Colin Steer | Ralston McKenzie – more than a Sunday contact
Often in life, we catch glimpses of people's life in the public domain and wrongly conclude that we 'know' them or a lot about them. We read and hear about them in the media and we may even follow their careers with passing or great interest. Then there is the private side that can provide another perspective or dimension.
One such person for me is veteran broadcaster, life insurance underwriter and community worker, Ralston McKenzie. From my adolescent years hearing family and neighbours recount some humorous comment made on his then 'Evening People Show', especially in relation to the Dulcimina radio play, to his 'Sunday Contact' programme in later years with its varied musical offerings and social outreach, I had developed an appreciation of his folksy, in-your-living-room conversational style - he also being from an era when radio announcers had more voice than vice.
Over the past year and a half, that appreciation has deepened. During the birthday celebrations for a Lady who had reached 100 years old, we learnt that she had been in touch with Ralston to help find her relatives. Over time, the two had developed a friendship, and so on the day when the celebrations were in full swing at the church she attends, it was a pleasant surprise to many that he turned up and sat quietly in the background waiting to share his own experiences of what he later described as delightful conversations with this lady.
In subsequent months, he kept in touch, enquiring about her welfare and making the occasional visit. On the afternoon of Boxing Day last year, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him enquiring about her welfare. He had turned up at the premises where she resides and found the gate locked. He had tried the telephone number and got no response either from her or her caregiver. I suggested that sometimes at Christmas she is taken to visit the home of relatives of a colleague church member and that perhaps that was the case this time.
Later that evening when I called a neighbour of the lady's, I was told that Ralston had, in fact, been able to visit with her.
Now this is nothing grand or particularly exceptional in the general scheme of things. But given his many interests and activities, his continuing interest in the welfare of a centenarian who has no claim to fame or public achievement - and outside the glare of general publicity, is certainly admirable.