November 10, 2006

Wally Foreman

Wally Foreman died last week. Wally was a broadcaster mainly for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and on the radio. I listened to Wally Foreman a lot. He would be with me on a Saturday morning when driving to the beach, or working in the garden, or reading the paper. Then, he’d be around again when the football came on. He was always a particular favourite commentator of mine as he played and loved hockey. He promoted the sport in WA and formed the WA Institute of Sport, and he would commentate the hockey at the Olympics. (Another favourite is Dennis Committee – he played in and coached West Perth. That man is a genius).

I was listening to Wally’s funeral service streaming over the ABC website yesterday and thinking how strange that a radio voice would mean so much to me and to so many other people. There were 4000 people at the service, and there must have been many, many more listening over the wireless. I really liked listening to Sportstalk on Saturday. Even when it is about tennis, which I detest. I have become an AM radio addict, and Wally was right in there feeding the habit.

So, I was thinking about how much a radio voice can mean to people. And that got me thinking about another radio broadcaster I met once. Sadly, only once. Older people and my parents’ neighbours often ask me if I am related to Catherine King. A new work colleague asked me this question just last week. I have to reply that I am only related through marriage and that Catherine King is my husband’s grandmother. The people I respond to always say how they remember her show on the ABC and how they, or their mum, always used to listen to the Women’s Sessions and how they liked Catherine King. I must admit, I could never quite understand why this woman was so significant to them. After all it was radio and not like the famousness of television or politics… Before Wally Foreman died, I did not appreciate how great a connection a listener has to a radio broadcaster; to a voice and a personality a listener lets into their lives on a regular basis. Well, after Wally’s death, I now know better. And I can understand why people ask me after Catherine King. She was their friend on the radio.

Now I have lost my friend on the radio as well.

Maybe I will one day meet ‘Mary’ Foreman in the future. I’ll ask tentatively: “are you any relation to Wally Foreman?” And she will respond: “Wally was my grandfather.” I’ll tell Mary that I loved her grandfather’s show on the radio and that he was a brilliant commentator and a great broadcaster. Mary will walk off and not really understand what Wally meant to us but for her it will be nice to know that her grandfather was liked by so many strangers.

I wonder if she’ll know what a radio is.