McDonald was born in Stanley, Falkland Islands. He began his acting career in repertory theatre, under the stage names Val Blanchard and Robert Blanchard, using his mother’s maiden name. He toured before World War II in J. B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways. During the war, he served with the Royal Artillery and was involved in an ultimately abandoned plot to abduct Adolf Hitler and bring him to Britain. He also served in Ceylon with the British Forces Broadcasting Service and after being demobbed, he was selected as one of the post-war trio of BBC TV in-vision announcers. He appeared on screen from May 1946 until 1956 and was known as MacHobley. He once introduced the politician Sir Stafford Cripps as “Sir Stifford Crapps”.
He presented a number of programmes for the BBC, including: Kaleidoscope (1948); For Deaf Children (17th August 1953 – 1955); Come Dancing (1959); Whistle Stop; Does the Team Think? (1961); It’s a Knockout (1966); and nostalgia show As We Recall (1972). He also hosted a one-off show called Afternoon Hostesses Tea-Party (20th December 1955) with Vera McKechnie, Pauline Tooth and Nan Winton amongst the contributors.
He left his BBC announcing role to join Granada TV as one of their first announcers and presenters (1956). On its first night of broadcasting, Granada paid tribute to the BBC and it was fitting that a well-known BBC announcer was with Granada for its opening celebrations. The occasion merited a front page spot in the TV Times.
He appeared in BBC TV’s It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and The Goodies. On 5th November 1986, he reappeared as an in-vision announcer on BBC Two, to celebrate TV50, the 50th anniversary of BBC Television.
During 1966, he returned to radio, fronting the Coffee Break Show on the pirate station Wonderful Radio London. He was the long-running chairman of BBC Radio 4’s Does the Team Think? (1957 – 1976) and appeared on BBC Radio 2’s On the Air (1986). He also had a long association with the theatre, touring with many productions around the UK; he appeared in London’s West End in the farce No Sex Please, We’re British. Just before his death, he returned to the Falklands for a Channel 4 broadcast about the then British South Atlantic Dependencies. In July 1987, he was rehearsing the world premiere of Anthony Marriott and Bob Grant’s play Home Is Where Your Clothes Are, produced by David Tudor. He had extreme difficulty learning his lines, which was unusual, and David Tudor had to release him from his contract. A few days later, he died of a brain tumour.
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring McDonald which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.