THROUGHOUT the 1970s and 1980s, Marylyn Webb covered many of the major stories in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire for Yorkshire Television’s nightly news programme Calendar.
Among them were the Flixborough chemical plant disaster (1974), the five-year span of the Yorkshire Ripper murders and the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey of Peter Sutcliffe.
She was named Radio and Television Industries (Yorkshire) Club Personality of the Year 1983/4, covering a period in which she presented Calendar and six other series.
Mrs Mason, as she later became, joined Yorkshire Television in 1972 from the Lancashire Evening Post in Preston. Her first job was with a news unit based in Lincoln – YTV having taken over the Belmont transmitter from Anglia TV.
In Lincoln she worked with Alan Hardwick, now Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire.
He says that when he meets people who remember him from those days, they always ask after her. “Hers was a personality that left a lasting impression; she created a relationship with viewers which has lasted 30 years,” he said. “She was one of those rare TV presenters viewers feel they know personally. That’s not something you learn: you either have it or you don’t, and she had it.”
In addition, she had a good business brain.
In 1975 she moved to the Leeds television centre as reporter, news reader and presenter, remembered by the former Emmerdale Farm actress and partner of the late Richard Whiteley, Kathryn Apanowicz, for her sunny disposition and the inspirational role model she provided for girls.
Geoff Druett joined the Calendar team of which she was an established member, and says that at first he was aware of her musical laughter; the sound of it put him at ease in his new surroundings.
Her kindness was another factor, and it belied the fact that she was not in the least bit fragile. She was as tough as the most demanding news stories demanded, yet her warmth and humanity were apparent when it came to sensitive interviews, such as with a family member of the Ripper’s latest victim or a survivor.
A team player, there was nothing about her of the celebrity presenter
She was thorough, too. She kept the tidiest desk in the room, its bottom drawer stuffed full of her notebooks with their meticulous record of her assignments and interviews, a hang-over from her days in print journalism. She could tell you where and what she was doing on any given date over the last five years.
Graham Ironside, controller of regional programmes (1968-95), was impressed by her impeccable integrity.
She stuck to the truth at every level as a working journalist, and a working journalist she considered herself to be. It did not occur to her that she might be a celebrity.
He says that what made her stand out when reporting the major stories at the time was her ability to put people at ease and encourage them to talk on camera; there might be 400 reporters, and she’d walk up to the door and get the interview they all wanted.
She was so useful because she was capable of working at many levels. Hard news, human interest, off-beat – whatever it might be – she could be relied upon to do a thoroughly competent job.
But she did have some favourite topics.
Calendar Goes Gardening was one of them, and that was how she met her husband, the garden designer and presenter Alan Mason.
In It’s Vet’s Life with John Baxter she managed to build a bridge between the expert and the viewer, and she did it again with Michael Clegg in his series Clegg’s People. She was the catalyst, never making herself the focus of interest.
After moving from the Lancashire Evening Post, she took a little while to become adapted to the new medium, and while her likable personality was soon her hallmark – and the camera loved her – she was always professionally nervous. Her concern about getting everything right meant she prepared very, very carefully for her studio appearances, and it showed.
Mr Ironside’s final tribute to her was: “She worked brilliantly well over the 18 years she was at YTV.”
From 1989 to 1999, Mrs Mason ran Freeair, a production company which covered environmental topics, and she and her husband had Grassroots which produced gardening programmes for YTV, Channel 4 and Anglia TV.
Up until her death at the age of 66, she concentrated on Alan Mason Garden Design which Mr Mason established in 1987.