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George House; Obituaries.

WHEN BBC North East broadcast its first TV news bulletin in January 1959, it was a busy day for newsreader George House.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was on a three-day visit to the region, a major Newcastle city centre blaze trapped the chief fire officer ... and deep snow blanketed the region.

It was, in more ways than one, a baptism of fire for Walker-born Mr House especially when BBC cameraman Arthur Nicholson slipped, fell, and broke a leg right in front of the Premier.

When the telephone in the makeshift studio in New Bridge Street rang later that day, it was Mr Macmillan enquiring as to the welfare of the cameraman.

George House was the first face of BBC news in the North East, and in a subsequent career spanning five decades the much-respected Mr House became a broadcasting legend.

The 10-minute News of the North bulletin introduced in 1959 soon became a 20-minute bulletin, and then became the Look North programme still going today. Born in Walker in 1927, Mr House attended Rutherford College in Newcastle and after national service landed a job with the Central Office of Information in Newcastle, where he met his wife Margaret.

After working briefly with a city-based PR agency, Mr House joined the Evening Chronicle as a junior reporter, quickly moving on to The Journal.

Ironically, in his first experience of broadcasting, as a teenager in 1944, he had played the role of a reporter in a BBC drama on Children's Hour.

He is best remembered by many, though, for the marvellous TV partnership he formed with fellow Geordie Mike Neville on Look North.

Many a family would religiously gather round the television for the teatime news programme, as much for the banter and repartee as for the news of the day.

When, in 1968, Geordie linguist Scott Dobson suggested the pair did a skit of the Italian language learning programme Parliamo Italiano, the result was the hilarious Larn Yersel' Geordie, which spawned the touring show Geordierama, which toured the region for 17 years.

In his time on the news beat, Mr House interviewed Prime Minister Ted Heath, Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham, and Cissie Charlton, mother of Ashington-born England footballers Bobby and Jackie.

Never afraid to roll up his sleeves, he even threw hay from a helicopter while running a news story on emergency measures to save sheep stranded in wintry Weardale.

A sports fan all his life, he was player and president of Benwell Hockey Club, as well as an avid Newcastle United fan and cricket enthusiast.

To the surprise of many, in 1976 House quit broadcasting to become a lead public relations officer for Northern Gas at Killingworth.

But the lure of the media was too much, and two years later he returned to the field he knew and graced, as a freelance broadcaster.

His slot on Saturday Sportscene - and a few hockey commentaries slipped in - kept Mr House in the public eye before he finally retired from the media world at the age of 57. By then he was presenting the AM chat show on BBC Radio Newcastle, and said goodbye to his thousands of listeners on November 30, 1984.

He then took a senior PR post with Northumbrian Water before easing his way to retirement at his home in Brompton, North Yorkshire.

But even there, he organised the talking newspaper for local residents ... a broadcaster and journalist to the last.

Daughter Katherine said being a reporter "was in his blood to the end" and colleague Mike Neville described him as "an absolute dream of a guy to know".

Mr House died suddenly at home on February 8 and his funeral took place at Northallerton on February 21.

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I'LL BE OFF George House signs off for the last time in November 1984
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2012
Words:634
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