national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Tribute by Kevan Mardon to well-known broadcaster and radio actress who died in the UK.

Well-known broadcaster and radio actress Sheila Raymond-Jones died in the UK on December 14 at the age of 89 (she would have made her 90th birthday on April 9, 2009)

Sheila was born in England and raised in Ceylon where she met her husband Ray during the war. She had a first son who sadly was killed by a crocodile at St Lucia in December 1957. Then she had a second son Peter who lives in England with his wife Sally and two children in Plymouth in Devon.

During the war, Sheila Raymond-Jones broadcasted on Radio Colombo in Ceylon and did work for the BBC overseas service. She also taught English and Drama. She came to South Africa in 1948 with her husband who was an ear, nose and throat doctor and they settled in Johannesburg where she did freelance work for the SABC’s A Programme (English Service) in 1948. She also appeared in many commercials for LM Radio at ARP (African Radio Productions run by Charles Berman) and Gallo as well as numerous film commercials for the big screen.

Eric Egan got her her first job with Springbok Radio and – as she used to recall – she held his hand on that cold Monday morning of May 1, 1950, at 06h00. This is where Sheila’s long love affair started with Springbok Radio which continued right through until the station was closed on December 31, 1985, at 18h30.

She had the very first sponsored programme on Springbok Radio called Sunbeam Time which went on air at 09h00, sponsored by Reckitt & Colman (Rexo Floor Polish). She wrote and produced the commercials for the programme. The signature tune was the Nat King Cole hit of 1949, The Song Has Ended but the Melody Lingers On performed by the Studio Orchestra.

She was affectionately known as Miss Sunbeam and did 23 programmes a week. As she summed up Springbok Radio – “A monster with a furious appetite …!”

Sheila acted in innumerable plays and serials which included Lux Radio Theatre, Tuesday Theatre, Strangers from Space, The Creaking Door, Playhouse 90, Father Dear Father, Oros Throws a Party, Masonite at your Service, Clues for Cash, Concerto for Two (with Jack Dowle and John Massey), and This Africa of Ours (Cedric Messina).

In the late night serial at 22h15, Strangers from Space produced and written by Peter Chiswell, Sheila was Helen the scientist and many listeners will recall the eerie “Horgoid, the Monster from Space, which sought out its enemies on fear vibrations! Other programmes were Kings of the Keyboard where she used the signature tune Oodles of Noodles in My Chicken Soup; a CGR (Comm Gramaphone Record) Food Bookshelf.

She presented the original Sunday night programme at 21h15, In Town Tonight, with that popular signature tune Knightsbridge March performed by the SABC Orchestra. In 1960, the sponsors changed and Joy Anderson took over with a new signature tune.

Sheila recalls doing her very first broadcast at the age of 11 for the Children’s Programme on the English Service in Commissioner Street with Leslie Green and she read a poem. Leonard Roome did her audition. She could handle all sorts of characters and accents, wrote and acted.

In 1965 in Johannesburg, the English Service newsreader Michael Todd introduced Sheila to Tape Aids for the Blind. Sheila had always wanted to volunteer for this organisation as her father was blind. In an association that spanned 39 years, she started reading for them in the Herrick Merrill Studios and her first book was The Bond Maid by Pearl Bug. In 1969, Sheila moved to Durban where she worked for the SABC and continued to read for Tape Aids at the old Greenacres Passage Studios, eventually moving to the new premises in Mitchell Crescent in Greyville.

Sadly, Sheila left South Africa on January 29, 2005, to join her only son and family in the UK.

Springbok Radio was once known as The Mother Station of Auntie SABC. Her sad passing closes the history books of a gracious era of Durban actors, producers and writers who gave so much pleasure to so many listeners. These included the late Yolande D’Hotman, Maureen Adair, Helen Cunningham, Midge Doherty, Humphrey Gilbert, Delphine Lethbridge, Tom Meehan, John Simpson and Tim Sutcliffe as well as Anne Freed and Harold Freed, to name just a few.

At the closure of the station, Sheila joined Yolande D’Hotman in saying: ”I find it sad that the words “This is Springbok Radio…!” - which have so truly become a South African sound – will no longer be heard and it is with deep regret that I have to say goodbye to it. But my only wish is that I have given a little pleasure to a lot of people … Good Night, South Africa – This was Springbok Radio ….”

May Sheila’s dear soul rest in peace – Kevan Mardon

Kevan Mardon was a close family friend and Old Time Radio Sound Historian for Springbok Radio