28 Mar 2016

Country Calendar's Frank Torley dies

6:53 pm on 28 March 2016

Television broadcasting legend Frank Torley has died after a short battle with cancer.

Television broadcasting legend Frank Torley, who fronted Country Calendar, died on 27 March 2016.

Frank Torley Photo: SUPPLIED

The 75-year-old, who fronted iconic farming programme Country Calendar, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, died yesterday morning.

He leaves behind his wife Jenny, son Mark and daughter Bridget.

Mr Torley was born in Dunedin but always had an eye for the country life.

According to NZ On Screen, his career in rural broadcasting began at the Feilding Saleyards in 1965.

He had a chance meeting with friend and colleague Colin Follas, who had left the stock firm where both men worked to join the NZBC as a rural radio broadcaster based in Palmerston North.

Mr Torley was asked to do a voice test and encouraged to apply for a position at the network.

A year later, in March 1966, Country Calendar first went to air - and Mr Torley joined the programme in 1968.

With about 1000 episodes broadcast, the programme has become the longest running television show in New Zealand and one of the oldest in the world.

Gallery: 50 years of Country Calendar

Speaking to Nine to Noon on 23 February, Mr Torley, who had recently retired, said thorough research was the key to the show's storytelling success.

"It's that attention to detail ... As a result, we do get a quality product and one that people recognise."

He recounted one of his most memorable moments on the show, when a wild pig got the better of a hunter and bit off his thumb.

"We wrapped it in a handkerchief and got him to [hospital]. Next morning, we went to see our poor talent and said 'how did you get on'.

"He said, 'Well, the doc came around, the surgeon, and I said to this bloke, listen mate, what's a thumb worth on ACC? And the doctor said, oh, I don't know, about $2000 I think.' Fair enough, doc, he said - 'you keep the thumb and I'll have the $2000 bucks'."

His friend and long-time producer on the programme, Julian O'Brien, said he was one of the warmest, loveliest people he had ever met.

He would be remembered with great fondness, he said.

"He'd actually set out to be a farmer. He was a city boy who left school and wanted to go farming, and he did initially farm for a while.

"He had a real understanding about the rural community, and I think they will remember a city person who bridged the gap between rural and urban."

Mr O'Brien said Mr Torley's death had come as a shock and no plans for his funeral had been confirmed yet.