Martin was born in Tillington, near Petworth, Sussex and was educated at Stowe. He attended The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and got a certificate in speech and drama (performing). Fellow students included Eileen Atkins and Claire Bloom. In December 1951, he appeared in a panto at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge with Cyril Fletcher and his wife Betty Astell. He completed his national service in the Royal Navy after training with the RNVR as a signalman, finally becoming an officer.
In 1956, Martin began to look for voiceover work and walked into the offices of Bensons, who were the producers of TV commercials for Rediffusion in London and ATV in Birmingham. He was asked to voice a 13-part series for Radio Luxembourg about famous American composers. His first TV commercial was for Coty Lipstick and his fee was 15 guineas. He went for a board at the BBC for studio managers but was unsuccessful; days later he received a call from Aidan MacDermot, head of presentation, BBC General Overseas Service, who was most impressed with his microphone test and invited him to do some holiday announcing, where he shadowed Jack de Manio. After a time, he wanted to get into domestic radio and spoke with Sandy Grandison, head of the BBC Light Programme, who suggested he go away and get some experience.
Martin travelled to Montreal, Canada and managed to get work as an actor with CBC and appeared with Arthur Treacher in William Douglas Home’s The Reluctant Debutante. In 1958, he returned to the UK and unsuccessfully auditioned with Rediffusion Television. He then got back in touch with Sandy Grandison, who asked him if he had thought of TV and put him in touch with Clive Rawes, BBC TV’s presentation producer. He auditioned and was offered two weeks as a BBC TV in-vision announcer in 1958, then another two weeks, which turned into several months.
Later that year he auditioned for former broadcaster Roy Rich, who was now programme controller at Southern TV. He joined the new ITV company, based in Southampton, before it began broadcasting on 30th August 1958, as an announcer, newsreader and reporter and remained until 1960. He was joined by Meryl O’Keeffe and Julian Pettifer.
Martin then moved back to BBC TV as the first presenter on their local news programme from Southampton. As the new studio wasn’t ready at South Western House, he was asked by Desmond Hawkins, head of west region programmes, to do newsreading and presentation duties in Bristol for a month and worked with the famous Tom Salmon and reporter Ken Duck. He presented South at Six (after a few months the national BBC News changed its timeslot) and then South Today from 5th January 1961 until 1964 and became a popular and well-known celebrity locally. Colleagues he worked with included Valerie Sargeant (later Lady Solti) and staff reporters Ron Allison and Johnny Johnston.
He also worked for network BBC TV as a compére on Come Dancing (1961 – 1973) and a presenter on Songs of Praise (1974 – 1976 and 1980); he appeared on its 50th anniversary celebration (broadcast on 2nd October 2011). He also presented features on Michael Aspel’s Monday Show and had spells reading the news bulletins on the regional news magazine programme for London, Town and Around. In autumn 1969, he presented a special concert given by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens, to mark colour TV coming to BBC Two. He also worked for BBC TV presentation for 12 years, voicing BBC TV programme trails.
In October 1964, Martin joined BBC Radio Presentation working under assistant editor, presentation Andrew Timothy, as a BBC Radio announcer and newsreader for the BBC Home Service and BBC Radio 4. He shadowed long-serving radio broadcaster Alvar Lidell. He was on overnight duty when Churchill died on 24th January 1965 and read tributes from world leaders. He also read the Shipping Forecast – on one occasion, a page of the script covering coastal stations and the forecast for the inshore waters was missing. As Martin later recalled: “Unfortunately, a rather important person happened to be sailing in The Minches off western Scotland at the time. It was the Prime Minister, Edward Heath. He heard the broadcast, contacted the director-general, who passed on the complaint to David Lloyd James, head of presentation.”
He presented on the BBC Light Programme, including Family Fare (1965) and guest-presented BBC Radio 4’s Today, deputising for Jack de Manio (1965 – 1968). He created features for Jack de Manio Presents and presented religious series For All Seasons (1974). He read many Morning Stories and read illustrations on Saturday Briefing (1972 – 1973). He also read the Bootle stories, brilliantly written by an ex-submarine commander, Richard Compton-Hall. He was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Waterlines with Cliff Michelmore, and for 20 years, to the Countryside programme; his interests are the countryside, sailing, maritime matters and communication. He left BBC Radio Presentation in 1975 and went freelance and spent three years presenting on London’s Melody Radio. His final series was for BBC South in the mid-1990s – Southern Ways.
Martin had his own video company, Canopus Communications Ltd where he worked on films and videos for commercial clients. He also has acting credits including: The Man Outside (1972); Doctor Who (Terminus) (1983); Yes, Prime Minister (1986); French and Saunders (1987); The Bill (1991); the film Cleanskin (2012), starring Sean Bean and written by Hadi Hajaig; another of Hajaig’s films, Blue Iguana, starring Simon Callow. Martin has written two books: The Yachtsman’s Quiz Book and The Wind in the Oak, about the life and work of his well-known artist and sailor father, Claude Muncaster, for which Prince Philip did the foreword. Martin is hoping to publish a new book, about his life in broadcasting.
Paul R. Jackson spoke to Martin in October 2017: “I went to South Africa in 1948 and I’m sure I heard Meryl O’Keeffe on South African radio as we docked. I opened Southern TV and ITN’s Ian Trethowan (later BBC director-general) came down from London to help out on the launch night to introduce the news with me.
“In 2017, I wrote my memoirs and self-published for family and friends. If anyone is interested via your pages, I hope to find a publisher in hardback soon.”
Martin’s book The Voice, The Face – A Life in Broadcasting was published in 2017.
Video Clips on the Internet
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We are thankful to Martin for working with us to ensure the accuracy of this profile. A more comprehensive account of Martin's life in broadcasting can be found in his latest book - details above.
PICTURED: Martin Muncaster. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.