Jenni Murray, 61, has presented Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 since 1987. She received an OBE for services to broadcasting in 1999 and was made a dame this year.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a nurse.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Barnsley Girls’ High School. It would never have occurred to my parents to send me to a private school.

My mother sent me for elocution lessons and I had a wonderful teacher. She made me interested in drama. I did French and drama at Hull University and had the most brilliant four years.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Two women stand out: the speech and drama teacher I mentioned earlier, Florence D. Firth, and Madame Short, the most inspiring school teacher imaginable. She smelled of Je Reviens and was a dead ringer for Juliette Gréco.

How physically fit are you?

The only sport I have ever enjoyed was riding horses. I started at two, on a former pit pony. I had breast cancer, then a problem with my hips, so I am now completely unfit. I walk the dogs, that’s about it.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

It’s hard work and luck.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you ?

I would never reveal my party politics. Where I am politically engaged is in feminism.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yes. My partner got into recycling long before everyone else did.

Do you have more than one home?

Wuthering Heights, a house in the Peak District and Wuthering Depths, a rather basic basement in north London.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A house in the south of France, overlooking the sea.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Frida, my second chihuahua, the cost of whom I will never reveal. But I simply had to have her.

The Peak District

In what place are you happiest?

In the Peak District, it can be just me and the dogs on a walk and it’s wonderful. But as the train pulls into London I start to feel the buzz.

What ambitions do you still have?

To see both my boys really happily ensconced with women they love, in jobs they enjoy.

What drives you on?

I love doing what I do. I pinch myself regularly. I’m so lucky to have a job I love and a family I adore.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

To have stayed with the same guy for 31 years is pretty damn good.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

My mother was a woman of an earlier generation, brought up with very specific standards that my generation blew apart. We came to an understanding in the last year of her life because we started talking.

I wish we’d done it earlier.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“You’ve aged OK, your skin’s all right, good that you keep dyeing your hair and have stopped biting your nails – but you could be thinner.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Flog myself to death to get back into journalism.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Absolutely, because of the way my mother died. She had Parkinson’s and the last six months of her life were utterly miserable. She begged me to help her die and I couldn’t.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Afraid not. I have no religious commitment.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?


My Boy Butch’ by Jenni Murray is published by HarperCollins, £7.99

Get alerts on Jenni Murray when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article