Broadcaster and Columnist  

Her voice does for radio, what some faces termed “photogenic” have done for photography.”

…”for more than two generations you strove to bring broadcasting into the community and the community into broadcasting.  In these days when we as broadcasters, all too often lose sight of our higher purpose, the example of your life will surely remind us of the best that we can be.

Without any formal training, as she herself put it, “through trial and error” and under the guidance of Mr. Rafiq Khan, programme director at the British Guiana United Broadcasting Company, Olga Lopes-Seale became one of the region’s most recognized female radio voices, inducted into the Caribbean Broadcasters’ Union Hall of fame in 1997.

“I know in my heart that whatever I achieved in broadcasting it was from his challenges and guidance.  Rafiq gave you a job and saw to it that you did it well.  In his gentle manner he always insisted on the best.  You couldn’t even sound tired on air.  You could not pick up any false accents.  He made a point of making his announcers as versatile as possible.  There was no man’s programme or woman’s programme. You had to do everything…news, special programmes.  He is responsible for one of the most popular programmes I’ve ever done “Yours Truly Olga” which was from Monday to Friday 8:30 to 9 a.m. and a special edition on Wednesday night.” 

Allsopp notes in his tribute that she started singing at aged 14 at the Leprosarium, not far from Georgetown, [Guyana].  Following this, she sang and played violin at aged 17, participating in many fundraising amateur radio programmes until she was chosen by a sponsor to sing on his show. 

“…Johnny Adamson sponsored the first programme “Pageant of Youth’ on radio which was then VP3MR (later Radio Demerara) and I was paid the handsome sum of 75 cents for two songs.”  

This she did for a short while, initially accompanied on piano  by a female pianist and later by Mr. Ferdinand Eversley.  This was the real start of her broadcasting career.  She sang during the war years for fundraising events and concerts to help those persons going off to war.  
She was soon producing a 75 minute radio programme called “Berbice Calling.”

And, picture this in your mind: It's the early 1950s. You're living in Berbice. Potholed brick road. 
No train to New Amsterdam. Few people owned radios. Georgetown is like another country. But 
you turn on your radio and listen to a programme named Berbice Calling. Who produced and 
presented that programme? Olga Lopes-Seale, of course!”

In 1952, Auntie Olga began a full-time career as a radio broadcaster and was Guyana’s first female broadcaster.  Her warm and friendly voice along with her caring personality made her extremely successful and popular with programmes such as "Yours Truly Olga", as well as her Children's Talent Shows. In 1953, she started the Radio Demerara Needy Children’s Fund.  

   Through this programme many children in need benefitted from Santa's presents each Christmas.  In 1961, Auntie Olga was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her kind humanitarian efforts and for her contribution to broadcasting in Guyana.  In a self penned letter found in her papers Dame Olga  wrote... 

"I entered broadcasting (from its inception in Guyana – mid 1930s), not as a job but purely for the pleasure of being in that field which as it developed I grew with it from a poor mandolinist- good singer (so read the many reports) and all the things I am at the moment.”

In 1939, she married Barbadian, Dick Seale and the family moved to Barbados in 1963.  Her reputation preceded her, as the late Alfred Pragnell  recalled 
  "I knew of Olga even before she came to live in Barbados.  She was a celebrity and came to Barbados to sing at the opening of the “Willow Club"

On moving to Barbados Auntie Olga continued with and expanded her professional and philanthropic work. During her lifetime,  she helped and warmed the hearts of many people. Her particular interests were assisting the young as well as elderly Barbadians.  This was facilitated through her programmes on Barbados Rediffusion. 

  Rediffusion’s “Your Truly Olga” was a reiteration of her signature programme in Guyana, which focused on inspirational messages, but sometimes involved thought provoking intrviews on topics of local interest.  Her other well-known radio programmes included “The Ovaltines, Woman’s World, Wake up to Music, Beautiful Music, Hospital Requests and Childrens’ Party”.   

Of the Ovaltines broadcast, Hubert Williams,  writing in the February 6, 2011 Sunday Sun newspaper on the passing of Dame Olga, reminisces about this children’s broadcast which he was a part of as a young boy.  

“Together with Auntie Olga and pianist Mikey McKenzie we sang the song lustily …
We are the Ovaltinees, little boys and girls
Make no mistake, we won’t deceive you
We are here just to amuse you
Would  you like to hear our music
Would you share our joy, we’re more than keen…
No happier children can be seen
Because we all drink Ovaltine
We’re happy boys and girls.
  

Many letters written to her by listeners young and old,  glowingly spoke about her programmes and the comfort and guidance they gave, especially Woman’s World.  Most notable among the letters were many requests for the Bridegroom’s Prayer, as  well as those from her teenaged followers , some as young as 14 years of age, requesting copies of  the Ten Commandments for Teenagers.


You just don’t know how much you have done for millions of teenaged girls like myself. You have given them hope and encouragement to look to the future….you have inspired me and given me hope to carry on…”  

The importance and influence of “Children’s Party Pageant of Youth” under Auntie Olga cannot be over stressed…"

Interestingly while many of us automatically associate her with the latter, Children’s Party was not actually started by Dame Olga.  Pragnell in a letter to the editor,  informs us that it was started in 1958 , designed by John Colley, with its first presenter being Auntie Dorothy Smale, followed by Igna Byer (The Skipper), Aunty Pa, Davey and Uncle Freddie (Pragnell).  However it reached its zenith during Dame Olga’s years, working with the cast of Uncles Joe Tudor and Keith Campbell and Auntie Doris Provencal.

Her broadcasts have also captured much of the social history of Barbados and the Caribbean  through various interviews with persons involved in a variety of disciplines.  An early recording from the first CARIFESTA 1972 (Caribbean Festival of the Arts) provided listeners with a 30 minute taste of this Caribbean cultural fusion of music, drama, dance, literature, visual arts, folklore and craft. 

Very often Dame Olga’s programming included excerpts from locals including children, church groups,  folklorists and literary artists , especially the work of Jeanette Layne-Clarke and popular storyteller Alfred Pragnell.

Auntie Olga was also a poet and the columnist of “Column to Cherish” which was started in the Nation Newspaper, one of Barbados’ popular daily newspapers.    This weekly column which focused on inspirational sayings was started in 1979 and ended in 2nd January 2011, just one month before Dame Olga’s death.

Dear Christine


“ I like people and I always try to make friends.  I try to love others like I love God and when I give advice, it comes from my heart and my head.” 

“Well long before I started, it seemed that my friends were always coming to me for advice.  I used to talk to them and leave them with some ray of hope.”

The Dear Christine column started in November 23, 1973 after Dame Olga, recognising that there was a need for this type of support for social problems, approached the Nation Newspaper with the idea, which they accepted.  Her association with  the Nation lasted over 30 years.  While she lacked the formal /professional training in psychology which one would associate with this role, she based her advice on common sense, personal knowledge and a deep sense of the workings of Barbadian society.  With her natural warmth and love for people she answered as many as ten letters each week for over 30 years, addressing emotional and practical needs, giving moral and spiritual guidance and support.

For the lovelorn, she offered frank, candid responses that still gave hope and encouragement, while those cases of mothers in need were investigated thoroughly to assess the level of genuine need, after which their needs were addressed from the outpouring of donations from compassionate Barbadians.  Auntie Olga admittedly shied away from answering some letters in her column as she did not think she was properly equipped to deal with certain issues. 
Many letters were also received from other Caribbean islands, the USA and Canada with persons looking for pen pals, love and companionship, and she noted that on occasion she received positive feedback from persons whose relationships succeeded.  The column has even been immortalised in the Mighty Gabby’s song Needles and pins.

 

Yours Truly Olga 1
Date: 25 November 2015
Author: Olga Lopes-Seale
Publisher: Rediffusion
Tea for Two
Date:   
Author:
Publisher: Alfred Pragnell
Special Independence Yours Truly Olga 28-11-69
Date:   
Author: Lopes Seale, Olga
Publisher: Barbados Redifussion
Olga Interviews 104 Year Old Rita Mayers
Date: 26 November 2015
Author: Lopes Seale, Olga
Publisher:
Educator's Forum
Date: 16 November 2015
Author: Mr. Matthew Farley
Publisher: Rediffusion
Carifesta 1972 (Music)
Date: 27 November 2015
Author:
Publisher: