BASHAM, Maud Ruby, “Aunt Daisy”, M.B.E.
A new biography of Basham, Maud Ruby appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Maud Ruby Basham was born in London, England, on 30 August 1879, the youngest of four children of Robert Taylor, architect, and his wife Eliza. Although christened Maud Ruby, she was known as Daisy from infancy. She was educated at an academy for young ladies, London; at Central School, New Plymouth; and at New Plymouth High School. She trained as teacher at Central and South Road Schools, New Plymouth.
Daisy Basham was brought to New Zealand with her brother and two sisters at the age of 10. At New Plymouth she completed her formal education and was encouraged in what were to be lifetime interests in the theatre, music, and the church. She became a pupil teacher in 1897, completed the four-year training course in three years, and qualified with first prize for the colony in science. In 1904 she married Frederick Basham, civil engineer, and bore him three children, Frederick, Geoffrey, and Barbara.
During the first half of her married life, in Hawera, Eltham, Waipukurau, and the Hauraki Plains, Daisy Basham taught singing and gave recitals in various cities and towns. In 1908, as on many subsequent occasions, she was contralto guest soloist in the Wellington Choral Union's Messiah, under the baton of Robert Parker. Her first radio broadcast was an experimental transmission from Wellington in 1923. “I put my head almost inside a big horn, like the H.M.V. dog,” she once said, “and sang Il bacio”. In 1926 she was first employed in radio by 1YA, Auckland, giving occasional broadcasts about composers and singing in duos and trios. As a children's session relief organiser, she became known as “Aunt Daisy”, and it was under this name that she became a broadcasting figure.
To support her family in the depression year of 1933, Aunt Daisy joined 2YA, Wellington, as a professional broadcaster, giving musical and children's programmes. Later she worked with 2ZW, Wellington, her first experience of commercial broadcasting, and with 1ZR and 1ZB, Auckland, the latter directed by C. G. Scrimgeour (“Uncle Scrim”) and owned by The Fellowship of the Friendly Road. In her morning session she helped with the relief work of this station and became so popular that in 1935 she was invited by both major parties to stand for election to Parliament. She declined.
In 1936 station 1ZB became part of the Government's Commercial Broadcasting Service and Aunt Daisy began direct advertising in her morning session on 30 October, with immediate and marked success. The next year her session became a network programme, originating from 2ZB, Wellington, and it remained so for 25 years until her death.
Aunt Daisy visited the United States in 1935 and again in 1938, when the New York Post dubbed her “The Dynamo From Down Under”. When, during the Second World War, New Zealand became a major American base, she was chosen as a semi-official “goodwill ambassador” to the United States. Her individual radio manner, marked by a rapid and fluent monologue on the most diverse subjects, won the affection of Americans during 26 broadcasts and one television appearance in their country.
Until two weeks before her death on 14 July 1963, Aunt Daisy broadcast her half hour of personal conversation and recommendation of products each weekday, beginning at nine in the morning. Her services to radio and her public service in New Zealand and abroad were recognised with an M.B.E. award in 1956.
Aunt Daisy was just under 5 ft of concentrated energy and will. At the age of 54 she began a professional career in a new medium and became its first lady, as well as a public figure. The attitudes of curiosity and wonder, which helped to provide her with broadcast material, were served by a high intelligence, a retentive memory, and widely acceptable standards of judgment. It was these qualities, together with a genuine concern for people, which made her through radio a loved friend or companion of a high proportion of her countrywomen and of many men as well. She ignored most of the conventions of radio broadcasting and by simply being herself became both the most successful saleswoman and the most popular broadcaster of her time.
by Alexander Sydney Fry, Journalist, Wellington.
- Aunt Daisy And Uncle Sam, Basham, M. R. (1945)
- The Aunt Daisy Story, Fry, A. S. (1957).