“Make an ‘L’ with your mouth and blow – it’s phonetic and the town’s called Llanelli!” – Mari was offering advice to, of all people, the BBC’s pronunciation unit in the days when Welsh programmes were opt outs from the main radio service.
It was the measure of her professionalism and wit that she could offer advice while gently chiding her fellow continuity announcers.
Mari Griffith, though, was much more than a radio announcer. She was, in turn, a singer, presenter, independent producer and, in her later years, a successful novelist. Mari, who has died at the age of 79, was also a long-standing RTS Wales Centre Committee member.
Mari was born into a Welsh speaking, musical family in the Llynfi Valley. Her first television appearance was singing with her sister Ann, an accomplished harpist, on a Sunday night children’s programme, All Your Own, broadcast live from London.
When I interviewed Mari at her home in Llantwit Major some years ago, she told me: “Few people in Maesteg had TV sets in those days so they all crowded into each other’s houses to watch. They then crept shame-facedly into chapel late for the evening service, hoping the minister wouldn’t notice.”
From Maesteg, Mari went to college in Cardiff before joining the BBC Northern Singers in Manchester. It was the mid-1960s and the folk scene was taking off.
“I just bought a guitar and got on with it,” she said, and she was soon appearing on radio and television alongside the likes of Tony Hart, and Ray Alan and his puppets Tich and Quackers.
It was a busy time for her, presenting school and children’s programmes during the day and playing folk evenings and recording LPs at the weekend. She even had her own BBC Wales series, With a Little Help.
But the lure of Wales was strong and Mari’s background meant she could sing, strum and present in the Welsh language, too.
Back home, she worked with the comedy duo Ryan and Ronnie, and Max Boyce, sang on the BBC Wales pop programme Disc a Dawn, appeared on the BBC Two series Poems and Pints and had a residency on Max Jaffa’s Music for your Pleasure on BBC Radio 2.
In 1978, Mari became a bilingual continuity announcer at BBC Wales. She started directing promos and eventually set up her own production company, MovieJack, filming in the US and Bulgaria.
Mari was a lifelong member of the RTS and served as secretary to the Wales Centre Committee for more than 10 years.
Whether she was minding guests like former MP Oona King or calming down student awards winners, Mari was always on hand to help ensure the centre’s events ran smoothly.
It’s difficult to say when, indeed if ever, Mari retired, she was so busy. In her latter years she turned to writing and published two well-received historical novels, tales of medieval romance and intrigue.
Mari will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered by all who knew her.