Whilst not the first face to be seen on ITV, Muriel Young, who died on 24 March 2001, was one of the fledgling network's first female continuity announcers. She joined the new Associated Rediffusion weekday ITV company in London shortly before it made its first transmission in 1955, working alongside Redvers Kyle and Leslie Mitchell.
Female continuity announcers were not a new idea, but with the BBC's Sylvia Peters, Muriel struck a blow for women's liberation with her authoritative, knowledgeable and friendly on-screen personality at a time when women's rights had reached their lowest ebb since suffrage.
When AR began, the promised market for British television advertising failed to appear, and along with AR's other announcers, she was forced to fill the space between programmes with ad-libbed programme information and news. The length of time she spent on screen soon meant she was a star in London. This also influenced the companies who arrived after 1955, causing them to set out to turn their announcers into stars as well.
Muriel had first thought of being a librarian, then later attended art school before trying her hand at acting. She featured in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan in 1953 and The Constant Husband with Rex Harrison shortly before beginning her TV career in 1955.
Her small fame as an actor and larger celebrity from announcing was nothing to her influence on a generation of young people though her children's programmes. Sometimes appearing locally and sometimes networked, she became familiar most to children of the sixties through The Five O'clock Club with Howard Williams. To teenagers of the period, she was known as a disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg, the country's premier commercial station before the introduction of ILR in the 70s.
When Rediffusion was submerged into ABC's new Thames empire in 1968, she joined Granada and founded their children's department. Among the series she created or produced were Clapperboard, Lift Off with Ayshea and Shang-a-Lang.
She retired from broadcasting in 1986, moving back to her northeastern roots with husband Cyril Coke. She became an accomplished painter in oils and her work was exhibited both locally and in London.
Muriel Young, continuity announcer and children's television producer: born County Durham 19 June 1928; married the late Cyril Coke in 1954; died Stanhope, County Durham 24 March 2001.
David Brockman writes:
My earliest memories of Muriel are as an A-R announcer circa 1963, reading birthday card greetings, ably assisted by Pussy Cat Willum. Because Muriel was daily beamed into my home as a child, from Monday to Fridays, I felt as if I had literally had got to know her. I remember her fronting several children's programmes, but especially the Five O'clock Club with Howard Williams. All children have their favourite TV entertainers, but never in one's wildest dreams does one imagine there will ever be a chance of meeting one in the flesh. I had that special good fortune to meet Muriel twice.
After leaving the defunct Rediffusion, Muriel produced several seasons of the ITV children's competition programme "Anything You Can Do". It was in the context of this series that I first met her. Being the TV presentation logo enthusiast that I was, I would do anything to get one of the contestant's t-shirts, featuring their local ITV company logo. To that end, I auditioned to be part of the London team for 1970. I made my way to the London offices of Granada Television where a sizeable group of young people was assembled.
Muriel had an instant rapport with her charges. She did some auditions in the building and later took us to some recording studios near the Tottenham Court Road. I didn't get selected to represent London on the show, but spending an afternoon in the company of Auntie Muriel was the best prize I could have asked for.
By the time I met Muriel for the second time, I had media experience of my own, and was piloting a series for teenagers on LBC Radio. I was making the pilot called The Gough Square Under 21 Show at LBC's former Gough Square premises just off Fleet Street.
Being a young person's show I wanted as much music in as possible, but was restricted because LBC was essentially a talk station. I got round it by creating various features, so for a segment on the pop industry I was able to play some pop music. I asked the presenter of BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test, Bob Harris, and Muriel Young, still at Granada, if they would join in a debate about pop music for young people on television. I was thrilled that they both agreed to take part. Being the professional that she was, Muriel was a delight to work with. As if in a time warp, she never seemed to age, looking in the mid-1970s the same to me as she did on my TV set in 1963 - apart from the fact I could see her in colour.
Muriel created, linked and produced programmes that provided staple enjoyment for millions of children and I dare say their carers, for over 30 years. God speed to a happier place, Muriel. You have lived your life to the full, and many have benefited as a result.
Andrew Hesford-Booth writes:
Muriel Young will be remembered for defining standards of quality, content and entertainment value in her work at Rediffusion and Granada. I have an interview she did for a Granada TV music retrospective in which her enthusiasm and energy for her work shone through. It may be that she had to struggle sometimes with limited budgets, but she knew the value of "the show" to an audience that wanted entertainment, and never failed in her task.
Gerry Ogilvie writes:
In 1982 and I fancied myself as a Pop Star (just like Marc Bolan and The Bay City Rollers which Muriel produced). I sent her one of my demo tapes and asked if I could appear on her pop show with all these other big acts.
I didn't realise that my demo tape wasn't all that great but being the charming and smashing lady that she was she wrote back to me (she actually wrote herself... you wouldn't get that nowadays) and she tactfully explained that only artistes with records in the charts could be considered for the programme.
However, she didn't just leave it at that because she added that she thought my tape was very good (or "grand" is how she actually put it) and she said that if I was interested I could have a spot on one of her "younger" Children's Programmes. Yes, me actually appearing on telly for Muriel Young!
I jumped at the chance and was delighted at meeting her and to be working with her. She even invited me into her control room and showed me how everything worked and how programmes were made. That is the type of person Muriel Young was!
I hope people think more of what she has done for television and remember her as the professional, talented and quite charming lady who always had the time to help someone who was interested in getting on in television.
I was privileged to know her.