TRIBUTES have been paid to much-loved local radio presenter from Gwernymynydd that “you couldn’t help but like” who died at the age of 90.

The Leader reported on May 13 that an inquest was opened into the death of Olive Sweetman who died on May 9 at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Olive began her broadcasting career at 49 when the BBC launched a temporary radio station - Radio Deeside - based in a caravan next to the ice rink at Queensferry Leisure Centre to support the stricken Deeside community facing the sudden loss of more than 8,000 jobs when steelmaking ended at Shotton in March 1980.

John Shone, the first station manager of BBC Radio Clwyd, said: “Olive was an absolute broadcasting legend and always so much fun to work with. Her age was a closely guarded secret and I was staggered to learn that she had reached 90 two months ago. To our listeners, she was forever 39!”

John explained that the station was short of a presenter for the breakfast show and, knowing Olive as a busy lively figure in her local community, he called her and asked if she would like to have a go at presenting a radio programme.

He said: “She had just returned from a cruise and was unpacking her case to do the washing, but she said yes immediately and came for an audition. Within days she was live on air, co-presenting with Gareth Bowen, a seasoned broadcast journalist from Radio Wales in Cardiff and father of the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen.”

John described Olive as “an instant hit” as she took to the airwaves like a duck to water.

He said: “With her bubbly, irrepressible, down-to -earth personality and warm sense of humour, you couldn’t help but like her. She was a local voice, speaking up for the local community.

“When the station ended its run after four months, I had no hesitation in lining her up for its long-term successor - BBC Radio Clwyd - which went on air in October 1981 and broadcast from Mold to the whole of North East Wales.”

Her programme was described like ‘eavesdropping on neighbours gossiping over the garden wall’, said John.

Olive co-presented the mid-morning show and announced the daily jobs list at a time when unemployment rates were high. She also helped to run the community desk and became an accomplished interviewer.

Mrs Sweetman became infamous for her ‘terrible jokes’, her co-host and retired BBC producer Alan Daulby told the Leader.

He said: “She was always the life and soul of the party. For six years, we had such a good time doing the programmes. Her natural wit eventually turned into a daily joke spot on the radio, with listeners sending in piles of jokes - the cornier the better.

“We had plenty of fun on outside broadcasts, at events such as the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, and the Denbigh and Flint show, where listeners loved to meet the face behind the voice. She loved meeting them too.

“I always smile when I think of Olive, and she brought a smile into so many homes through the radio. They don’t make them like Olive anymore!”

Outside of radio, and in her local community near Mold, Olive was also a devoted mother and wife involved in many activities - from running the youth club to serving the parish council and reporting local news as a village correspondent for the local newspapers.

Gwernymynydd Councillor Kevin Hughes said: “Olive was always there to support community and various charity events in Gwernymynydd. She was a dedicated community councillor, always had a joke to tell and nobody could ever say a bad word about her. 
“This is a huge loss to the whole community.”