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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
'My delightful colleague Richard'
Richard Whiteley
Richard Whiteley died aged 61, after undergoing heart surgery
TV presenter and Countdown host Richard Whiteley, who has died aged 61, is remembered by one of his friends - TV personality and ex-Tory MP Gyles Brandreth:

It's a real loss to all his friends, and he really did count his friends in their millions because Countdown meant everything.

In his life, the things that mattered to him, in this order, were probably Giggleswick school - where he had been a pupil and where he was, until his death, a governor. Indeed the last time I saw him was six weeks ago at a dinner at the House of Commons for the Giggleswick school old boys.

So it was Giggleswick first, then Yorkshire, then Countdown - those were the great loves of his life.

When he left Cambridge he went first to ITN, then he went to Yorkshire Television.

He loved being on Countdown, he loved watching it. He just loved life
Gyles Brandreth
He became the toast of Yorkshire Television, he was Mr Yorkshire TV. He presented their local news TV programme Calendar for many years, then Countdown came along.

He loved what he did, he loved being on Countdown, he loved watching it. He just loved life.

He was the best company because he was completely natural and, for somebody who was so admired in himself, he was not really interested in himself. He was simply interested in other people. Totally delightful.

Gyles Brandreth
Gyles Brandreth regularly appeared as a guest on Countdown
He made some outrageous puns (on Countdown). But what was interesting was that he was highly intelligent, a well-educated person.

He was a mixture of the sophisticated and the relaxed.

He had a wicked sense of humour. Not long ago, the dressing room he had at Yorkshire TV was redecorated. He and Carol Vorderman had adjacent dressing rooms and, after the redecoration, Richard noticed there was a strategically-placed hole in the wall of his dressing room.

He was about to telephone maintenance to report it and he thought: 'No, let her look.'

Carol Vorderman, Countdown contestant Tanmay Dixit and Richard Whiteley
Whiteley presented Countdown with Carol Vorderman (left) for 23 years
He had a certain style. He enjoyed those loud jackets and those loud ties and he was just happy. He was a happy person, but not in an insensitive way.

He was a sensitive soul. In a sense he was also a great romantic. He had a strong feeling for Yorkshire and a strong sense of his childhood and his roots.

He was also something of a hero worshipper. Right to the end of his life he admired, for example, Russell Harty who taught him English at Giggleswick and went on to become a television presenter.

He kept heroes like Russell all his life. He was a great admirer of other people, a great enthusiast. Like the famous line from the Kipling poem, he literally 'walked with kings', but never lost the common touch.

Richard Whiteley
I think he rather liked the fact that the Queen watched the programme
Gyles Brandreth
I think he was frustrated when Countdown moved from 4.30pm to 3.15pm because then he discovered that the Queen was no longer able to watch Countdown, because she took the corgis for a walk earlier in the afternoon.

I think he rather liked the fact that the Queen watched the programme. He was certainly very proud of being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire a couple of years ago.

You couldn't not like him.

I think the great thing about the programme, from his point of view, was the mixture.

It was like a friend coming to tea every day, as he used to say, but also it was a stimulating programme because there was a word game and mental arithmetic involved. It kept the little grey cells working.

It was ideal for him because if you are there on television every day of the year you have got to be an authentic person for it to go on ringing true.

With Richard, he never struck a false note.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Gyles Brandreth fondly remembers a good friend



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