Entertainment & Arts

Geoffrey Wheeler, Songs of Praise presenter, dies aged 83

Geoffrey Wheeler
Image caption Geoffrey Wheeler was a familiar face on TV in the 1960s-1980s

The broadcaster Geoffrey Wheeler, best known for presenting Songs of Praise and quiz show Top of the Form, has died aged 83, his son has confirmed.

Wheeler died on 30 December in a care home in Prestbury, Cheshire, after a long illness.

He created the popular ITV game show Winner Takes All, which was hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck between 1975 and 1986.

Wheeler, who provided the voiceover during the Tarbuck era, hosted the show himself from 1987-88.

He also appeared on Call My Bluff and Jackanory.

Image caption Geoffrey Wheeler (right) with Pam Rhodes for the Songs of Praise 50th Anniversary in 2011

"He was an absolute gentleman and that's the conclusion that everybody who dealt with him came to," the broadcaster's son, Robin, told the BBC on Tuesday.

Wheeler had originally conceived Winner Takes All as a horse-racing quiz but it became a multiple choice game show when it was first produced by Yorkshire Television in 1975.

Robin Wheeler recalled: "He didn't want there to be a quiz where people have to say 'I don't know the answer', which was very typical of him."

Geoffrey Wheeler, was born in Manchester and much of his childhood was spend moving around the country due to his father's job as a hotel manager.

He entered the world of broadcasting after auditioning for a radio drama and made some 200 radio programmes for the BBC while studying law at Manchester University.

In 1954, he got the the job of BBC radio producer for the north region making variety programmes with the likes of Benny Hill, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd.

He went freelance in 1963 and presented school quiz Top of the Form for 12 years on BBC One from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s.

He also presented Songs of Praise many times over 21 years.

"My memories of him when I was at prep school was that he was constantly recognised in restaurants and on the street, and he would get quite a few letters," Mr Wheeler said.

Geoffrey Wheeler is survived by his son, a daughter and four grandchildren.

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