Remembering Duncan Larkin
“I grew up slowly,” Duncan Larkin admitted to me a couple of years ago. I had mentioned to him some rather sticky moments during his spells at Radio Aire in Leeds and at World Radio Geneva. He delivered this verdict on his younger self with that distinctive chuckle in his voice that listeners found so seductive. At the Reporter we had followed his career with interest: he was our cover boy for issue number two (June 1987) and I profiled him five years later when he explained how he’d got into radio in the first place: “After graduating, I spent two years with a theatrical company which performed plays in French and German for schools all over Britain. Everywhere I went I did an interview on local radio and I realised that broadcasting was the thing for me.” That first step in his career already revealed him as a highly literate man – eventually fluent in four languages – who had a natural gift for holding an audience (ever tried acting to English school kids ... in German?).
Duncan first came to the Coast in 1987, working for Riviera Radio and briefly for the doomed Sunshine Radio in Antibes. He returned to the UK to join Radio Aire where I sat in on his show one evening. He had taken over a nightly call-in session from James Whale, said to be the rudest man in British radio. As the station manager told me, “Duncan sounds more listener-friendly but he’s very sharp and the ratings have gone up.” He returned here at the invitation of Richard Yonge, a shrewd New Zealand broadcasting pro, who was then general manager of Riviera Radio. He was fully aware of Duncan’s somewhat volatile off-air personality but recognised his remarkable talent in front of a microphone. He joined what older residents remember as a classic team of presenters who are still regarded with affection and respect (Rob Harrison is the only survivor). What was Duncan’s secret? He offered me this answer back in 1992: “It might seem strange but I talk to myself. If I’m bored by my own spiel I know it can’t be any good.”
For the past fifteen years he had lived and worked in Vienna where he presented with enormous success the Breakfast Show on Austrian state radio’s FM4 channel. For some years he had been seriously ill and knew the time left to him was limited. And yet he remained the man with a chuckle in his voice. As one of his colleagues in Vienna put it, “He was very sick and understandably worried but hearing him on air you would never have guessed it.” Duncan died on the first day of autumn, not very far off his fiftieth birthday. He told me a while back that he hoped – “if I stay around long enough” – to return to the Coast to retire, not to work. We’re sad he didn’t make it. R.I.P.
From Riviera Reporter Issue 130: Dec 2008/Jan 2009