Margaret Donald
Margaret Donald

April 2024 : A look back at some memorable moments from Grampian Television legend Margaret Donald. Margaret is also featured on the announcers, Grampian Headlines and Grampian Programmes pages on the site. A very big thank you to Margaret for taking the time and trouble to provide us with her happy memories of being an Invision Continuity Announcer and Newsreader at Grampian Television.


Looking back I believe that the first thing one has to discover when appointed is whether you can handle the red light and live situation. I admit that, although I had experience in live radio, that red on-air light used to make my heart race. It was a combination of fear and exhilaration. Fortunately during all my years with GTV the back up was first class. Each shift had what was called a Routine Sheet in which every second was accounted for – so you were rarely in doubt about what was expected. The team who prepared those sheets was outstanding. In emergencies you had to cover and, looking back, there was a tendency to be formal when something light hearted might have been easier. Continuity announcers depended totally on the efficiency of the Transmission Controller (TC) who would stand you by for a minute before putting you up there.

One serious responsibility at that time was to do live adverts.  It HAD to be perfect although the colleague who had to say Carter’s Furs provided additional entertainment with Farter’s Curs!   The phone was seriously busy immediately after. It could happen to anyone and I admit there were some that I dreaded for similar reasons. Best not mentioned.

I worked first in the small studio which was very basic with just your seat and the necessary equipment. I loved working there and have a vivid memory of the day the Pope of that time was shot. I was relaxing comfortably between programmes when quite suddenly on my talk-back came the words “The Pope’s been shot!” To my disbelief I look at the monitor and there I am with an expression of blind terror – in full vision.  It so happened that my beloved brother John (who lived in Thurso) saw this and phoned the studios. “ I thought you’d been shot!”    was his response.  I can’t remember what I haltingly said but it was a moment I will never forget.

The new studio downstairs was larger and better equipped.  Backgrounds were not chosen by announcers and were altered according to current trends. Head of Production was Alastair Beaton and rosters were drawn up by our much loved Kennedy Thomson.  It was from here that I did most of my news reading which is a more formal responsibility requiring additional skills in terms of timing and clarity.   I preferred day shifts because my husband was manager of His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen and I would get home in time for him to leave for work – while I took over the care of our son. News reading was done by  late shift announcers.

Delivering news when catastrophe strikes is a very serious matter. I was on duty on the day of the Piper Alpha disaster and was deeply aware that the young son of one of my neighbours was on board.  I was soon to discover that he was among those who died. This is one of my most painful memories in broadcasting.  I was on the day Challenger blew up and also the Zeebrugge ferry disaster. Such events remain permanently in my memory and I am conscious that reporting such stories carries heavy responsibility. There is never an easy way to report such events but those whose loved ones are involved deserve thoughtful consideration.

In the studio there was a cabinet with a file containing possible scripts to be rehearsed and read on the death of a royal. We were all supposed to have familiarised ourselves with those and I admit I just had a glance and decided this was not likely to happen on my watch. I remember at times feeling a bit guilty about not paying more attention to this duty.

However, I had a narrow escape. One weekend I was happily  getting through a normal day when we were alerted to news about HRH  the Queen Mother who was on holiday at Balmoral. Apparently she had a fish bone stuck in her throat and was whisked into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.  Need I report that she had additional fervent prayers from GTV for her recovery?  Thank God they got the bone out and the emergency was over.

I left broadcasting to take up a post as Public Relations Officer at Aberdeen City Council during a period of notable unrest. After seven years I launched my own company Mallard Media Services which included script writing for children’s TV linked to book publication. My publishers were in India and my husband and I made several visits there.

Working for GTV was a privilege and included some of the happiest times of my life.