Susan Lawley OBE (born 14 July 1946) is an English broadcaster. Her main broadcasting background involved television news and current affairs. From 1988–2006, Lawley was the presenter of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4.

Sue Lawley

Sue lawley.jpg
Lawley in 2010
Susan Lawley

(1946-07-14) 14 July 1946 (age 73)
Sedgley, Dudley, England
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
OccupationNews presenter, television presenters
Notable credit(s)
BBC Six O'Clock News
Desert Island Discs
Spouse(s)David Ashby
Hugh Williams (m. 1987)

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Sedgley, Dudley, England, and brought up in the Black Country, she was educated at Dudley Girls High School. She graduated in modern languages from the University of Bristol where, due to peer pressure, she changed her Dudley accent to one closer to received pronunciation.[1]


She began her professional career as a trainee reporter on the Western Mail and South Wales Echo between 1967 and 1970,[1] during which she shared a house in Cardiff with Michael Buerk. She then moved to BBC Plymouth as a subeditor and freelance reporter from 1970 until 1972.[1] In 1972, she gained prominence as one of the reporters/presenters of the BBC TV's news magazine Nationwide which she appeared on until 1975, when she was offered the main anchor role on the nightly news show Tonight. Lawley left Tonight on maternity leave shortly after its launch and did not return to the show. Instead she rejoined Nationwide as one of the two main anchors, alongside Frank Bough. Lawley remained with the show until it came to a close in 1983.

She interviewed The Carpenters in 1981 which became one of her most memorable interviews, following Karen Carpenter's death in 1983.

After Nationwide, Lawley became the anchor of the Nine O'Clock News bulletin on BBC1, and then moved to the newly launched Six O'Clock News in 1984. Lawley was praised after a broadcast on 23 May 1988, when the studio was invaded by protesters opposed to Section 28: she continued to read the news whilst co-presenter Nicholas Witchell restrained one of them.[2]

Guest appearances and Desert Island DiscsEdit

In 1981, she made a guest appearance in the Yes Minister episode "The Quality of Life", playing herself. Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Lawley was the regular stand-in for Terry Wogan on his BBC1 thrice-weekly chat show Wogan. From 1988 to 26 August 2006 Lawley was the presenter of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4.[3]

Other workEdit

In 1989, the BBC launched Lawley in her own Saturday night talk show titled Saturday Matters with Sue Lawley, which was received badly by critics and was cancelled after one series. The very first guest interviewed was the then Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. Lawley left the BBC to work for ITV, but did little work for them, other than an occasional series of high-profile interviews, which included British Prime Minister John Major. She returned to BBC1 in 1993 to host the show Biteback. Lawley was later part of ITN's presenting team in its ITV Election 97 coverage.

Lawley introduces the BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures and is also a board member of the English Tourism Council and English National Opera.

Personal lifeEdit

Lawley was first married in 1975 to David Ashby a solicitor. Lawley's second marriage was in 1987, to Hugh Williams, a television executive.

She was awarded the OBE in 2001.


  1. ^ a b c Gibson, Owen (25 August 2006). "The Guardian profile: Sue Lawley". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  2. ^ "TV's top 10 tantrums". BBC News. 31 August 2001.
  3. ^ Lawley quits Desert Island Discs, BBC, 12 April 2006