Colleagues at Oldham Community Radio have paid a touching tribute to the man who started it all and who went on to touch the lives of thousands during his colourful broadcast career.

David McGealy, known fondly among friends, family and listeners of Oldham Community Radio 99.7fm as Dave, died on Monday (October 23) at the age of 74.

Dave died from Alzheimer's and had taken a step back from his service to the station in the past eight months but colleagues say he has undoubtedly left a mark on them - and community radio as a whole.

Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to The Oldham Times’ morning and evening newsletters as well as our breaking news alerts 

Paying tribute to his close friend of more than 45 years, the station's director Ian Wolstenholme gave a glimpse into Dave's life as a passionate and distinguished community-driven broadcaster - and of his humble, kind and caring character.

Dave's contribution to community radio spans decades, becoming the president and chairman at Radio Cavell, the first Royal Oldham Hospital radio service in the 1970s, before setting his sights on setting up a local community radio station in the 1990s.

By 2007, Dave made Oldham Community Radio 99.7fm happen and the station became one of the very first branches of community stations to be granted a licence by the then Radio Authority, now called Ofcom.

The Oldham Times: Dave McGealy (left) with former Oldham Mayor Cllr David JonesDave McGealy (left) with former Oldham Mayor Cllr David Jones (Image: Oldham Community Radio)

Ian said Dave was "far-sighted" in his efforts to bring the station to life, realising his audience held captive in hospital beds in Oldham needed a community station to tell their stories and rely on.

Though initially born in Manchester, the father of two adopted Oldham as his new home with his wife, Jean, "and I think Oldham adopted him", Ian added, as he worked as a teacher initially and proved instrumental in bringing the borough into the digital age by teaching others about IT and "these newfangled things", computers.

His meticulous eye for detail and his high standards meant he "didn't suffer fools gladly", Ian continued, but said he can't recall ever meeting "a more kind, considerate broadcaster".

The director added: "To many people, he was a voice on the end of a radio but he was someone who could convey such genuineness and sincerity, even to people who have never met the guy - that takes some skill.

"His interviews were par excellence."

One such interview was crowned a Gold Award winner by the Community Radio Association in 2016 when Dave interviewed the father of murdered PC Nicola Hughes with just two minutes' notice.

The Oldham Times: Dave's colleagues described him as humble, passionate and community-driven at heartDave's colleagues described him as humble, passionate and community-driven at heart (Image: Oldham Community Radio)

The skilled broadcaster pulled together a 50-minute interview and was praised for navigating the tough topic on "a very human level".

Ian continued: "He just had that knack of sitting down with someone and immediately putting them at ease.

"It's a skill we've all tried to emulate that few have achieved as well as Dave did."

The 74-year-old, who narrowly missed his 75th birthday coming up on November 27, leaves behind his two children, Ruth and Ian, and wife, Jean.

In another particularly poignant interview about dementia, Ian said Dave dodged becoming the subject matter of the segment as he would "much rather turn the tables and interview someone else".

Ian added: "He would often say, 'everybody's got a story to tell'."

Unfortunately, the cruel disease took its hold and Dave deteriorated over the last 12 months, which meant he had to take a step back from his beloved community radio.

Loved ones, staff at the station and even listeners knew the "end was nigh" but Ian said it has still come as "such a great shock".

"Everyone is feeling disheartened and sad. 

"It has been a difficult day but, without being corny, Dave would always want the station to continue and we are determined to carry on.

"He will forever be a part of our community radio. What he did for Oldham and beyond is immeasurable.

"He started it and it's our duty."

The tragic news comes as Dave was invited only last week to receive a special Honours Award for his service to community radio by the Community Radio Association.

Ian said he is going to collect the award in his friend's honour and noted it will be yet another prestigious accolade amongst many he received over the years.

The Oldham Times: Former Oldham CEO Charlie Parker with Dave McGealyFormer Oldham CEO Charlie Parker with Dave McGealy (Image: Oldham Community Radio)

This includes a Civic Appreciation Award by Oldham Council in 2016 which still hangs "pride of place" in the station.

Ian concluded: "There was no one bigger than Oldham Community Radio and that is how Dave ran the ship as station manager.

"He always said he was the custodian of the station but really he was the bedrock.

"Considering he did so much and created such a huge impact in local radio, he was so unassuming about it.

"He didn't expect or want any accolades or recognition and that was just David."

Now the station is working hard to pay tribute to Dave and is currently wading through years of material - as well as calls and emails from loyal listeners who have been flooding the station with their own stories.

Various programmes dedicated to David will be staged in the coming weeks and anyone with their own tribute is being encouraged to get in touch with the radio, either on the website, Facebook page or by phone on 0161 682 0997.

If you have a story, I cover all things Oldham from food reviews and local business news to music and events, pubs, education, crime, property, health, community concerns and much more. Please email me at or send me a message on Twitter @Livbridge with your news.