Richard Madeley: My family values

The TV presenter and writer talks about marrying in haste and how he took things slowly as a step-parent to Judy’s twin sons

My father had a very short fuse. He was always losing his temper and a fairly minor infraction on my part would result in him grabbing his stick and laying about me for four or five strokes. It reached its apogee on the last occasion when he went over the top and hit me too hard and too often. For the first time, my mother was aware of it (she was usually away working when it happened) and she told him if he ever hit me again, she would go straight to the police. The next day he gave a full and frank apology and he never hit me again.

When I wrote about it in my memoirs, I was surprised by the level of media interest it generated because, to me, it was abnormal not to be hit back then. I almost regret writing about it because in other people’s minds it’s the defining thing about my father and that wasn’t him at all. He was fun, bright, warm and tactile. When he died of a heart attack when I was 21, it was an absolute hammer blow.

Mum, who was Canadian, died in March, aged 82. On the last day of her life I was able to say a proper goodbye, which was really satisfying. We hugged each other and I thanked her for being such a fabulous mum. She heard me and told me how much she loved me. I said the same and really meant it.

My first marriage was a mistake. I left London, aged 19, where I was surrounded by family and friends, to work at BBC Radio Carlisle. But I soon felt very lonely and realised I was suffering from depression. Then I met Lynda, who was young, bubbly and pretty, and lived in the flat below mine. We went on a date and I clung to that relationship like a limpet. I was young, headstrong and romantic, and I talked her into marrying me. But over time we both realised we’d married in haste and were repenting at leisure. After five years, we kicked it into touch.

I met my second wife, Judy [Finnigan], at Granada Television in 1982. I came in for my first news conference and heard this voice tearing into the producer. It was Judy. He’d said something really sexist and she was dicing him into small cubes with her tongue. I thought, wow – I’m going to marry her.

Judy stressed she came in a three-pack because she had twins, Dan and Tom, from her first marriage. Fortunately, my relationship with the boys worked surprisingly well, partly because we all went on holiday together before I moved in and they got used to having me around. I took it slowly at first and I cringe when I hear step-parents laying down the law within weeks.

I’m outgoing and optimistic, Judy tends to see the downside of things and has suffered from depression. She says I inflate her and she grounds me. Why have we lasted? Well, you don’t give up when things get a bit tricky. We’re in it for the long haul.

My son Jack, 28, works for one of the biggest media management companies in Europe and I’m on his portfolio. You’d think that would be weird, but his judgment chimes completely with mine and it’s the best relationship I’ve had with an agent in my life. My daughter Chloe, 27, who works as a TV presenter and qualified gym instructor, has had her moments of negativity in the press, but she knows how to react because she’s seen us react to it. She’s got her head completely screwed on.

The Way You Look Tonight by Richard Madeley (Simon & Schuster, £7.99) is out now


Interview by Angela Wintle

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