Obituary: Denise Robertson, writer and television broadcaster

TV agony aunt was no stranger to troubles in her own life. Picture: PA
TV agony aunt was no stranger to troubles in her own life. Picture: PA
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Born: 9 June 1932. Died: 31 March 2016, aged 83.

Denise Robertson spent more than 30 years helping the British public with their problems but was no stranger to sadness and difficulties in her own life.

Widowed twice – losing first husband Alex to cancer in 1972 and then Jack to a stroke in 1995 – she also lost her 44-year-old stepson John to cancer in 2006.

But Robertson always said that the misfortunes in her life, starting with the death of her father in her twenties, qualified her for her long-running agony aunt role.

Born in Sunderland in 1932, she never lost her association with that part of the world.

After she married her third husband, Bryan Thubron in 1997, she stayed in the area, living in a village just north of Sunderland.

In 1972 her play The Soda Water Fountain was made for the BBC but Alex died from lung cancer within six months of it being broadcast.

Robertson told This Morning: “I started to write articles for magazines about what was happening to me. And people started writing to me and I would reply. And then, one day, I got a phone call from BBC Breakfast Time and they said we think we’d like you to be our agony aunt.”
Robertson made her debut on the BBC breakfast programme in 1985 but decided to step away from the screen soon after to concentrate on writing novels.

In 1988 she said she got a phone call “out of the blue” and he joined This Morning with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. She soon became a household name.

Robertson became synonymous with This Morning, known for her strident “common sense” advice and her willingness to challenge public figures over issues she cared about.

Robertson’s popularity on This Morning led to her being offered her own TV show in 2000, called Dear Denise. She was also a regular fixture on Channel 5’s Big Brother’s Bit On The Side.

She was awarded an MBE a decade ago and was also given the freedom of the City of Sunderland.