LORNA DUNKLEY: SKY PRESENTER & CORNISH LOCAL
PUBLISHED: 22:15 27 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:20 30 August 2017
© Oliver Dixon / Alamy
Lorna Dunkley is a familiar face on our TV screens, but she never forgets her Cornish roots
Lorna Dunkley is a familiar face on our TV screens, but as ANDY COOPER discovers, she never forgets her Cornish roots
As the host of one of Britain's most dynamic 24-hour news programmes, Lorna Dunkley's brain is a constant blur of handling breaking stories, interacting with viewers and dealing with the instructions of producers in her ear.
But for Lorna, one part of her mind will always be on Cornwall.
For she is the classic case of the local girl makes good; in Lorna's case a journey which has taken her from dreams of being a local radio reporter while a student in Bodmin to presenting on some of the most compelling news events of our time on a high profile worldwide news station.
And yet despite the glamour and the excitement of her role as news anchor on Sky News, whenever there is downtime in her hectic schedule, Lorna likes nothing better than to cram her family into the car and head back to the country to the home of mum and dad David and Jean Dunkley, near Bodmin.
Cornwall will always be home to me and therefore always very special,' explains Lorna.' Although I was actually born in Cirencester, we moved down when I was aged six months with Dad's job and so I was privileged to have the most fantastic upbringing down here.'
The Dunkley family Lorna has two sisters, Anna who is older than her and Rosie, who is younger are well known in and around the Bodmin area, primarily through the work of David and Jean.
David was head teacher at Lorna's school, Bodmin Comprehensive School (now Bodmin College), where he taught for many years, first as head of humanities and then deputy head before taking over at the top.
Talking of her father, Lorna jokes not without good reason that he is 'far more famous in and around Bodmin than I'll ever be!'
Mum Jean, too, carved out a memorable career in the area, ending up as director of communications for Trading Standards in the county.
'We had such an idyllic childhood, looking back,' says Lorna. 'We settled in the countryside in a cottage on a farm near Blisland, and I remember my sisters and I having the run of the farm, playing in hay bales and looking after piglets and other animals.'
Not only did Bodmin School loom large in the Dunkley family thanks to David's work, Lorna also credits the school with first sparking her interest in a career in journalism.
'I had this fantastic English teacher called David Rowan who taught me throughout my GCSE and A Level schooling. In fact, hes only recently retired from the school.
'It was him who first sparked my real interest in writing and I would always credit him with awakening in me the fact I could potentially make a career out of it.'
After A levels in Bodmin, Lorna took a communications degree in Cardiff at the Polytechnic of Wales and then Cornwall came calling again both for a return to her home and her first big career break.
'My Mum sent me an application form in to do a post graduate diploma in broadcast journalism at was then Falmouth College of Art and Design,' explains Lorna. 'In fact, she had already filled it in for me and I just had to sign it!
'I was very lucky too in that because I was from Cornwall the county council paid half my fees, which was fabulous and persuaded me it was the right thing to do, to come home.'
While studying at Falmouth, Lorna did work experience at BBC Radio Cornwall and Pirate FM and then came the biggest break of all a three-week placement at Westcountry TV in Plymouth.
'I went to do my placement and was basically offered a job at the end of it', says Lorna. 'I went back to college to do my exams and then started as a reporter.'
That reporting career saw her criss-crossing the county to cover the county's major news stories, although she looks back fondly on her stint as the station's reporter based in Penzance.
'I rented an old gardener's cottage in St Buryan and I had the most fabulous time down there. I loved having that view of St Michaels Mount every day when I was at work.'
Then came another big break: one day the main anchor didn't turn up to present the evening news show, Lorna was on hand to step in and she took to the role like a Cornishman to a pasty.
It wasn't long before Lorna became a familiar face to Westcountry viewers, anchoring the main evening bulletin at a time when some of biggest news events were hitting the county.
'We covered the foot and mouth crisis, the Boscastle flood, the opening of the Eden Project; it was an amazing time to be covering news in Cornwall.'
Westcountry didn't only bring Lorna career advancement it was there that she met her husband Brad Higgins, who was working in a senior capacity with the station.
'It's been funny this summer having a husband named Brad Higgins when Bradley Wiggins has been all over the news,' she laughs, 'I have had to catch myself and make sure I say it right on air at times!'
In 2002, after ten years at Westcountry, Sky News made the call to Lorna which was to see her presenting the morning show Sunrise on the increasingly expanding 24 hours news channel. She has been there ever since and in that time has presented some of the biggest news events in history.
'It's bizarre, but I have been on air at the time both when Saddam Hussein was hanged and when Colonel Gaddafi was caught by rebels, she reveals. It means constantly having to judge what we can and can't broadcast.
'I can have anything up to ten people in my ear at one time and so I have learned over the years how to just cope with the information in front of me at the time and process it and act on it.'
In such a high-pressured television role, it makes downtime with the family all the important and Lorna is never happier than when jumping into the car to Cornwall with Brad and her sons James, four, and Ollie, two, although James age is now presenting something of a problem for the return journeys home, which often take place every six weeks from the family home in west London.
'James is now starting school and so it means we can't just leave everything and come back,' she sighs. 'We will all be getting serious Cornwall withdrawal symptoms now.
'We all love nothing more than coming back for two to three days off, away from all the pressures, and just going to the beaches. I miss being near the sea terribly and its always lovely to come back and it soon feels like I have never been away.'
Asked to name her favourite three spots in the county, Lorna is unequivocal: 'It has to be Polzeath for the family, Truro for the entertainment and eating out and I absolutely adore the area around Trevose Head for time for myself, just walking and taking in the views, which never fail to impress me.'
But it is to London where Lorna, 40, must return to continue with the career which started out from such humble beginnings in the county.
'I am truly living the dream and I never imagined my career would end up like this,' she explains. 'There will always be that link with Cornwall though. It has made me who I am. And in any case, there is always the family link there to draw me back.
'I sometimes come off air having been hard at it reporting some major news story and there is a text from Dad saying they have been watching me. I don't think they can sometimes believe how its turned out for me. And, to be honest, nor can I'.