NEWCASTLE TV personality Ian “Beat” Hill had the charisma to be as popular as Steve Irwin, according to his long-time collaborator Art “Poppa” Ryan.
Hill, who lived at Wangi Wangi, died on Monday at Lake Macquarie Private Hospital after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.
From 1979 to 1982, Hill and Ryan starred in NBN’s Logie-winning television series Beating Around The Bush, which aimed to educate younger audiences on Australian flora and fauna around the Hunter Valley.
To a generation of Hunter viewers, Hill’s trademark handle-bar moustache and pet cockatoo were legendary.
“He was larger than life,” Ryan told the Newcastle Herald. “If the right people had discovered him he could have been as big as Irwin or any of those guys, because he knew his stuff.
“He didn’t approve of what Steve Irwin did. Irwin was tormenting animals. Beat was very much for the protection and preservation of animals - that was his life.
“He believed that animals had a right to live here as much as we did.”
If the right people had discovered him he could have been as big as Irwin or any of those guys, because he knew his stuff.- Art Ryan
Each episode followed Hill as he escorted Ryan into the scrub to uncover and explain reptiles and other native animals and plants. The popular series began as a weekly nature segment on NBN’s popular local children’s program, The Breakfast Club.
“He was one of the best naturalists I’ve come across, especially with Australian fauna and Australian snakes,” Ryan said. “He understood snakes, their venom and their way of working and he was the same with spiders.
“He was a highly intelligent man and there weren’t many things you come bring up that he couldn’t discuss.”
In later years, Hill worked as a freelance television producer and director on campaigns for Woolworths, Cadbury and Schweppes.
Away from the camera, Ryan described his friend as a larrikin.
“He was a rough and tough character. He wasn’t a fighter or anything, but he was a bloke’s bloke,” he said. “But he had these gorgeous eyelashes and women would come up to him and say, ‘you have the most gorgeous eyelashes’ and he could have won anyone with them.”
Hill is survived by his son, daughter and grandson. Details of his funeral service are yet to be confirmed.
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