Her parents were Scottish and emigrated to South Africa where she was brought up. Her father was a doctor, a neurologist who was in the British 14th Army in Burma in the Royal Army Medical Corps. She attended the Herschel Girls School, an independent boarding school in Cape Town. She completed her education at the École de commerce in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and at an English college called the House of Citizenship.
Career in broadcasting
For a time in London, she worked as a typist at Australia House, then became a temporary junior secretary at the BBC. This entitled her to an induction course, where she was taught the BBC's method of working.
Returning to South Africa she began her broadcasting career there on the SABC's English language radio service. Initially joining the BBC in 1967 as a reporter for The World At One, she went on to host Woman's Hour from 1972 until 1987. In 1984 she became one of the hosts of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, a position she held until 2002.
That same year she was appointed a CBE for her services to broadcasting. Sue is a trustee of UNICEF and was a trustee of the John Ellerman Foundation. She is also on the Chancellor's Forum for the London Institute and an honorary graduate of several universities, among them the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent and Dundee.
She hosts The Reunion on BBC Radio 4.
In late 2010, she recorded her final episode as chair of the popular book programme A Good Read, also on BBC Radio 4. After seven years and approximately 500 book reviews, she is the show's longest serving presenter.