‘Oldest DJ’ Black Diamond FM’s Bill Prentice dies aged 96

Black Diamond FM volunteer Bill Prentice, believed to be the oldest DJ in the UK, sadly passed away last Thursday at the age of 96.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 8:15 am
Black Diamond FM DJ Bill Prentice.

Bill was born on February 16, 1923 in Haddington where his father was a watchmaker. He was one of a family of six; two brothers - Tommy (a blacksmith) and John (an artist), and three sisters – Winnie who became a councillor; Mary Mackay 14 years his junior and only surviving sibling, and Dr Helen Crummy MBE who founded the Craigmillar Festival Society and is mother of Dr Andrew Crummy - designer of the Prestonpans Tapestry, the Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.

Bill started work as an apprentice bookbinder and after working his way up to foreman with various Scottish companies in 1960 moved to a managerial position with a printer in Slough, Buckinghamshire. During his career he worked on the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

He wanted to join the RAF along with several pals but they were accepted and Bill wasn’t. Bill survived the war but his friends didn’t. He joined the Navy, serving for four years in various parts of the world as maintenance crew with the Fleet Air Arm.

In 1944 he married Nancy, a marriage that lasted 62 years until her death in 2006.

They had a son who died in 1982.

In 1984 he moved to Bonnyrigg where he worked tirelessly in the voluntary sector holding various offices, among them: chairman of the Bonnyrigg Branch of the Scottish Pensioners Association; chairman of Bonnyrigg Seniors Social Club; secretary Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Seniors Forum; board member of Midlothian Voluntary Action. He also ran a sequence dancing club in Bonnyrigg.

Bill entertained residents at Nazareth House, Bonnyrigg by playing the mouth organ. In 2007 he joined Black Diamond, Midlothian’s Community radio station where, along with Ted Comerford he presented weekly show - ‘Seniors’ Hour’- billed as ‘by the elderly, for the elderly’.

They were not great fans of the post Beatles era, their kind of music was from the 20s, 30s, and 40s the days of big bands and the crooners. In 2012, the late John Ritchie, then chairman at Black Diamond, said of them “Their brief is simple – entertain and they are entertaining.“

Sadly Ted passed away in 2014 but Bill continued his commitment to entertain with his programme being broadcast every Sunday afternoon.

At the recent Your Question Time event held at Newbattle High School, council leader Derek Milligan singled Bill out as the person he felt was most worthy of an award for all he did for the voluntary sector in Midlothian.

Black Diamond chairman, Bob Miller, said: “At the age of 96 we believe Bill was the oldest active radio presenter in the UK. To recognise Bill’s continuing contribution we nominated him in the National Community Radio Awards last year. To achieve the Bronze Award at that level in the Sage category reflects the quality of Bill’s work and that will be an incredibly hard gap to fill.

“Our thoughts are with his family, particularly with his sister Mary, niece Helen and his good friend Rosie.”

Bill’s health had been failing for some time. At Bonnyrigg Community Hospital Bill died on July 11. On Sunday Black Diamond’s Gordon

Clayton and chairman Bob Miller took over Seniors’ Hour to chat, play some of ‘his kind of music’ and reflect upon what Bill did for Black Diamond FM.

Bill’s funeral will be held on Wednesday, July 24, at 2pm, at Mortonhall Main Chapel and thereafter buried there beside his wife and son.