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Adelaide former talkback host and poet Nan Witcomb dies aged 95

Nan Whitcomb, former Adelaide radio talkback host and poet has died at the age of 95 after an extraordinary career. She is best known for her poems published as The Thoughts of Nanushka. Witcomb also co-hosted a popular talkback radio show in the 1970s and early 1980s on AM station 5DN (now Cruise 1323) with Ken Dickin, who died in 2020. (see pic below)

The Adelaide Advertiser reports: Her friend of more than 45 years, Kay Moncrieff, said Witcomb died in her sleep early on Friday at her Brighton nursing home.

Witcomb was a “one-off”, Ms Moncrieff, 74, of Kent Town, said.

“She was just a livewire – irrepressible, exuberant,” she said.

Originally trained as a nurse at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, Witcomb joined Australian National Airlines (later Ansett) as a hostess in 1950, starting a 23-year career with the carriers.

She was hostess and the only woman on the flight that took media representatives to the atomic test area at Maralinga in 1956.

“I wasn’t exactly scared, although I’d been ragged about being the only woman there,” she said at the time.

Witcomb was also the first woman interviewed in the first live telecast by a commercial TV station in SA, as one of four finalists in a competition on NWS-9 in 1959.

She self-published her poetry as The Thoughts of Nanushka in the 1970s, with further collections issued in the 1980s and 1990s to create a three-volume main set, as well as in smaller books.

SA poet and author Nan Witcomb on air at 5DN radio station.
SA poet and author Nan Witcomb on air at 5DN radio station.
One of her poems, To Mourn Too Long for Those We Love, was read at the funeral of former INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence in 1997.

Witcomb wrote four plays that were successfully staged in South Australia, as well as scripts for revue shows and for 1960s TV sketch comedy series The Mavis Bramston Show.

She even wrote lyrics for her close friend, the late singer and Gold Logie winning actor Lorrae Desmond, of A Country Practice fame.

In the late 1970s, Witcomb also ran The Barn restaurant at McLaren Vale, which was started by local artist David Dridan and winemaker David Hardy.

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After her radio show ended in 1984, Witcomb researched and wrote Up Here and Down There, a memoir of her time in the airline industry.

She still wrote letters and poems which were published by The Advertiser as late as last year.

Witcomb never married and did not have children.

1 Comment

  1. The most profound loss! I think there should be a state funeral for Nan Whitcomb, she is our most famous poet, she was so proud to live in Adelaide, she spoke of it often! Her books and a visit with her, had a huge impact on my life. My heart is breaking that the world has lost one of a kind.. a rare gem..

    95 years we borrowed a gem, she glimmered so brightly..
    brought joy and love,
    comforted sorrow and grief..
    Ignited drive and determination..
    With words of passion that flowed as easily as ripples on the ocean.
    Yesterday we had to return this precious gem..
    Im sure ill see her bright sparkle again someday, until then,
    Blessed is company who keeps her now..
    Love you Nan


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