Bob Greaves was the most famous television face in the North-West through the 1970s and 80s. Everybody knew him. Wherever he went, people wanted to shake his hand or simply shout out his name. He always responded with a smile and a chirpy quip. In a street research study a staggering 96 per cent of people in the region could name him from a photograph.
Born in 1934 in Sale, Cheshire, and educated at Sale Boys' Grammar School, Greaves began his career in newspapers. He learned his trade on the Sale and Stretford Guardian and then the Daily Mail in Manchester before joining Granada TV in 1963. I first met him when I arrived from Northern Ireland to co-present the newly launched Granada Reports evening news programme. He was a joy and inspiration to work with. Bob had a real nose for a good news story and unerring good judgement. He understood his audience, never talked down to them and was loved by them. They regarded him as one of their own – and he was. He informed them, campaigned for them and made them laugh with his great wit and humour.
His utter enthusiasm for the job and mischievous love for the quirky persuaded me to make a short film for Granada Reports that I would normally never have agreed to in a month of Sundays. A local company which made vodka was celebrating the news that it was now outselling Russian vodka in Russia, and Bob had this idea that he and I should dress up in lederhosen (don't ask me why) and pretend to be spies breaking into the vodka company to discover the recipe that was proving so successful. A couple of years ago I learnt with horror that the company had retained a copy of that video and were still showing it. I was mortified, but Bob roared with laughter as much at my embarrassment as his joy that it was still being viewed several decades later.
Bob became internationally famous for an incident with an elephant at Chester Zoo. As he delivered live to camera, the elephant's trunk began to prod his private parts and wouldn't stop. Bob, of course, kept going brilliantly in what was a hilarious piece of television shown all over the world. He always said that when he died and people wrote about him, that elephant would still be the star, not him.
He was wrong. He was the great star of Granada Television and will always be remembered as that. This was a man who chalked up more than 12,000 live programmes. His network credits included five series of Scramble and scores of reports for Channel 4's Union World. But he was essentially a man of the North-West. He was born there, worked there all his life and died there. He adored Granada Television and was immensely proud to be their face in the region across three decades. He was a truly great broadcaster who was huge fun to be with. As his agent and close friend Dave Warwick said, he always greeted you with a smile and a joke and parted company with a smile and a joke.
Bob retired in 1999 and spent his retirement with his family in Altrincham, Cheshire. He died after a long but dignified battle with cancer. He was one of life's great characters and made an enormous contribution to television and life in the North-West of England. He will be greatly missed by those of us who knew and treasured him and by tens of thousands more who didn't know him personally but loved him just the same.
Robert Greaves, journalist and broadcaster: born Sale, Cheshire 28 November 1934; married four times; died 14 March 2011.