Stuart Hall profile: Northern hero with a penchant for hyperbole and hilarity

Hall's helpless mirth made him one of the most impersonated voices from 1970s television

When Jeremy Clarkson chose to besmirch the idea of Top Gear moving to the BBC's new headquarters in Salford it fell to Stuart Hall to leap to the defence of the region which had given him both fame and fortune in equal measure.

"Does he imagine that at the advance of effete Southerners, we retreat to our outside lavatories with ripped-up copies of the News of the Screws?" he demanded. "That in our terraces we ply Uncle Fred with chitterlings, chunks, bangers and chips, sit him in a commode, chamberpot handy, an ashtray full of dog ends, and pretend he's dying through lack of care," he added.

It was a typical display of linguistic pyrotechnics and local loyalty from a broadcaster and married father of two who, to many eyes and ears, was a national treasure not just for his ability to evoke Shakespearian drama from a rain-lashed football stadium each Saturday but also for his irrepressible laughter and sense of fun.

Having eschewed the opportunity himself to play football for Crystal Palace in the 1950s on the grounds that the wages were too low and he wanted to race motor cars instead, Hall chose to anchor himself to his native Manchester where he assumed the role of the city's self-styled Boswell.

He became one of the giants of the hey-day of regional broadcasting, presenting the BBC's regional news programme for the North-west from 1965 until 1990. "I was in there, Slack Alice and the other fleshpots; we had nightclubs here to rival Las Vegas. And Bestie was its hub. We'd rouster till dawn," he recently recalled.

But it was his 1972 elevation to host the BBC's hugely popular It's a Knockout that catapulted him to fame beyond the northern reaches of the M6. The weekly showdown involving overlarge foam costumes and slippery inflatables which brought teams of civil servants and plumbers from towns such as Basingstoke into hilarious battle became synonymous with Hall and his referee Eddie Waring.

The northern duo oversaw the best of the teams as they took part in the European version of the game, Jeux Sans Frontieres, said to have been devised by President de Gaulle as a means of cementing Franco-German post-war cooperation.

Hall's helpless mirth made him one of the most impersonated voices from 1970s television – even if the programme crashed and burnt with the notorious Prince Edward-inspired royal charity version in 1985.

The broadcaster has built up an impressive fortune in his 50-year career and owns one of the Cheshire triangle's finest mansions on the back of his regular TV and radio work, augmented with lucrative voice-overs.

Throughout, however, he has routinely insisted that he regards himself as little more than "a second-rate provincial hack".

But an OBE in 2012 for services to broadcasting and charity came on the back of a two-hour Radio 5 Live tribute and 1999 Commons motion signed by 50 MPs congratulating him on 40 years of broadcasting.

As well as his love of sport, Hall has revelled in his reputation as a bon viveur – an Epicurean who combined a passion for Percy Bysshe Shelley with a lifelong support of Manchester City.

They are passions he delights in bringing together. Among his more flamboyant claims was to have coined the phrase the "beautiful game" to describe the on-field finesse of his hero Peter Doherty.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of her eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments