Anne Gregg

Irrepressible, vivacious and with an infectious sense of fun, Anne Gregg, who has died aged 66, was one of the best-loved and most recognisable journalists in Britain.

A prolific and stylish writer, she was a former editor of Women's Journal, deputy editor of Good Housekeeping, travel editor of Homes & Antiques magazine and a regular contributor to The Mail on Sunday.

With her business partner, Ken Wright, she was co-editor of the French tourism magazines Traveller in France, Winter Traveller and Short Break Traveller.

But it was her warmth and sense of humour that made her gravitate naturally to television and become a "household face".

Born in Belfast, Anne joined Ulster TV aged 19 as a reporter/presenter, quickly becoming the youngest current affairs TV presenter in the UK.

Blonde, elegant and bubbly, Anne was quickly snapped up to front the BBC Holiday programme (then attracting 12 million viewers weekly) where she stayed for 11 years, becoming the main presenter on the 1990/1 series. So popular was she with the public that she registered the highest audience appreciation figures for any presenter on the programme.

She resigned in 1991, amid suggestions that, at 51, she was a victim of ageism. Her successors included Jill Dando and Anneka Rice. Her fans were not amused, and the BBC received more than 1,000 complaints.

Anne continued to divide her time between print and TV journalism. She appeared on screen in a variety of TV series, including Annie Across America, looking at odd religious sects; Focus, an arts programme for Anglia; and Places Apart, a 10-parter on Northern Ireland's isolated communities.

For four years, she presented the Chelsea Flower Show, with the rare honour of having a rose named after her. Anne had just completed her second book, Tarragon and Truffles — a colourful and authoritative guide to the best French markets — which was published this year to great critical acclaim.

Her long love affair with France began as a teenager when she first took the train to Marseilles and "woke up to the garlic and Gauloise smell of the seductive south".

She eventually bought a traditional Provencal farmhouse near Forcalquier, on the edge of a golden, Van Gogh wheat field. The house became a stopover for visiting Fleet Street journalists, who mingled with Anne's French neighbours at al fresco parties involving huge dishes of food, pigs turning on spits and mega-litres of wine from a rustic cave just down the road.

Laughter was Anne's natural element.

In one serious TV documentary on an art gallery in France, Anne let the camera drift to a bare backside in an Old Master picture, identifying the scene — with a perfectly straight face — as "bottom, left".

Anne, who died in the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, on 5 September, had been suffering from cancer. Her death is a grievous loss to all her colleagues, such as myself, who had the great pleasure of counting themselves among her friends.

No comments to display

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *