Robert Dougall, former BBC newsreader, dies aged 86

ROBERT DOUGALL, the BBC newsreader who for nearly 20 years was one of Britain's most famous and best-loved faces, died at the weekend, aged 86.

He was one of a trio of television newsreaders brought in to counter the influence of the new Independent Television in the mid-Fifties, the others being Richard Baker and Kenneth Kendall.

All managed to combine gravitas and authority with a naturally warm and friendly manner, and won a massive following from Middle England as they recounted the turbulent dramas of the Sixties in imperturbable Oxford English.

Dougall in particular, with his gentle smile and his naturally sympathetic, almost elegiac cadence, became a universally loved figure, the nation's sensitive uncle, and retired only reluctantly when he reached he age of 60 in 1973.

Educated at Whitgift School in his home town of Croydon, he started his career with the corporation as an accountant in 1933, moving into radio announcing for the Empire Service (later the World Service) the following year, and becoming a special correspondent during the war. After subsequent war service in the Royal Navy he worked as an outside broadcasts commentator.

After leaving the BBC, he took over from Jess Yates as presenter of Stars on Sunday on ITV for two series and also hosted Years Ahead, a weekly Channel 4 programme for the over-50s, in the 1980s. He championed the cause of older people, becoming the first president of the Association of Retired Persons Over 50, but was replaced, aged 81, by newsreader Martyn Lewis in 1995 - according to reports because he was too old for the post.

He was also well-known for his love of birdwatching and was a former president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.