting, you know it's a safe pair of hands and you're going to have a fantastic night."

UUP MLA and former broadcaster Mike Nesbitt paid tribute to his former BBC colleague.

"Wendy had wonderful talents. She was empathetic, she had determination, she had tenacity, she showed you didn't have to be brutally aggressive to get the best out of an interview.”

Peter Johnston, director of BBC Northern Ireland said it was “the end of an era”.

“I just want to thank you for your unique contribution across so many iconic programmes and events across all those years for the BBC as a whole," he told Wendy.

“You've always been fantastic to work with and I particularly appreciate how you've been so generous to so many of our young journalists and presenters over the years."

Wendy admitted she was looking forward to “working out what I want to do” and spending some more time with her husband, Translink Chairman Frank Hewitt.

Belfast Telegraph