Journalist turned presenter Nigel Pauley – colleague and friend – pays tribute to Ernie Almond. Where to begin when trying to pay tribute local radio legend Ernie Almond – who has died aged 80 after a short illness.
It was more a case of what hadn’t he done in his long career. Ernie was an actor, comedian, children’s entertainer, and disc jockey.
He spent many happy years as a radio presenter on BBC Three Counties Radio, as one half of the popular “Ern and Vern Show”.
For the past six years he volunteered as a presenter at Black Cat Radio on St Neots Your Voice – the daily show which won a silver award at the National Community Radio last month was his brainchild.
Until a few weeks ago he was still editing and producing content for the show.
He was also a finalist in the “Sage Category” of the National Community Radio Awards. Ernie hosted childhood parties for Prince William and Harry – and the children of the likes of World Cup winning legend Bobby Moore.
He also performed at parties for the likes of Hollywood stars like Dustin Hoffman and John Cleese. Tributes have been pouring in for Ernie from the world of showbiz, radio … and countless ordinary people he had become a friendly voice to over the airwaves.
I feel honoured to pay tribute to Ernie who became a good friend and mentor to me over the past year. I shall miss him terribly. I shall miss his words of wisdom .. and the laughter and chats we had almost daily.
A funny modest talented and selfless man with just a hint of mischief.
I shall treasure “The Radio Gospel According to Ernie Almond” that he sent me … for A4 sheets packed full of tips, and advice garnered from a lifetime of experience.
Ernie was a brilliant mentor who helped and guided so many presenters – with kindly advice and constructive criticism.
He was the youngest 80-year-old I have known – always immaculately turned out and full of life and enthusiasm. Ernie used to arrive at the radio studios carrying an old-style record case with a BBC stamp on it. It no longer held any vinyl records – just his headphones.
Ernie joined the Black Cat Radio team from the moment of its FM launch in April 2017.
He presented the mid-morning show on BCR from day one, and despite a period of illness which laid him low for a few months, he bounced back in typical Ernie style to make that show his own.
The pandemic saw Ernie broadcast from his home studio – a converted shed!
In depth weekly chats with the movers and shakers
Each weekday, he featured in depth chats with the movers and shakers of St. Neots, and he has forged a great bond with several regular contributors. Ernie forged a great relationship with the St Neots Museum – who have opened a Book of Condolence – and the local Rotary Club.
The respect he earned led indirectly to that club providing the funding to enable Black Cat Radio volunteers to continue to broadcast throughout lockdown.
Ernie’s calm and gentle style was perfect for mid-morning, and he is respected by listeners and contributors alike. Ernie was born near Harpenden, in Hertfordshire and joined BBC Radio Bedfordshire – later BBC Three Counties – in the 1980s.
He originally worked for Marconi Instruments in Bedfordshire but left to become one of the founders of Smartie Artie, a company which provided entertainers for parties across In a recently recorded interview for BBC Three Counties Radio, Ernie recalled a joke made by Princess Diana at Prince Harry’s seventh birthday party.
During the party he asked three-year-old Princess Beatrice if Cinderella had met a handsome prince at a recent visit to Disney Land, to which Princess Diana quipped “she’d be so lucky.” “Which I hasten to add, Prince Charles was in the room and laughed and enjoyed the joke,” he said.
Who remembers Ern and Vern?
Ernie continued entertaining audiences late into his career, appearing in about 40 pantomimes across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and In 2000, alongside Jonathan Vernon-Smith, he launched Ern and Vern, a brilliant, zany, comedy show on the station.
The two continued to work together across both BBC Three Counties Radio and BBC Radio Northampton on treasure hunt programme: Treasure Quest.
In a statement Jonathan said he was honoured “to have had him as a friend for over 30 years.” “He was one of the nicest and most generous people I have ever known and without doubt the reason I work in radio today as he was the first person to open a door for me. I’ll miss him terribly.”
Jason Horton, director of production for BBC Local, described Ernie as “one of the most creative and talented broadcasters I have met”.
Posting a tribute online he said: “He made everyone who worked with him, listened to him or ever met him, laugh. A gentleman in every sense and incredibly kind.”
Black Cat Radio’s founder Tony Gilham said “Ernie was passionate about making great radio and touching the lives of those he broadcast to every day.
“He brought the community into our radio station.”