Vivienne McDonnell: First woman to head Norwich hospital radio also wrote for the EDP
13:34 08 January 2013
A voice for the blind around the world, Vivienne McDonnell, who has died aged 89, was also the first woman chairman of Norwich Hospital Radio.
For many years, she presented a nightly broadcast, “Pause for Thought” for patients at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital and the West Norwich Hospital.
The service, which had been started in the mid 1970s was run by volunteers, and the regular broadcasts were also available to many other local hospitals.
After her election as chairman in March 1988, she said that one aim would be to ensure that all patients had access to a working radio.
Since moving to Norfolk almost exactly 50 years earlier, she had devoted her life and energy to public service and supporting community groups and organisations.
A regular contributor to the EDP and also its sister paper, the Evening News, she wrote Christian Viewpoint for a number of years. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, she also served on the committee of the Norwich Council of Churches and edited its newsletter.
Through her involvement with the English Speaking Union, she read and recorded 49 books for the Torch Trust for the Blind between 1988 and 2006. The Christian charity distributes talking books to the blind and partially-sighted around the world.
Born in London, she also edited the magazine of her former school, Grey Coats Hospital, Westminster, for almost 19 years.
In 1950, she qualified as a teacher and specialised in England literature and language, working initially in London and later Wolverhampton. She also taught PE and was a qualified All England netball and rounders umpire.
Her former husband was promoted by Norwich Union from Wolver-hampton area manager to head office in Surrey Street; later, he became the group’s public relations manager.
A past president of the Norwich Ladies’ Luncheon Club, she also completed two terms as chairman of the Wroxham Ladies’ Luncheon Club.
When she was secretary to the Norwich Ladies Lifeboat Guild in the 1970s, she realised that an ancestor, Dr Charles Manners-Sutton, a former Bishop of Norwich and later Archbishop of Canterbury, might have been involved in the foundation of the RNLI in 1824. However, her son, John, has been unable to find a definitive family connection.
She also spent several months in the Canadian Interior working among the North American Indians in autumn 1979. As the writer of the Roman Catholic bishop’s newsletter for the missionary diocese of Prince George, it was an ideal opportunity to appreciate a different culture and report on the spectacular funeral of an Indian chief.
She leaves two children, John and Ann, six granddaughters and one grandson, and 17 great grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at Earlham Crematorium on Wednesday, January 9 at noon.Michael Pollitt