I was very sad to hear of the news that Neil Collins, a legend of the Dunedin airwaves for almost 60 years, died last night after a short illness.
I worked closely with Neil on the documentary Radio Dunedin, about the station of the same name, as he was such an integral part of the history of New Zealand’s longest-running station.
He was always a bit reluctant with the fly-on-the-wall filming process as he was always such a polished performer that he was worried the camera might catch some of the "real" Collins. After a while Neil warmed up and forgot the camera was there, although he drew the line at being miked up.
Neil’s retirement was never really spoken about on-air until his final week of broadcast. We knew it was coming around the office, and that was one of the main reasons I started filming the documentary when I did. To get on camera some of the legendary Neil Collins doing what he did best.
He left the station officially in October 2015 to a guard of honour of work colleagues, TV cameras and photographers.
I finally sat him down for an hour and a half-long interview about his life a couple of months after his retirement. He spoke of a career with huge high's interviewing and partying with the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, "It was the 60's and they were party times, pretty girls, parties and whatever. It was all happening".
He looked back on his career with fondness, taking volunteer community radio station 4XD and helping turn it around into the commercial station it is today.
"I didn’t want the place to sink; they didn’t want the place to sink. So it was just a personal thing, some of them were like 'we don't want to play commercials, we don't want to play his music', but I proved to them it was the only way they were going to stay on air", Collins recalls.
Neil Collins began his long career back in 1958 as a 17-year-old volunteer announcer at 4XD and was last on-air a month ago, filling in for breakfast host Owen Rooney, on Radio Dunedin.
Our thoughts are with his family and all those that he came in contact with over his life.