NOOSA –Philip Satchell, who has died in Adelaide aged 83, spent the formative part of his 40-year career in radio with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Papua New Guinea.
He was born in New South Wales and spent a brief time with the ABC in Sydney before moving to Port Moresby in 1963, where he was one of the ABC’s leading radio presenters for six years.
Philip was transferred to South Australia in 1969 and became one of the state’s best loved celebrities, described by a colleague as a “gentle and calm presenter with a knack for getting his guests to talk at length”.
In 1968-69, my family and I shared a small patch of ground and life with Philip and his family in a secluded section of the ABC’s Wonga Estate on a ridge above the studios with just enough room for our two houses.
We saw a lot of each other in those days but then there was a gap of about 20 years until we caught up again when I was in my second stint with the ABC and swung through Adelaide from time to time.
We’d always have a meal, one of Philip’s favourite pastimes, occasionally with the ABC’s state general manager Graham Taylor, who had been a kiap in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s.
Philip was a quiet, thoughtful man, interested in everything and the owner of a wonderfully sonorous voice, almost the model of what the ABC wanted in an era when women weren’t allowed to read the news because it was maintained their speech didn’t travel clearly through shortwave static.
For the rest of his career, Philip was a distinctive presence on Adelaide radio because of his intellect, his curiosity, his calm, steady voice and the respect with which he treated his guests – but also because of the Satchell pause.
This took the form of a deliberate extended silence. “The pregnant pause was his hallmark and it was a great interviewing technique,” remarked friend and colleague Graeme Bennett. "Philip knew full well if you left the gap long enough, somebody else would fill it."
“He was often able to elicit extra information from interview subjects by letting them fill the void left by his calculated silence,” recalled journalist Thomas Kelsall.
The long pause was also an idiosyncratic part of Philip’s private conversations, along with his genteel manner and habit of sticking both thumbs beneath his braces.
When he told me his father was a clergyman, it all started to make sense.
Philip remained with the ABC for 40 years until his retirement in September 2003, winning many awards for his broadcasting and being honoured with the award of Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1988.
ABC Adelaide presenter and reporter Spence Denny said Philip was generous and approachable, and a magical broadcaster: "He didn't go in with preconceived ideas. He let the guests do the talking and would respond to what they had to say. He was just a big part of living in Adelaide for 40 years. It's incredible."
ABC Morning presenter David Bevan said “there was a boyish charm about Philip that made him all the more endearing".
Philip’s wife Cecily said he had died peacefully at Royal Adelaide Hospital after a long illness. “My heart aches but what a life we’ve had together,” she said.
Philip is survived by Cecily, their teenage daughter, Jemimah, and three adult sons – Andrew, Tim and David – from his previous marriage.
Sources: ABC Radio Adelaide; Adelaide In-Daily.
With thanks to Phil Fitzpatrick