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Sir Trevor McDonald

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 20 May 2021 | 0 Comments

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20 May 2021

He is one of the most instantly recognisable faces in British broadcasting, and certainly our most beloved, with his cut-class accent, twinkling eyes and favourite trademark 'And Finally...’ 

After 60 years of broadcasting, Sir Trevor McDonald OBE’s trophy cupboard is overflowing with journalism accolades and gongs. In fact he has received more awards than any other news broadcaster in Britain, including the Richard Dimbleby Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television from BAFTA, the Royal Television Society Gold Medal for his Outstanding Contribution to Television News, the National Television Award for Outstanding Commitment to Television the prestigious Royal Television Society’s Judges’ Award. Named Newscaster of the year in 1993, 1997 and 1999, Sir Trevor has regularly topped the polls as the most authoritative and trustworthy news presenter. At last count hehad received Honorary Degrees from at least eight Universities....

Sir Trevor McDonald was born on 16 August 1939 in San Fernando in the southern part of Trinidadto Josephine and Lawson McDonald.  His father worked in an oil refinery and kept livestock, mainly pigs in the island’s second-most populous city, at the western end of the Central Range of hills, on the flat, shallow coast of the Gulf of Paria, about 35 miles (55 km) south of the capital, Port of Spain. He was educated in Trinidad and it is here that his distinguished career in the media began, first as a radio reporter, news presenter and sports journalist. On his first major assignment, in 1962, he was sent to London to cover the talks at Marlborough House which culminated in setting a date for Trinidad’s Independence.In 1969, moved to London to take up a post as a Producer in the BBC Overseas Regional Service at Bush House in the Aldwych. He went on to produce Current Affairs programmes for the BBC WORLD Service and in that capacity worked on the initiation of a number of shows like THE WORLD TODAY which are still part of the BBC World Service schedule.

After 4 years with the BBC, he joined ITN in 1973 as a General Reporter, reporting on the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland as his first major assignment. His role also included covering the negotiations of the terms of Britain’s membership and earliest days of the then Common Market – now the EU.

Covering sport and politics Sir Trevor travelled to Argentina, Australia and the West Indies before becoming Diplomatic Correspondent and Presenter of Channel Four News in 1982. In that capacity he reported from every Continent, covering events and conducting interviews in Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, India, Pakistan, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, the Soviet Union and Hong Kong. During this time he also worked extensively in the United States reporting on the unfolding events at the United Nations during the Falklands War, from New York and from Washington, as well as covering a number of Presidential and Congressional Campaigns. Sir Trevor reported on Soviet Communist Party Conferences from the time of President Brezhnev and returned to Moscow and to Washington to report on East West Summit meetings, prominently among them… those between Reagan and Gorbachev. His powerful coverage of the Philippine Elections in 1985 won a BAFTA Award for Channel Four News.

When not working abroad, Sir Trevor began his career as an ITN Presenter. He anchored every ITN News programme – from what used to be the News at One, the News at 5.40 and 6.30 to the flagship and award winning News At Ten. He became a familiar face as the anchor in the London studio but also hosted the show from news locations around the world. In 1982, he became Diplomatic Editor and in 1990, after several visits to Southern Africa, he was chosen to return to Johannesburg to report on the momentous occasion of Nelson Mandela’s release. His interview with the ANC leader was the first by British Television interview with the ANC leader for ITN. It was a year for “firsts” for Trevor as in November of the same year, he did the first and still the only British television interview with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, just before the start of the first Gulf War.

In the ensuing years at ITN, Sir Trevor conducted the most important television interviews of his time: with Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi, with the former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, with President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Colin Powell along with a number of American Presidential candidates and Congressional leaders. In 1992, Sir Trevor became the first sole Presenter of News At Ten and anchored the Late Evening News until December 2005. From 1999 to December 2007 Sir Trevor presented ITV’s bi weekly flagship Current Affairs programme, Tonight, during which time he interviewed President Bush on two occasions and political figures like Tony Blair, Secretary of State Rice, Hilary Clinton and other senior politicians. In January 2008 Sir Trevor returned to ITV News, for one year, to co-present the re-launched News at Ten. Since then he has presented numerous documentaries for ITV1; including Secret Caribbean, Secret Mediterranean, The Mighty Mississippi, Inside Death Row, Women Behind Bars, The Mafia and Mafia Women, Death Row: The New Arrivals, James Bulger: A Mother’s Story, Martyn Luther King, Sir Trevor McDonald: Return to South Africa, To Catch A Serial Killer and Fred and Rose West: the Real Story with Trevor McDonald. More recently: Trevor McDonald’s Indian Train Adventure and Britain’s Greatest National Treasures.

As a veteran of charitable work, Sir Trevor has close links with the Prince’s Trust, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Playing Fields Association. He has served as Patron, Chairman, President or Vice President in a number of other charitable organisations including National Children’s Homes, the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice, the Friends of Barnes Hospital and De Paul Trust. He has also helped to promote the work of St John Ambulance, and organisations dealing with awareness of the problems surrounding Sickle Cell, Autism and homelessness among young people Sight Savers, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Deaf (which became known later as Sound Seekers), Macmillan Cancer Research and the Leukaemia Trust.

As Chairman of the Better English Campaign under the last Conservative Government, Sir Trevor was co-chair of a Nuffield Foundation Inquiry into the Teaching of Foreign Languages in British Schools for which he was honoured by the French and German Governments, has been involved in a number of campaigns to encourage young children to read more widely, and speaks regularly to schools and colleges. He has also held the position of Chancellor of London South Bank University. Sir Trevor was awarded the OBE in 1992 and was awarded a Knighthood in 1999.

He has penned several books including autobiographies of cricketers Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, and is own autobiography AN IMPROBABLE LIFE was published in his 80th year to follow on from  'Fortunate Circumstances', which was was released in 1993. He regular ranks at the top of the ‘Most Influential Black Britons’ list and admits that, when he looks back over his almost six decades in journalism, a career in which he became one of the most famous black faces on British television, he struggles to remember many instances of racism. He suggests, “People just want a fair crack at the whip regardless of their colour”.