Here is the news…one of the region’s best-known personalities is stepping down from her role as the face of regional TV news. Pam Royle speaks exclusively to PETER BARRON about her career in front of the cameras

AS a little girl, Pam Royle loved to imagine herself on the telly – always acting out the adverts with the catchiest slogans.

From rubbing hands that do dishes with mild green Fairy Liquid, to smiling with Colgate’s famous ring of confidence, she was always fascinated by the small screen.

Even so, who’d have thought she’d go on to become one of the most familiar and trusted faces in the North-East during an award-winning television career spanning nearly 40 years?

“It’s been a privilege to have been in people’s living rooms every night for so long,” says Pam, who has today announced that she’s stepping down as the main news presenter for ITV Tyne Tees and Border.

A North-East institution, a regional treasure, Pam's known for her reassuring voice, friendly smile, and dedication to keeping the region up to date with the news, but, at 62, she’s decided to explore new opportunities as a freelance.

“It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” she says. “I’ve worked with – and met – lovely people, covered amazing stories, and had great times. But it's a full-on job and I want to find a better work-life balance and try new things.

“If I could have done it for three days a week, that would have been perfect. Sadly, that’s not ITV policy, so the time's right to move on, and give someone else the opportunity of one of the region's best jobs.”

Although she’s spent most of her life in the North-East, Pam was born in Leicester, where her father, Ted, was an  electrical engineer for the English Electric Company. She was only six months old when he was posted to South Africa, and – along with her mother, Audrey, and older sister, Linda – she spent three years abroad before returning to England.

The family settled in Guisborough, then Carlton-in-Cleveland, where she continued to show a flair for drama at school, before choosing Kirby College, in Middlesbrough, because it offered the subject at A-level.

Her first “proper job” was selling advertising for the Evening Gazette, but that was cut short in 1978 when her parents bought a hotel in Dartmouth, and Pam moved south with them.

She returned to the North-East three years later to take up a place at Newcastle University and, after graduating, she got a job teaching English and drama in Hong Kong.

She’d speculatively sent her CV to Tyne Tees Television, and she was contacted in Hong Kong to say a vacancy had come up for a weather presenter, replacing Wincey Willis, who was moving to TV-AM.

It proved to be Pam’s break into television. A screen test was arranged, and she started at Tyne Tees TV in November 1983. They were the days when the weather presenters had to stick magnetic weather symbols onto a map, and there was the time when the letter ‘f’ slipped off the word ‘fog’, leading Pam to announce: “Oh, there’s no ‘f’ in fog!”

Nevertheless, she continued to impress with her sunny disposition, and went on to spread her wings as a freelance. Contracts included working as a continuity announcer for Central TV, providing holiday cover for Wincey Willis at TV-AM, presenting the weather and travel for ITN’s new Super Channel, and reading the weekend news for London Weekend Television.

LWT were impressed enough to give Pam her own current affairs and consumer show, called Friday Now, but she missed the North-East and, in 1989, returned to Tyne Tees TV, having been headhunted to co-present the news on ‘Northern Life’ with Paul Frost.

She's been part of the furniture ever since – co-presenting with several partners, including Mike Neville, and, for the past 13 years, with Ian Payne.

No-one survives as long as she has on live TV without the odd mishap, and Pam laughs as she remembers one particular broadcast with Paul Frost. The auto-cue referred to “a double jobs blow in Harrogate” but Pam managed to transpose two crucial words.

Wondering why “Paul Frost” and the cameramen were giggling, the programme, mercifully, cut to a reporter, giving “Frosty” the chance to explain what she’d said.

“You’d better apologise,” he suggested, leading Pam to, innocently, tell the viewers after the break: “I’m awfully sorry for that slip of the tongue earlier.”

The odd faux pas aside, the highlights are far too many to mention, though the coverage of the Cumbrian shootings in June 2010 – when taxi driver Derrick Bird went on a rampage, killing 12 people before committing suicide – is a source of particular pride. Reporting from the scene with Ian Payne, the coverage earned a BAFTA for the team responsible for the programme.

Another special live broadcast was from Redcar in 2015 when 2,200 steel jobs were lost. At the end, a steelworker walked across to Pam and said: “Thank you – you've done us proud.”

But the bad news has been balanced by a stream of lighter moments such as sharing the screen with Ant and Dec; making a film with Robson Green; becoming friends with Joe McElderry after he won X Factor in 2009; performing in the “Sunday For Sammy” shows in memory of Geordie actor Sammy Johnson; and playing the Fairy Godmother, in panto, at the Tyne Theatre in 2001.

As well as the BAFTA, honours have included: three Royal Television Society presenter of the year awards; a lifetime of achievement award from the Evening Chronicle’s Sunshine Fund; and a Variety Club silver heart for “outstanding contribution to TV and charity”.

Off screen commitments include being patron of the Great North Air Ambulance, acting as a Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, and serving for 25 years as ‘Mother of the Chapel’ for the National Union of Journalist.

In 2016, she issued a warning about the dangers of skin cancer after a melanoma was found on her leg. “Things like that really make you re-evaluate your life,” she says.

Five years on, with the cancer scare behind her, she's decided to look to a future that will no longer include an exhausting schedule of daily news bulletins. Instead, she'll be pursuing commercial opportunities, such as voice-overs, with a home studio being built at her home, near Darlington.

There'll also be more time for family life. She's been married to her husband, Mike, for 36 years, has two children, and is now a grandma. She's also "blessed" to still have her mum at 92.

“I’ve always been delighted when people stop me in the street for a chat with ‘Pam off the telly’ – the people of the North-East have been so warm and open, and I’ve loved having that connection,” she says.

County Durham's Lord Lieutenant, Sue Snowdon, is among those paying tribute, saying: "Pam has made a huge contribution to our region through her television work and support of local charities. I wish her well as she moves into the next chapter in life."

And Ian Payne, her on-screen partner, sums her up by adding: “Pam tells the happy stories with joy, the sad ones with empathy, and all of them with sincerity. She's always grateful that viewers have chosen to welcome us into their homes, and will always put them first – after all, they’re her friends.  They love her – and she loves them.”

It’s hard to imagine the North-East news without that reassuring voice, that friendly smile…that ring of confidence.

Pam Royle – take a bow. As the steelworker said: "You've done us proud."