Mike Leyland dies at 68

ADVENTURE pioneer, Australian filmmaking legend and devoted family man Mike Leyland has died aged 68.

Leyland had battled Parkinson's disease in recent years and died yesterday morning from complications associated with the condition.

Mal Leyland told the ABC yesterday he and his brother had delighted in inspiring others to get out and see Australia.

Mal said while his brother had battled the illness for many years he was still in shock over Mike's death.

"About three years ago he started to show the early signs [of] what they called rapid onset Parkinson's and he ended up with dementia as well at the end associated with it," Mal said.

His step-daughter Sarah Dennis spoke to The Herald yesterday and said the English-born filmmaker was dedicated to his family.

"The children grew up travelling the country so it was a great upbringing for them," she said.

"His family, children and grandchildren, in recent years, were important to him."

Wayne Hampton, the former station manager and program manager of NBN Television, where Mike and Mal Leyland first worked with film cameras, said he remembered Leyland as a talented and ambitious man.

His talent with black and white film cameras, standard equipment in 1962, meant he could shoot stories in sequence that rarely required editing.

"He was NBN's first news cameraman and he had real talent for it. It must have just come naturally because he came to us with very little experience," he said.

Mike and Mal Leyland entertained Australian families with their Ask the Leyland Brothers television series that screened during the late 1970s and early 1980s, attracting more than 2.5 million viewers at its peak.

The show documented the adventures of the brothers and their families as they travelled Australia, visiting different landmarks and areas at the request of viewers who wrote in.

As well as the weekly program, which ran for more than 150 episodes, the brothers produced three feature-length films which aired on television during the 1960s

"The films and show were straightforward and unpretentious, just like them," Mr Hampton said.

Childhood friend Keith Davey, who went on to become the pair's cameraman for six years in the early 1960s, said their interest in documentaries began as teenagers watching early David Attenborough programs.

"Even at that early age that's what we wanted to do when we grew up," Mr Davey told Macquarie Radio.

"What they tried to do was give . . . a film that the average person could relate to, rather than the slick documentaries that you get now . . . as though you could shoot it yourself and be there yourself."

The brothers were awarded MBEs in 1980 for services to the film industry.

Leyland moved to Newcastle from England with his family when he was five and lived in Newcastle, Port Stephens and Lake Maquarie for the rest of his life.

He is survived by his widow, Margie, daughters Kerry, Sandy and Dawn, step-daughters Sarah and Alison and seven grandchildren. with AAP

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