Funeral of broadcaster Mike Neville takes place

The funeral has taken place of North East broadcaster Mike Neville MBE.

The funeral of Mike Neville has been held today. Pictured: Look North cover the service.

Mike Neville hosts Look North in 1983.

“I am deeply saddened at the death of my friend and former colleague Mike Neville. My thoughts are with his wife Pam, and his family. I remember as a child skipping to the theme tune before watching the TV news with my Dad. We always watched Mike Neville. I never imagined I would have the privilege of working with him… Mike was exactly the same off-camera as he was on. He was great fun to be with, full of hilarious stories and always on good form. We have lost a dear friend. But Mike will always be a North East icon and legend.” – Pam Royle, North East Tonight co-host

The funeral has taken place for Mike Neville, who died on September 6th aged 80. Mike, born James Armstrong Briggs on the 17th of October 1936 in Willington Quay, Northumberland. It would be the North East region that he would become a household name thanks to a four-decade broadcasting career.

The funeral ceremony was held this afternoon at Whickham’s St Marys Church with personalities from North East television paying their respects to a man described as “Mr North East”. TV names included BBC hosts Carol Malia and Dawn Thewlis, Tyne Tees presenters Pam Royle and Ian Payne while other well known faces included national news host Nicholas Owen, businessman Sir John Hall, sports personality Brendan Foster and former Newcastle United captain Bobby Moncur.

Mike was known to millions of viewers in the North East and Cumbria for his three decades as host of BBC One news show Look North. The broadcaster ventured into television after initially wanting to be an actor. In 1959 Neville made his television acting debut on Tyne Tees Television, the ITV North East and North Yorkshire regional station, as a policeman in Jack Haig children’s series Happy Go Lucky – with just one line in the live transmitted programme. Michael Neville – as he was billed in those early days – was so successful at playing a law enforcer he was asked back to the TTTV studios to play another copper in the sitcom Under New Management, set in a boozer The Three Pilchards, which starred Mollie Sugden.

After those performances Mike found a number of theatre roles before returning to Tyne Tees in 1962. This time as himself. He presented several programmes for TTTV, as well as working as a features reporter and continuity announcer. He presented a regional series looking at the North East rivers, as part of a strand called Your Heritage. These were broadcast in 1962 and a few months later, as Tom Coyne departed North East Roundabout, Mike was chosen as the new face of TTTV’s local news show, North East News View. The programme ran for 45 minutes Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and for 55 minutes on a Wednesday and Friday.

Under New Management, produced by David Croft (pictured centre) the show also starred Mollie Sugden (second, front right) Mike can just be seen in his policeman’s uniform behind Mollie to her right.

Mike Neville, during his first presenting stint with Tyne Tees Television, in 1962.

As the face of the station Mike was voted Male Personality of the Year 1963 by readers of The Viewer magazine (The TTTV version of TV Times). It was the first of many awards he would recive over the course of his broadcasting career. Mike appeared on entertainment series The One O’Clock Show to pick up his gong, given to him by Kenneth Horne.

In 1964 BBC North revamped their evening news offering with Mike lured over to host the new programme, Look North. Neville remained with the programme for 32 years. In that time he also became a national news figure as one of the regular network presenters of Nationwide in London, as well as contributing to the programme from ‘the region’ for Look North. At one point he presented the local news show on Monday and Friday then hosted Nationwide Tuesday to Thursday, making the weekly commute between the small studio at a former cottage hospital on New Bridge Street in Newcastle and the news studio at Lime Grove in the capital.

During his time with the beeb he was also asked to present a number of other programmes including the original Come Dancing, Miss United Kingdom in the late 1960s, the North East spokesman for A Song For Europe feature presenter on daytime show Open Air and famously bestowed a ‘gotcha award’ by Noel Edmonds on his Noel’s Saturday Roadshow a precursor to House Party.

Mike Neville in a publicity shot for TTTV’s North East News View series in 1963.
Mike Neville launched North East Tonight in 1996 for Channel 3 North East.

In 1996, he was poached by bosses at Yorkshire Television for their new station Channel 3 North East and the offer of an hour long show, North East Tonight. Mike was also focused as the face of the station appearing in the ‘come home to Channel 3 North East trailers’ which appeared on screen, in newspaper adverts and across billboards in the region. He also liked the idea of being not just a host, but also a journalist with interviewing studio guests on a range of topics a highlight for viewers. Whether they were famous or an unknown they were all given the Neville treatment which brought the best out of the interviewee.

The ITV broadcaster also gave him his own chat show, The Mike Neville Show, which saw him interview stars of stage, screen and theatre. He also anchored several other series for the channel including the annual News Quiz, 40th anniversary celebration special That’s Entertainment, festive special Christmas Past and documentary series North East Tonight Extra. During his years with both broadcasters he formed on-screen double acts, first with co-host George House on Look North, and later weatherman Bob Johnson. His wit and personality making Neville stand out from other news broadcasters across the UK, this charm endeared him to millions of viewers who tuned in not just for the news, but to also enjoy the company of Mike Neville who though his connection with his audience became like a friend to many, each Christmas and birthday he was inundated with cards and best wishes. He was in demand for public appearances and became the first celebrity to launch the Great North Run.

Mike Neville in a publicity shot for BBC Look North (North East and Cumbria) in 1976.
Mike Neville launches the TTTV rebrand ‘Channel 3 North East’ in 1996. The Tyne Tees name was restored in 1998.

Before fame beckoned Mike originally worked as an office boy at the Chamber of Trade, before switching to a general assistant at the Daily Mail’s Northern base. He later switched to Repertory theatre, before television came calling.

Re-branded as Tyne Tees again in 1998, Mike retired from the station for the final time in 2006 after a short illness. He died on September 6th, in hospital surrounded by his close family, ITV confirmed at the time. The broadcaster never left the region, despite many award wins and network offers, remaining in the region living in Whickham. The death of the presenter was, on September 6th, even noted on the national ITV News at Ten – such was his status in the region.

At his funeral the ‘Going Home’ was played into the church, which was used as the launch theme of Channel 3 North East which Mike was the face of in 1996, it was also used on the aptly titled movie Local Hero. The tune played as the service came to a close was Mike Neville Said It (So It Must Be True) by Jez Lowe.

“I am truly saddened at the death of our dear friend and former colleague. Mike was a broadcasting legend – and for me, he was an inspirational mentor. I was incredibly lucky to have the daily privilege of sitting alongside Mike in a live studio, observing, learning – and often laughing – as he generously shared his experience… It’s not an overstatement to say that Mike is part of the fabric of the north east… I will raise a glass to Mike, and smile with great affection at my memories of a great man. My thoughts are with Mike’s wife, Pam, and their family.” – Ian Payne, North East Tonight co-presenter

Mike Neville on his own Tyne Tees chat show.

Mike Neville, born James Armstrong Briggs, 1936 – 2017
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