McDonald HobleyMacDonald Hobley was born in 1917, the son of the naval chaplain at the cathedral in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands. Christened Dennys Jack Valentine McDonald-Hobley, he began his acting career in repertory theatre, under the stage name Robert Blanchard and toured before the Second World War in Priestley's Time and the Conways. Hobley served in the conflict with the Royal Artillery and was involved in an ultimately abandoned plot to adbuct Adolf Hitler and bring him to Britain. He served, in the final months of the war in Ceylon, working for a Forces radio station - which would prove to be a turning point in his career. Shortly after returning to civvy street, he was selected from over two hundred applicants to become an announcer for BBC television.

In 1946, when he took on the BBC job, announcers were still decked out in dinner jackets and bow ties. The style was incredibly staid, but along with colleagues such as Jasmine Bligh, Sylvia Peters and Mary Malcolm, MacDonald Hobley was very soon a famous television face. By 1954, he had been voted TV Personality of the Year, and was reputedly a favourite of women viewers, his good looks, wit and charm proving a potent combination.

Cartoon from Blighty magazineIn 1956, ABC-TV, part of the fledgling commercial channel ITV, offered Hobley a contract to 'defect' from the BBC. It was an opportunity that he could hardly refuse - the £100 weekly salary was five times that he was then receiving from the BBC. However, it was something of a double-edged sword working for the commercial channel. Although he was happy there, he did find that he was called upon somewhat too often to make a fool of himself in what he considered childish programmes. Among his ITV programmes was Yakity-Yak, subtitled "the dizzy show", which encouraged six girl panellists to give silly, hair-brained answers to questions - not something that women's groups would approve of today... The contract ended in 1959, and while he continued working for ITV, he ensured that he was free to work for other companies. This meant that while continuing as chair of such programmes as Does the Team Think?, he was able to pursue roles in the theatre and eventually, appear in BBC programmes such as It's A Knockout. Hobley worked on It's A Knockout for two series, before making way for sports commentator, David Vine.
 

A rare photograph of MacDonald Hobley in his role as
It's A Knockout presenter

 

Toward the end of his career, MacDonald Hobley enjoyed a run in the West End in No Sex Please - We're British, a long-running stage farce, and made regular appearances in drama and comedy on television. These usually, perhaps frustratingly for Hobley, were as announcers or presenters in fictional situations. Among these were appearances as a radio announcer in The Saint (The Crooked Ring, 15th July 1965) with Roger Moore, as himself - announcing! - in The Goodies (Hype Pressure, 28th September 1976) and a role as Todd in one episode of the short-lived Carry On Laughing television series (Orgy and Bess, 25th January 1975).

MacDonald Hobley continued to work in television and radio until his death, aged 70, on Thursday 30th July 1987. Shortly before his death, he had returned to the Falklands for a Channel 4 broadcast about the British South Atlantic dependencies.

by Alan Hayes