BILL Peach, who went from an idyllic Riverina childhood to hosting pioneering ABC current affairs show This Day Tonight, is being mourned as a “natural storyteller”.
The journalist died aged 78 in a Sydney hospital yesterday morning after having battled cancer in recent months.
ABC managing director Mark Scott yesterday lauded the contribution of Peach who hosted TDT from its launch in 1967 through to 1976.
“Bill Peach was a courageous, pioneering journalist who believed the ABC had a duty to make sure the Australian people saw the important stories every night of the week,” Mr Scott said.
“From the word go, back in April 1967, Bill Peach was the serene, implacable face of This Day Tonight.
“He was a natural storyteller — so comfortable in front of the camera, in any part of the nation — and welcomed into the living rooms of Australians everywhere.”
Peach was born in 1935 in Lockhart, the son of a stock and station agent born in Albury and a mother from the Upper Murray.
“It was an interesting marriage, actually, because dad was from working-class Irish Catholic parents, my mother was from graziers,” Peach told the ABC in 2007.
He described his youth as a “sort of a Huckleberry Finn childhood”.
“Unfortunately I didn’t have the Mississippi River, I had the Brookong Creek, which is about five feet wide in a flood but it did have giant yabbies in it,” Peach said.
“I was able to sail a small canoe on it.
“I had a lovely time in the little country town.”
After boarding school at Bathurst, Peach went to Sydney University and began his journalism career on ABC television’s Four Corners.
Following TDT, which was Australia’s first nightly current affairs show, Peach hosted documentaries and started a travel company.
He did not forget his Border roots, launching a bicentennial tapestry at Beechworth in 1988, unveiling a monument to the Murray Grey cattle breed that his mother’s family had pioneered in the Upper Murray and acting as Albury’s 1994 Australia Day ambassador.
Peach was also a delegate to the Corowa
People’s Conference in 2001, proposing a model for establishing an Australian republic.
“My father was born in Albury in 1901, the year of federation, and I was born in Lockhart ... if Australia does want a republic, find out how people think it should be done,” Peach told The Border Mail.
Peach is survived by his partner Pam and two children.