Kiwi Radio Hall of Fame: Geoff Sinclair 1932-2011

Talkback star Geoff Sinclair dies


GEOFF SINCLAIR: The former school teacher specialised in a folksy, warm kind of talkback that set a benchmark for decades.

Geoff Sinclair, one of the original giants of talkback radio, has died, aged 79.

The former school teacher specialised in a folksy, warm kind of talkback that set a benchmark for decades.

He had a strong voice and a great laugh and seemed to find practically anything interesting.

A distinctive looking man, he summed up his style in an autobiography entitled “You Might Be Ugly – But You’re Nice!”

He grew up in Auckland’s Point Chevalier in a family of 10 that included his more famous brother, historian and academic Sir Keith Sinclair. All his brothers and sisters went into education.

Geoff had an early introduction into broadcasting as a child, becoming a “quiz kid” on 1ZB in Auckland.

He trained as a teacher and began working at Ponsonby Primary School.

Sinclair taught for years at Avondale College and among his more famous pupils was John Banks, Auckland’s one-time mayor, now seeking to get back to Parliament as an MP.

He began working as a sport journalist, helping create Rugby News magazine and providing columns.

In the early 1970s the new Radio I introduced talkback radio to the New Zealand airways.

Boss Gordon Dryden said Sinclair and the late Tim Bickerstaff were the best ever pairing on radio.

Step-son Brent McAnulty says at the time it was regarded as “quite inflammatory” but by current standards seems now to be gentle.

He fronted shows on Radio Pacific and later the ZB network.

Sinclair was sports editor of the Sunday News and produced two long-running columns, Downtown and Pub Sky.

But his most memorable column is probably remembered everyday by thousands driving over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

For more than a decade Sinclair kept a half-page column called Watchman’s Island – named after the small islet between the bridge and Herne Bay, in the Sunday News.

With its small human tales of life in Auckland, it had thousands of followers.

Sinclair died following a long illness.

His funeral, to be held on Friday, is likely to be a celebration of a rich life, McAnulty says.

“He packed a lot into life.”

He leaves behind a widow, five children and two grandchildren.

© July 25, 2011.

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