Obituary: Glyn Worsnip
Saturday 08 June 1996
Born in Gloucestershire in 1938, Worsnip showed an interest in performing from an early age but, after service as a photographic intelligence officer in the RAF (1956-58), he continued his academic studies and read English at St John's College, Oxford.
Deciding on acting as a career, over the next 15 years Worsnip rose from working in repertory theatre to performing farce with Frankie Howerd, appearing in Pirandello's Henry IV, with Albert Finney in the title-role (1963), playing a non- speaking role in an RSC production of Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women (1962) and acting in the musicals Our Man Crichton (1964-65), Oliver! (but not in the original 1960 cast) and Canterbury Tales (1968).
Acting work was sporadic and, while earning pounds 20 a week as a clerk-typist during a "resting" period, Worsnip was offered an audition as an on-screen reporter for That's Life!, which had begun the previous year. The show mixed serious consumer issues with comedy, songs and quirky items, such as Cyril Fletcher's "odd odes" and an item entitled "Heap of the Week". It evolved from Braden's Week, a magazine programme hosted by Bernard Braden, which introduced Esther Rantzen to television audiences as a researcher and reporter. Now, she was in charge and "her boys" for the first year of That's Life! had been George Layton and Bob Welling. Worsnip was paired with Kieran Prendiville, and both continued on the show - which gained a reputation for lambasting bureaucracy - until 1978.
Some of the most memorable items presented by Worsnip included a dog that could count, a crow that had a taste for real ale and a retired colonel who described the alligator he lived with in a basement flat in Surrey as "perfectly harmless" but ended up in hospital with a hole bitten in his arm during filming.
In 1979, Worsnip joined the BBC evening current affairs magazine Nationwide as a reporter and presenter, staying with it until its demise eight years later. Although the programme had a reputation for technical breakdowns as it tried to link BBC studios around the country, Worsnip won praise as a thorough reporter and critical acclaim for Paras, his 1983 documentary about the Army. His other television appearances included Omnibus, Arena, Help Yourself and Joint Account.
Then, in 1986, he began to show symptoms of the brain disease cerebellar ataxia. His speech became slurred and walking difficult. He was working for BBC radio, presenting the news review Stop Press, Pick of the Week and schools programmes, as well as becoming host of a new series, The Press Gang. His behaviour led people to think he was drunk and, shortly before Christmas 1987, he was sacked from Stop Press after listeners' complaints.
When cerebellar ataxia was diagnosed, Worsnip was encouraged by his colleagues to ``come out'' and the result was A Lone Voice, broadcast on Radio 4 in March 1988. The response from listeners was overwhelming. ``I heard from old school, college and university chums I had not seen in 30 years," Worsnip wrote in his autobiography, Up the Down Escalator (1990). ``I heard from a mass of disabled people, offering solidarity.'' But there was no cure. In his one of his last programmes, for Horizon, he reported on illnesses such as his affecting the brain.
Glyn Worsnip, actor and broadcaster: born Hewelfield, Gloucestershire 2 September 1938; married Jo Glanville (one daughter); died 7 June 1996.
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