Link to Radio Heritage Foundation - radioheritage.net

The Co-operative Global Radio Memories Project



Book Review
Aunt Gwen of 2YA
by Margaret Willis

image of Aunt Gwen of 2YA jacket

Aunt Gwen of 2YA.
by Margaret Willis

"Putting together this story about my mother has taken a long time, all my life in fact."

With these words, Margaret Willis introduces us to New Zealand's most loved Radio Aunt, 'Aunt Gwen of 2YA'.

In the 1920's when radio was new, it was common for stations to run popular childrens sessions. The personalities of the day were usually given a friendly 'Aunt' or 'Uncle' title, so that listeners could be drawn around the fireplace to listen to a trusted 'family member' tell stories, share poems, jokes and music and tips for growing up 'healthy, wealthy and wise'.

The children, and not so young responded. How they responded. Margaret draws together a portait of a woman who became the most popular Radio Aunt in New Zealand, her voice heard thousands of miles away as 2YA beamed across the ocean to North America, to Australia, into the islands of the Pacific.

image of Aunt Gwen in 2YA studio

Aunt Gwen in the 2YA Studio.
© Margaret Willis

'In Tahiti there lived a fan of Aunt Gwen. He had been on holiday in New Zealand, staying with friends in Taranaki when he first heard her. He travelled to Wellington especially to meet her and called at Station 2YA. He regretted that although 'there are two or three radio sets in captivity here [Papeete], I don't know the people who own them'. He wrote regularly, and she always replied.'

When she retired from 2YA to be married, the Radio Broadcasting Company responded to popular calls by carrying her marriage ceremony live in 1930, and over 2000 listeners crowded the streets outside to catch a glimpse of 'their Aunt Gwen'.

image of Aunt Gwen marriage

After the wedding the crowd of 2000 departs.
© Margaret Willis

Margaret tells a well crafted from inside the family story of Gwendoline Shepherd, allowing us to see the private life of a very public woman who was claimed by all New Zealanders. At the same time, she gives us a special insight into the connection between popular culture and the new world of radio that was unfolding in homes across the nation.

If you enjoyed this review, you'll also enjoy our features 'NZ Radio Dial 1931' that gives the broadcasting context of Aunt Gwen's popularity, and 'A R Harris' an introduction to the man who employed Gwen at 2YA and whose Radio Broadcasting Company was the forerunner of today's public broadcaster Radio New Zealand.

^Top


Radio Heritage Foundation projects and activities connect radio, popular culture, history and heritage.

We operate as a non-profit organization where all donations and funds received go towards our costs of meeting these objectives. We are incorporated as a charitable trust in New Zealand under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 [Registration # 1473801] and we are a registered charitable entity in New Zealand in terms of the Charities Act 2005 [Registration # CC25951].

We file an annual report including a financial report with the
New Zealand Charities Commission.
We are registered with the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department as having approved donee status for New Zealand tax residents who can claim a one-third rebate for every dollar donated to the Radio Heritage Foundation. Our New Zealand Goods & Services Tax [GST] registration number is 89-199-638.

We prefer to use environmentally sustainable goods and services where we can afford to, and we provide free community access worldwide to our collections, published research, preservation and promotion activities in a completely paper-free environment.

© Radio Heritage Foundation 2004 - 2017
Email us

Link to Freeparking