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I am a child of TV. I have been watching it since 1952.

Richard Whiteley was the genial host of Countdown, the pleasant TV show in which contestants compete against the clock to see who can form the longest word from a random assortment of vowels and consonants.

Countdown (adapted from a French format) was the first ever programme to appear on Channel 4 and Whiteley hosted the show for 23 years.

Before that, Richard was a regional news presenter and, in an oft replayed incident, he was bitten by a ferret live on air while fronting Yorkshire TV’s Calendar programme.

A Yorkshire-born Cambridge graduate, Richard was also established as a distinguished political reporter and interviewed every Prime Minister from Macmillan to Blair.

Known for his puns and eccentric taste in ties, he was undoubtedly a major factor in Countdown’s success. The Queen is thought to be a fan of the series, while it’s been also rumoured that George Clooney tunes in.

Richard met the Queen when collecting his OBE in 2004, four years after his co-presenter Carol Vorderman accepted her MBE. “She's got two consonants and a vowel, I've got two vowels and a consonant, but vowels are more useful,” he quipped.

Carol paid emotional tribute to Richard on his premature death. “The clock stopped too soon,” she said.