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BBC Radio Merseyside Folkscene presenter Geoff Speed dies

Geoff Speed with Radio Merseyside certificate
Image caption Geoff Speed presented Folkscene for 48 years

The presenter of one of the UK's longest-running specialist music shows has died, aged 76.

Geoff Speed, who was one of the first voices to be heard on BBC Radio Merseyside in 1967, presented the show Folkscene for 47 years.

A stalwart of the folk community, he booked a young Paul Simon to come to Widnes in 1963 where he reportedly wrote the song, Homeward Bound.

The station's assistant editor Pauline McAdam said he was "a thorough gent".

Known by colleagues as "gentleman Geoff", he remembered growing up "a lonely boy with a radio set that I loved", which sparked his love of traditional music and folk.

Image caption Paul Simon stayed with Geoff Speed at his home in Widnes in 1963

Born in Widnes in 1942, he went on to run the highly successful "Howff" folk club in his home town in the 1960s.

'Fastest song ever written'

It was for the club that he booked Paul Simon during his tour of northern England during which he wrote the song Homeward Bound, reportedly while waiting for a train at Widnes railway station.

Looking back, he said a London artist wrote to him that "he had heard a young American singer named Paul Simon" and was trying to organise a tour with him.

"So I said yes straight away. We were only asked to pay £12.

"To think that this guy was only 18 or 19 and was writing such wonderful songs. He stayed with me for a week," he said.

A plaque at Widnes station marks the site where the star was "inspired" to write the hit song - but Mr Speed was not so sure.

Image copyright Geograph / Bill Boaden
Image caption Some believe Homeward Bound was finished while Paul Simon was waiting for a train at Widnes station

He said the train was just arriving as he dropped the singer at the station, adding: "If he actually wrote it on that station, it's the fastest song that's ever been written!"

Mike Brocken, who now presents Folkscene, said the song was likely written "in Geoff's front room".

He remembered his friend as "very witty" and "a hand-made intellectual" who was "made for broadcasting".

"I loved him very much", he said.

Mrs McAdam said: "Geoff was a thorough gent and a gentle man. His beautiful softly spoken voice was always full of quiet passion for the music and the people.

"His love for the songs and for the radio programme simply shone from him."

Image caption Geoff Speed retired in 2014 after 48 years on the air

Mr Speed had been living with multiple sclerosis for 16 years and retired in 2014 after 47 years co-presenting Folkscene with Stan Ambrose, who died in 2016.

He is survived by his wife Pam Speed, and two children.

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