Dewi Griffiths bows out of 60-year BBC career

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Media captionA six week contract to present a radio show comes to an end after 26 years as Dewi Griffiths retires

The broadcaster Dewi Griffiths is presenting his final edition of A String of Pearls on Radio Wales, ending a 60 year career at the BBC.

Mr Griffiths, 83, joined the BBC's Welsh Home Service in 1954 as a technician, before becoming a camera operator and sound recordist for sports programmes.

In 1962 he helped to establish the BBC Wales Sport department, and produced coverage of numerous Olympic Games, World Cups and British Lions rugby tours.

Image caption Before 1967, Wimbledon was a black and white affair - but no green

He was a producer of the first regular colour TV broadcast from the Wimbledon Championships in 1967.

In 1988 he began presenting A String of Pearls, a programme of music and requests from the big band era and the golden age of Hollywood musicals.

Mr Griffiths said the introduction of colour television at Wimbledon had been "a milestone" that he was proud to be involved with, but the new technology had also prompted a change in production style.

"We realised there were only two colours at Wimbledon - green, and the white of the players," he said.

"Except for the fact that when you pulled the camera right back there was an enormous choice of colour in the way the crowd had been dressing, with their shirts and scarves, blouses and hats.

"Anyone watching in black and white - and most people were on that first programme - would have wondered why there were so many crowd shots!"

Broadcasting rugby matches in the early days of weekend sports programmes presented its own challenges.

"Almost every match we covered in the 1960s was done on 16mm film. We had cameramen dotted all over Wales to cover sports items, and they had to send the film back to Cardiff on motorcycle despatch riders.

"Today you just press a button and it's there."

Image caption Dewi Griffiths, second left, with the outside broadcast unit in 1968

Dewi Griffiths directed the cameras at every match at Cardiff Arms Park and the National Stadium for 29 years, but in 1988 he retired from sports broadcasting to pursue a new venture.

On his journeys around Wales he had realised that the car radio could never produce the music that he wanted to listen to, so he persuaded the editor of Radio Wales to give him his own programme.

"The original title wasn't A String Of Pearls, it was something like Golden Days.

And she said 'Right, I'll give you a six week contract and see how it works out,' and that lasted 26 years," he said.

Gracie Fields, Glenn Miller and the stars of Hollywood musicals and the big band era are the mainstay of the programme, while its audiences have consistently been among the highest for any programmes on Radio Wales throughout its time on air.

"It has connected me to people my age, people who had grown up in the 1930s and 40s, who knew about the depression, the war years, and who knew about the golden age of Hollywood and the big band era."

When Dewi Griffiths brings his programme to an end on Sunday, he will hand his postbag of requests to Roy Noble whose Sunday morning programme will be extended to cover the slot currently held by A String of Pearls.

But after 60 years at the BBC, Sunday really will be Dewi's last day at work.

"Will I be coming back for the odd occasion? I don't think so. Sixty years and four months - that will be on the plaque in my house when I put up the wreath of roses saying 'I'm not dead - just retired'."

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