Llanrhaeadr talk show host Mavis Nicholson recalls

Tributes have been paid to legendary Welsh writer and broadcaster Mavis Nicholson – dubbed the ‘greatest interviewer of all time’ – who died aged 91.

The much-loved member of the Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant community was recognized as the queen of British daytime television whose warmth drew the best from celebrities such as David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.

Mavis passed away peacefully in her sleep on Thursday, September 8.

In a tribute, her family said: “Beloved matriarch of our family and a pioneering animator and writer, many of you will know that Mavis had suffered from dementia for some time.

“For a woman of Mavis’ character and intellect, this battle has been hard fought and although our sense of loss runs very deep, it is a small source of comfort to her family that Mavis is no longer in pain.”

Ben Nicholson described his grandmother as a “force of nature, an incredible communicator, so open and interested in everyone”.

“She was also my Nana and I miss her like crazy. I hope she’s with my grandpa Geoff now.”

The Montgomery Literature Festival had the honor of hosting Mavis to open the inaugural event in 2018 at Bodfach Hall, Llanfyllin.

Myfanwy Alexander, co-chair of the festival, said: “The loss of this exceptional woman will be felt by so many of us in Mid Wales.

“Looking forward to today, it’s easy to forget her pioneering role as a woman in a male-dominated world of broadcasting.

Simon Baynes at Monty Lit Fest 2018 with Mavis Nicholson

“She broke new ground as the first woman in Britain to host a chat show and interviewed glamorous personalities like Elizabeth Taylor, inspiring young women to find their own voice in television and radio.

“She was a frequent visitor to Montgomeryshire before she and her husband settled in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. A staunch supporter of her community, Mavis’ presence has energized the area’s arts scene and it’s only fitting that she sprinkled some of her magic on the Montgomeryshire Literary Festival when it launched in 2018. Her mischievous spirit and desire to always shake things up a bit combined with a generosity of spirit and loyalty that we will sorely miss.”

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The community of Llanrhaeardr-ym-Mochnant shared their happy memories of this fun, fascinating and inspiring woman who had “a knack for getting to the bottom of everything”.

Wyn Jones said he would remember Mavis as a “true star who was a delight to serve and listen to, with her compelling stories and great sense of humour” whenever she visited Tanat Supplies.

“She often came into the store, cordless phone in hand. ‘Hello honey, can you still fix my phone? I bet you’re tired of seeing me come in. Always an easy solution of new batteries or reversing the new batteries that Mavis had installed.

“About 10 years ago she arrived and proclaimed she was a breaker of the law and had been for 10 years. Crossing the ford from Aber Tanat to Llanrhaeadr, a bit too fast, Mavis had knocked her Inquiring about a replacement license plate, she discovered that her license was up for renewal at age 70, 10 years prior.

Admired by broadcasters in the UK and abroad, Mavis was a “wonderful person – wise, warm and generous”, said writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth. “My mother-in-law loved her House Party program,” he said. “And I learned a lot from knowing her personally – about compassion, understanding and good journalism.”

Political editor and ITV presenter Robert Peston described Mavis as a “brilliant and pioneering” broadcaster. “She was also the most wonderfully warm and generous mother to one of my closest friends at school.”

Javier E. Swan