Arthur Wyndham, one of the last veterans of pre-television ABC, has died in Sydney at the age of 98. His funeral is at 2.30pm Friday, October 13 in the Camellia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium. All are welcome.
His daughter Susan Wyndham provided Radioinfo with this tribute:
ARTHUR WYNDHAM, February 14, 1925 – October 6, 2023
Arthur Wyndham, one of the last veterans of pre-television ABC, has died in Sydney at the age of 98.
Arthur joined the ABC in 1947 as a radio announcer and newsreader, and retired in 1985 as Controller Radio 1 after holding most senior management positions in radio and television.
On returning to Sydney after serving in the RAN in World War II, he began an accountancy course but decided that wasn’t for him. He answered an ad for a job with the ABC and his smooth, BBC-inflected voice graced the airwaves for eight years.
As a lifelong fan of The Goon Show, he had some Goonish moments of his own when one young announcer put a metal garbage bin over the head of another at the microphone, or poured a watering can over his head as he read the weather, to which the response was simply to raise an umbrella.
With his first wife, Shirley Moore, Arthur was sent to Canberra to broadcast parliamentary sittings and, while travelling in Europe in 1955, was seconded to the BBC in London for four months to learn TV production.
Back in Australia for the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, he was the ABC’s first producer trained in outdoor broadcasting and produced the opening ceremony, athletics and swimming events.
As ABC-TV premiered around the country, Arthur produced opening programs, pushing directors to liven up their content, and trained production and presentation staff. He was acting program director in Hobart, Adelaide and Perth, and program director in Melbourne for six years, by now remarried to Prudence Bavin.
He had many firsts in television – first cricket telecast, first football, first orchestral concert from the Sydney Town Hall – and a few disasters. His ‘most terrifying moment’ came while recording a program in the Canberra home of the Governor-General. While Mungo MacCallum was interviewing Lord Slim, the outdoor broadcasting van blew the power to the house. The interview continued while technicians scurried past the window, and then had to start again.
On another program, about Australian youth, the cameraman let his lens linger too long on a teenage girl’s belly button and ‘the balloons went up’, Arthur recalled in an archival interview with Tim Bowden. It was time to return to his first love, radio.
During the Vietnam War, he went as an adviser to Saigon to train local broadcasters in reporting rather than propaganda, set up a radio station for Australian troops and record documentary material for the ABC. Under mortar attack in the field, he felt in greater danger than he had as a Navy radar officer in World War II.
Arthur rose through radio and TV management ranks, and continued to nudge Aunty out of her conservative ruts. He refused to hire anyone who sounded like him for on-air roles, insisting on Australian accents. Given funding by the Whitlam Government for a youth station, he hired and guided the young team at 2JJ, and defended their irreverence.
Many of them remember him with warm respect.
Lex Marinos: “He unfailingly had a sparkle in his eye and a witty observation, and he always showed an interest in what I was doing.”
John Diamond: “I liked Arthur, a cool dude’ who wore pink trousers to the opening of Double Jay.”
Carl Tyson-Hall: “After Double Jay first aired our two-part doco “Vietnam – The War We Grew Up With” over two consecutive Sundays, Arthur came down to our William Street office to thank and congratulate me personally and also tell us that he was going to have it broadcast simultaneously on Big Aunty’s ABC Radios 1, 2 and 3 nationally.”
Arthur’s management positions included Director Radio Planning, Director Radio 2 and 3, Assistant Federal Director Radio Programs, Controller Radio Programs, Assistant General Manager Radio, and Federal Director TV Programs.
He represented the ABC at conferences run by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and European Broadcasting Association. After his retirement he spent a decade in management with the ABU in Malaysia.
Soon after leaving his ABC desk, he had the pleasure of reporting for a commercial station on the fall of the corrupt President Marcos in the Philippines. He had sometimes wondered if he should have been a journalist (he was a copy boy with the Sydney Sun as a teenager) or a highly paid commercial producer. But he was devoted to the ABC and his contribution still resonates.
Arthur is survived by his daughters, Susan Wyndham, Joanna Kelly and Kate Dunstan, and six grandchildren.
His funeral is at 2.30pm on Friday, October 13 in the Camellia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, corner of Delhi and Plassey roads, North Ryde. All are welcome.