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Obituary: Much-loved UTV broadcaster ex-footballer Leslie Dawes

Leslie Dawes

Leslie Dawes, who has died at the age of 92, was an Ulster Television presenter and reporter who viewers loved to see on screen.

"His main passion was sport," said former UTV producer Andy Crockard, "and I first worked with him years ago on an early black and white programme called Sportscast. Leslie was a pleasure to have in front of the camera, especially when the subject was football.

"It is sad that a UTV stalwart and household name passes just as the station is celebrating its 55th anniversary - the station went on the air on Halloween Night 1959."

In his early days English-born Dawes played professionally in the Football League, including with home town club Norwich City.

It was during his time at Carrow Road that he became interested in broadcasting, first on radio, and when the opportunity to join UTV in the Sixties cropped up he accepted immediately.

Irish League players were impressed by his knowledge of the game, both at domestic and international level, and never refused his requests for interviews.

Billy Bingham, the former Northern Ireland manager, always enjoyed his live chats on screen with Leslie.

"His questions showed he had a detailed knowledge of the game," he once said.

But Leslie didn't confine his broadcasting to sport alone.

"He was always the ideal reporter to send out on light-hearted and quirky stories," remembered Robin Walsh, from his days heading the station's editorial department.

Surprisingly for a television presenter, Leslie was an extremely private family man.

He even kept his age a closely guarded secret and was still enjoying his time at UTV well into his 70s.

"It suited UTV executives because they liked having this character with the household name around and on screen," recalled Andy.

Gordon Burns, a former UTV sports editor, said: "He had that vital ingredient every television presenter needs - likeability. He was warm and friendly and genuinely nice."

Then one day, as he was about to travel abroad on a sports report well into normal retirement years, his age was spotted on his passport. And when he returned with an exclusive he was advised - reluctantly - that he would have to put his feet up.

Even then he returned to his first love, the wireless, and worked with Belfast Community Radio. And he kept himself fit playing golf and gardening.

"But from the day he retired from UTV he was missed terribly by viewers and the staff as well," said the station's Paul Clark.

Leslie Dawes, whose wife of 60-plus years died last May, is survived by his son Michael. His funeral is taking place today at noon in St Patrick's Chapel, Downpatrick, where he lived.

Belfast Telegraph