Dewar McCormack

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(b. Pretoria, 10/06/1916 - d. Cape Town, 10/06/1997). Broadcaster, actor, narrator. Though born in South Africa, Charles Theodore Dewar McCormack grew up in New Zealand after his father had moved there in 1927. After he finished school he worked at an insurance company as a junior clerk, intending to become an actuary. A keen amateur actor, he was a member of the Wanganui Repertory Society (acting in Rope) and then the Wellington Repertory Society (acting in French Without Tears), after which he was invited to join Williamson's New Dramatic Society, appearing in It's a Wise Child at the Wellington Opera House and at His Majesty's in Auckland. It was at this time that he started his radio career, which included a role as Albert, the Prince Consort, in the series Victoriana.

When World War II broke out, he returned to South Africa and joined the Union Defence Force. In June 1942 he was caught up in the fall of Tobruk and as Lance Corporal McCormack spent three years in prisoner-of-war camps, ending up in the Sudetenland. His broadcasting career began in earnest in October 1945, when he joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation as announcer/producer in Johannesburg. After two years he was sent to Cape Town as English Programme Organiser and quickly built up a reputation as documentary producer and interviewer. In this capacity he travelled the world and interviewed people ranging from Sir Thomas Beecham and Malcolm Muggeridge to Alan Paton and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. Amongst those he taught was Sue McGregor, who went on to host the BBC's Women's Hour from 1972 to 1987.

He is well remembered as the first actor to play Mark Saxon, "the world strangest investigator", in No Place To Hide, the radio serial created by Monté Doyle that was launched on Springbok Radio in 1958. In 1969 he became the quiz master of the very popular Test the Team, in which listeners attempted to stump a learned panel with questions they sent in, and in the 1980's he hosted Sixty Plus, a programme for senior citizens. A commanding and distinguished-looking personality, he made a seamless transfer from radio to television, presenting some of the SABC's most prestigious series. These included Then Came the English (Peter Grossett & Lionel Friedberg/1982), Parliament (William C. Faure/1983), Those Crowded Years: South Africa and the War 1939-45 (Peter Grossett/1985) and To Control the Lighting: South African Broadcasting Corporation 50 1936-1986 (Geoffrey Collins, Chris Schutte and Raymond Hancock).

In addition he frequently provided the narration for independently produced documentaries, amongst them Island of St. Helena (Charles B. Frater, Esdon Frost & Bob Johnston/1962), The Tristan Story (Esdon Frost), Orange, White and Blue: the Story of Our Flag (Esdon Frost/1967) and Kirstenbosch Dream (Lewis Lewis/1973). He also published three books: Viewpoint on South Africa: a Call for Reason (1987), Cue for Speech: a Broadcaster's Retrospect (1989) and The Perm Book of "Test the Team" (1994). (FO)


McCormack, Dewar - Cue for speech: a broadcaster's retrospect

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