Geoffrey Wheeler dies at 83

Geoffrey Wheeler presenting Songs of Praise in 1969 Geoffrey Wheeler presented more than 250 editions of Songs of Praise over 21 years

Former Songs of Praise presenter Geoffrey Wheeler has died at the age of 83 after a long illness.

He presented his first edition of the BBC One religious staple in the early sixties, going on to present more than 250 programmes over 21 years.

David Taviner, Songs of Praise series editor, described Wheeler as 'a true professional'.

'He will be remembered for his gentle, friendly manner with all those he interviewed, as well as his polished performance and distinctive voice, combined with a genuine interest in what others had to say about their life and faith,' he added. 'Our thoughts are with his family.'

Wheeler, who was also well known for his 12 years fronting BBC One school quiz Top of the Form in the sixties and seventies, began his broadcasting career after national service, auditioning for a radio drama in Newcastle.

Morecambe and Wise

He went on to make 200 radio programmes with the BBC while studying law at Manchester University, where he met his wife Sheila.

In 1954, he became a BBC radio producer of variety programmes for the north region, working with stars like Benny Hill, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd.

He also acted in many radio plays for Alfred Bradley, the senior drama producer, North Region, who described him as 'the best light comedy actor in the North'.

Wheeler devised and presented ITV's Winner Takes All, stepping in as presenter when Jimmy Tarbuck left. Apparently, he opted for the multiple choice format so that nobody had to admit to not having an answer.

He also appeared as a guest on Call My Bluff and was the narrator on Jackanory.

A religious man, he was a Reader at St Peter's Church in Hale.

He leaves two children and four grandchildren.

'From the comments we have already received, it is heartwarming to know how well respected he was and in what great affection he was held,' said his son, Robin Wheeler.

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