Travel journalist and broadcaster
Thursday 07 September 2006
Anne Deirdre Gregg, journalist and television presenter: born Belfast 11 February 1940; died London 5 September 2006.
Away from the cameras, Anne Gregg was known for being just as bubbly, warm and kind as she was on screen - something reflected in her reaction to being ousted as presenter of the BBC's Holiday programme 15 years ago.
Newspaper headlines screamed of her "sacking", when in fact she had resigned after being asked to revert to the role of reporter, with a new presenter being brought in, but Gregg was philosophical. "When you have a job like mine, your fall from grace is very public," she said. "But, for people in this industry, losing a job is just as bad, if not worse, and only your family hears about it."
The revamp of Holiday was seen by some as proof of an ageist attitude in the media, but Gregg pointed to the survival of Esther Rantzen and Sue Lawley in high-profile jobs, insisting: "Simply, there were changes and I didn't fit in with them, so I decided to walk away and let them get on with it."
Neither was she impressed - or flattered - to have been dubbed "the thinking man's crumpet". "It's just one of those glib phrases," she said:
The only thing that pleases me about it is that I am in good company, as the likes of Joan Bakewell,
Joanna Lumley and Felicity Kendal have all been similarly described.
The presenter's departure from Holiday was met with more than 1,000 protests to the BBC but, as Anneka Rice - almost 20 years her junior - replaced her, Gregg switched channels to ITV to host her own programmes and continued to write for various newspapers and magazines, as she had done for the previous quarter-century.
Born in 1940 in Belfast, where her father worked in the Ordnance Survey office and her mother was a dressmaker, Gregg became a civil servant herself, working as a book-keeper after leaving Strathearn Grammar School. Her first plane journey, at the age of 18, to the Expo '58 event in Brussels, left a lasting impression that would lead her into travel writing. A year later, she changed career when she became an announcer and reporter with the newly established Ulster Television, ITV's Northern Ireland contractor. In 1963, she switched to Anglia Television, in Norwich, before joining the BBC in London as a continuity announcer.
However, she then left television for print journalism, joining Good Housekeeping magazine as features editor in 1966 and rising to deputy editor, before taking over the editorship of Woman's Journal in 1978. Two years later, she went freelance, continuing to write but also returning to the screen as a reporter on the Holiday programme, eventually becoming its presenter, following in the footsteps of Cliff Michelmore.
After her abrupt departure, Gregg presented ITV's travel-religion programme Annie Across America (1992), about Christianity in the United States, enthusing:
It was fascinating to hear the totally opposed views of people who all profess to be Christians. You go from the Southern Baptists, who think gays ought to be boiled in oil, to a gay priest in Los Angeles fighting for human and civil rights.
The following year, she travelled with various preachers to different places of pilgrimage for Package Pilgrims (1993).
Gregg also hosted the ITV travel programme Getaways (screened in the Meridian and HTV regions, 1993-98) and Places Apart (for BBC Northern Ireland, 1996-97), as well as one series of the BBC Radio 4 programme Breakaway (1997).
At various times, she was travel editor of Radio Times, Living, Catalyst and BBC Homes & Antiques magazines and, from 1979 until her death, editor of The Traveller in France. In 2003 France awarded her the Médaille d'Or du Tourisme.
Gregg's love of France led her to write the book Tarragon and Truffles: a guide to the best French markets (2006). Her other books included The Perfect Holiday (1989), Dalton's Directory of British Holidays (1993) and the "Heritage Guides to Great Britain" series (1995).
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