Who is Gloria Hunniford?
Gloria Hunniford is a Northern Irish radio and television presenter, who has been enthralling her audiences since early 1970s. Born and raised in Northern Ireland, she moved to Canada at the age of seventeen, where she began her career as a singer. Later she returned home to join Ulster Television; concurrently continuing to sing, cutting her first record to the age of 29. Shortly, she was invited to appear on the BBC Belfast program, ‘Good Morning Ulster’, eventually being offered a job as a news broadcaster, till then a male domain. Very soon, she not only made a place for herself, but also became the first woman to have her own daily radio show by the age of 42. Later, she was moved to London, thus making a transition from regional to national scenes, continuing to captivate her audiences with numerous interesting programs. Lately, she has been appointed an OBE for her services to cancer charities.
Childhood & Early Life
Gloria Hunniford was born on 10 April 1940 in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Her father, Charles Hunniford, was a newspaper advertising manager. He was also a part time magician and a member of the Loyal Orange Institution. Her mother, May Hunniford, was a homemaker.
She was born second of her parents’ three children, having an elder sister called Lena and younger brother called Charles.
She began singing early in her life, giving her first public performance a day before her seventh birthday at Portadown’s Cloncore Orange Hall. Very soon, she was singing in churches and schools, traveling across Ireland to perform in concerts.
When she was nine years old, she heard about Canada and the opportunities it offered from a great-uncle who had settled there. When he heard her singing, he wanted to take her with him; but her mother refused.
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At the age of seventeen, Gloria Hunniford left home for Canada. Once she reached her destination, she was startled to find that people of nationality and religion could cohabit so peacefully, something unheard of in religiously segregated Ireland. It was an eye opener for her.
On reaching Canada, possibly with the help of great-uncle Jim, she secured a job as an accounts assistant at a military base. Shortly, she was introduced to the producer of a local television studio through one of her colleagues.
Initially, she was given a fifteen minutes slot, where she sang Irish songs. Later, she was offered her own weekly radio show, where she had to sing according to the listeners’ requests, backed up by piano, bass and drums.
With Ulster Television
Possibly in December 1958, Gloria Hunniford returned to Ireland in order to spend the Christmas with her family, intending to return to Canada as soon as the holiday was over. However, at her father’s urging, she joined Ulster Television, launched at Belfast few months ago, initially as a secretary.
After working as a secretary for some time, she was made a production assistant at Ulster Television. Meanwhile, she continued singing in concerts and from 1964 began singing in cabarets.
In 1969, she cut her first record, ‘Are You Ready for Love?’. Shortly, she was invited to appear on the BBC Belfast program, ‘Good Morning Ulster’. The producer, impressed by the way she handled herself, offered her a job as a presenter on ‘Good Evening Ulster’ at BBC Radio 2.
On the first day at BBC Radio 2, Gloria Hunniford was very nervous as the news was a male dominated affair. However, her boss boosted her confidence by telling her, “Remember you are as good as any bloke sitting in this room, and you will take your place alongside them”
To make things easier, she had come with a list of questions; but her boss tore it up, instead telling her that she must concentrate on listening. As a result, she not only learned to listen, but also became confident, never feeling inferior to any of her male colleague.
In 1972, she successfully covered the Abercorn restaurant bombing. However, the most significant turn of events was when she was asked to stand in as a holiday cover for Jimmy Young in his show on BBC Radio 2 in 1982. It was an instant hit, making her nationally well-known.
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Her success with the Jimmy Young Show led to her permanent appointment at Radio 2 and in 1982 she became the first woman to have her own daily radio show. Starting off with lunch time slot, it was moved to the early afternoon slot in 1985, where it remained for the next ten years.
In 1982, Gloria Hunniford debuted as a television host on ITV’s ‘Sunday Sunday’, appearing in 138 episodes till 1990. Concurrently from 1984 to 1986, she also hosted ‘We Love TV’, and started appearing in other shows like 'The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow', 'Blankety Blank', 'Call My Bluff' etc.
From 1998 to 2003, she presented 'Open House with Gloria Hunniford', an afternoon program focusing on lifestyle and cookery. It was broadcast from Monday to Friday on Chanel 5. In 2003, she appeared in two episodes of ‘Loose Women’ as a guest panelist.
In 2004-2005, she was a guest presenter on ‘This Morning’. Later in 2006-2007, she presented 19 episodes of ‘Heaven and Earth with Gloria Hunniford’. In the following year, she was a regular panelist on ‘Through the Keyhole’.
In 2009, she presented ‘The One Show’, also working as reporter on it. From November, she began to co-present ‘Rip off Britain’, continuing to do so till date. In this series, the presenters investigate into viewers’ stories of being cheated and then expose some of them, seeking answers and refunds/compensations.
In 2014, she was chosen to present ‘Loose Women’, appearing in 184 episodes till March 2020. Among her other important works in 2010s are ‘Doorstep Crime 999’ (2012), ‘The Traveling Picture Show’ (2013), ‘Home Away from Home’ (2014), ‘Food: Truth or Scare’ (2016), ‘Get Away for Winter’ (2018) etc.
According to Gloria Hunniford, she did her best broadcast when a car bomb went off at the base of the studio while she was on air in Belfast. Although she could have left the show, she stay put, explaining to her audiences what was going on.
Gloria Hunniford is the founder of ‘Caron Keating Foundation’, a cancer charity organization set up in the memory of her daughter, Caron Keating, who died of breast cancer in 2004.
Awards & Achievements
In 2017, Hunniford was appointed to the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to cancer charities.
Family & Personal Life
In 1970, Gloria Hunniford married Don Keating, at that time a cameraman at Ulster Television. They had three children, eldest among them being Caron Louisa Keating, who followed her mother to become a television presenter. Younger to Caron are two brothers, Michael and Paul Keating. Hunniford and Keating divorced in 1992.
In September 1998, she married her hairdresser, Stephen Way, and is married to her till date.