Richard Whiteley

28 December 1943 – 26 June 2005

British television presenter and journalist who served as the jovial, self-deprecating, garishly-dressed, pun-loving host of the much-loved letters and numbers puzzle-based tea-time game show Countdown for 23 years, from its inception in 1982, till his death in 2005. A fixture of local journalism in Yorkshire, Whiteley co-presented the magazine show Calendar from 1968 till 1995, where his reporting, including during the miners’ strike, was well respected. His work on the show is chiefly remembered, though, for a live piece where his finger was bitten by a ferret. But it was his mild-mannered compèring of Countdown, alongside Carol Vorderman, that made him a nationally loved star. It meant he was the first face to appear on the newly launched Channel 4, and the ‘twice nightly’ broadcasts of Countdown and Calendar saw him clock up over 10,000 TV hours, a number bettered only by Carol Hersee, the Test Card girl. He received an OBE in 2004, before dying the following year, aged 61, from pneumonia developed following a heart operation.