Thursday, 8 November 2012

They Read The News

“This is London” they would intone, then it was a quick blast of Lillibullero, the pips and into the World News. But what of the faces behind the voices of those BBC World Service announcers? Well every now and again the London Calling magazine used to publish their mug shots, in fact it was almost an annual event.

For this post I’m recalling the names from 1975 when we got a potted biography for most members of the team. All you’ll see they range from the very detailed (Pam Creighton) to the lightweight (Peter King). I’m presenting them as written with no indication as to what has happened to these ladies and gentlemen since. 

Brian Ashen
Born in London and educated in Colchester, he worked briefly for a merchant bank before joining the BBC as a finance assistant in 1964. He became a studio manager, and then switched to announcing. His interests include music, reading and archaeology. He also likes walking, particularly when he can look at a village church and a country pub along the way. In London he spends much of his time visiting galleries and museum, and he collects furniture, china, glass and books.

Michael Ashbee
After Cambridge (where he was a choral scholar) and war service in the Army (which took him to the Far East) he joined the BBC as an announcer in 1949 and has had a spell in Nigeria coaching newsreaders and teaching English. This year, incidentally, he plans to holiday in Nigeria resuming contact with many old friends. His family and his garden keep him busy, he says, but he finds time to play the tuba in a brass band on Sundays and sings in a choir occasionally. His hobby is collecting old photographs.

Ashley Hodgson
Born in Claygate, Surrey, his father was a dentist. Ashley was commissioned in the Royal Signals, serving in Greece and the Middle East. After demobilisation tried several jobs including stock controller for a large chain of stores and a spell with British Rail. Joined the BBC on the engineering side in 1956, worked in control room and on transmitters, then became a studio manager and finally an announcer in 1969. Twice wed, he has a grown-up son by his first marriage and now a young family-a 6-year old boy and twin boys of 4 years. His wife is a teacher. Likes putting on amateur plays, writing children’s stories, walking, sailing and sketching.

Leslie Tucker
Born in Ramsgate, Kent, he has spent all his working life in the BBC External Services, entering as a very junior transmitter engineer in 1942. After 10 years in studio operations, he took up announcing. He became Chief Assistant (Presentation) in 1973, is in charge of newsreading and announcing in the World Service and is responsible for all presentation matters in London and in relay bases overseas. His great interests are his family, European church architecture, Hollywood musicals, Mozart, Billie Holliday, and cooking for his friends.

John Touhey
Born in London in 1937, and educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich. After National Service, he joined the BBC as a studio manager. His interests include music, reading theatre, and food and drink. He lives in a book-lined flat near Battersea Park and pays frequent visits to plays, ballet, recitals and the local pub. Says he makes futile attempts to keep fit by unconvincing appearances on the tennis court.

Ian Gordon
Born in 1924 in New York of Scots father, American mother. Lived in New York and Paris until he was 15. Says he feels politically neutral in Britain but is a fervent Democrat-by-adoption in the United States: his grandmother and Franklin Roosevelt’s mother were sisters. Ian went to Milton Academy, USA, and then to Harrow in England. Spent nine years in the British army, including service in Burma, and worked for two years for ABC in Perth, Western Australia, before joining the BBC in 1952. Has written 12 books mostly under his full name of Ian Fellowes-Gordon.

Bob Berry
Born in 1943 in South London and now lives on the Essex coast. He joined the BBC in 1965 as a studio manager and has been announcing since 1967. He has been married for four years and says he supports as aging sports car, two demanding cats, and a healthy crop of weeds, sometimes described as a garden. Likes the guitar, both classical and folk/rock, and enjoys Baroque organ music. His other hobby is sailing and he is particularly interested in the history of working sail of the 19th and early 20th century in Britain and Northern Europe. He presents Strike Up the Band on World Service every week.

Pippa Harben, Pam Creighton, Ann Every and Meryl O'Keefe
Pippa Harben was born at Bath, educated in Bristol, and read history at Cambridge. She worked for a time as a trainee buyer at a big West End store in London and decided it was not the life for her. So she came to the BBC as a researcher and found it fascinating to find out the facts and figures of all kinds of situations for the News and other programmes. Then she moved to programme operations before finally to announcing. She reads a lot, loves films, makes beer and wine and says she really works to support two vast cats!

Pam Creighton was born in New Delhi and lived all over India and Pakistan for 18 years except for five years at Cheltenham Ladies College. Her father worked for the North Western Railway and for the governments of India and Pakistan. Pam joined the BBC as a studio manager 20 years ago and started announcing in 1957. Now she lives in a large old house in Twickenham, a stone’s throw from the River Thames where she has designed her own furniture and fireplaces. She comes from a musical family, has studied the piano and ballet, and has a collection of over 1,000 LP records (personal favourites: Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Vaughan-Williams and Britten) and discs of Dixieland jazz and the big bands. She has extensive hi-fi equipment as her home, runs the local music club and presents a 20-minute programme on new classical releases each week in the World Service (New Records). She is an expert on gardening, travels widely, reads science fiction and loves cricket and rowing. And all that seems a very full life for anyone!

Ann Every says she had a sheltered English boarding school education before becoming a speech therapist. Then she decided to see what other people did, and tried being an au pair in Scandinavia, a van driver in London and a scientific worker in a government office, before joining the BBC as a studio manager with the intention of staying one year. Sixteen years later she is still with the BBC and lives with her cat in a little Victorian terrace house in London near the River Thames. Her hobby is sculpture.

Meryl O’Keefe was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and educated in South Africa where she began her radio career in the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg and Cape Town (she was the first woman newsreader). She says she left to join the BBC in London to gain wider experience and she has certainly done that. She has worked in radio and television in Britain for 20 years… as a reported, presenter, disc jockey and newsreader. During her career she has been thrown from a bolting horse in Brighton’s traffic; washed ashore at Southsea in a Navy diver’s suit two sizes too big; strapped to a dock harbour; hauled to the top of a TV mast and photographed among the passing clouds. She considers travel a vital part of life and perhaps that is why she finds the international atmosphere of the World Service so enjoyable. She likes music, theatre, ski-ing and camping around Europe in an old motor caravan.

Peter King
Born on April the First, 1921, and says that things have never really improved! Grew up in the Isle of Thanet on the Kent coast and contends that at least this was lucky, for it gave him a love of fishing and cricket. It is a matter of great pride to him that his son, after coaching from Knott and Underwood, smashed the blade of his size three cricket bat with a gigantic hit before his 12th birthday had dawned. Unfortunately it was from his own father’s bowling. Peter says that he likes Peggy Lee, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald, the Restoration period, old books, furniture, pictures and silver. Dislikes waste, greenfly, and people who do stupid things because they have pieces of paper which say they should.

Chris Chaplin
Educated at Watford and London University, he gave up a short career in veterinary research to join the BBC engineering division in 1963. Five years later he left the BBC to work for a year on a schools radio programme for the4 Malawi government, returning to the BBC as a World Service announcer. Like to travel and says that he is rapidly developing talents as a gardener and general home handy-man to help eke out the household budget. Also enjoys the theatre and cinema, chess and oil painting.

Peter Reynolds
Born in Scotland but has lived in Rhodesia and South Africa. After Cambridge, became a captain in the Royal Engineers. Joined the BBC in 1947 and became entitle to an extended holiday in 1972. ‘Do something useful’ everyone told him. So he sailed the Atlantic in a small yacht. His next holiday is a week’s gliding. He is intensely proud of his family – his wife was formerly with the BBC – and lives in a Victorian house near the Royal Botanical gardens at Kew. Other interests are music, languages and mathematics.

Barry Moss
Born in Wellington, New Zealand (where his father still lives). Came to Britain in 1950 to study musical composition, and stayed. Drifted out of music and joined the BBC as an announcer in 1966; now lives in London with two daughters who share many of his interests. He is a Buddhist and is interested in oriental philosophy and religion. Says that he questions the principle of a consumer society, as accepted in the West and as spreading to the East, and describes his hobbies as music of all kinds… and silence.

Peter Shoesmith
Born in 1936 and grew up in the south coast town of Bexhill-on-Sea. He went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, had two years in the army, and then had his first professional engagement as an actor in his hometown. During the next seven years he appeared in theatre all over Britain, in addition to several radio and TV plays. In 1965 he presented three schools series for commercial TV, and since 1970 has worked for the BBC in TV, domestic radio and the World Service where, in addition to newsreading, he has contributed 20 talks to Letter from London. He lives in Wimbledon and enjoys driving, gardening and reading … he says he’d like to own a bookshop one day.

Roger Collinge
Born in 1924 in Birmingham. Spent some time with an amateur acting company before joining the RAF. Served in India and became interested in broadcasting when he linked up with Radio SEAC in Colombo. Returned to Birmingham to join the BBC and then to London as a newsreader for the World Service. Lives at Biggin Hill in Kent, a stone’s throw from the aerodrome, so it is not surprising to find that he is still very interested in aero affairs. He is married and has one daughter, a lawyer. He likes early Italian music.

Lindsay MacDonald
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1928, he read music and modern languages at University of New Zealand, supporting himself by periodic announcing in Wellington. After graduating, he joined the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, and finally left for England in 1956 to continue with his studies of the organ. He had a short spell as a school teacher and then came an offer to join the BBC. Apart from playing the organ (and searching out interesting instruments in Britain and in Europe generally); he travels a great deal, particularly in France, and collects books. He is married to a New Zealander and they have a nine-year-old daughter.

Keith Bosley
Lives with his singer wife, son, foster-daughter and cat in a house which needs a coat of paint, he says, and a garden which badly needs attention. He spends much of his time writing, translating, reviewing poetry or playing keyboard instruments for his wife. His favourite pastimes are entertaining friends and exploring the countryside on a cycle. He likes Indian food, Hungarian wine and Japanese crackers.

George Eason
Born in Berkshire in 1938, grew up in the English countryside, and went to Oxford University. Married with three children. Passionately interested in music, ranging from Palestrina to Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and beyond. Likes reading, English literature and modern European history.

John Gordon
He was an announcer in the 1950s but had an ambition to become an actor and went to drama school. He had several years in repertory around Britain and was seen on television. The he became a TV announcer in Southampton before rejoining the BBC and producing plays and arts programmes for the African Service. After several years, which included two spells in East Africa, he returned to newsreading.


John Wing
Was born in Cardiff in 1928 and appeared as the boy hero in serial plays at the age of 14. He has worked in Forces broadcasting and in BBC radio and television. Between his periods of duty at the World Service microphones, he retreats rapidly to his home in Hertfordshire where he relaxes with his rose garden, his antique furniture and a vast collection of records.

In addition Peter Lewis, Tony Szeleynski and John Stone were pictured (below) but no information was provided.

The above was all taken from the February, March and April editions of London Calling from 1975 very kindly loaned to me by Chrissy Brand.


Unknown said...


It's always nice to find something about your dad on the internet.

I am one of Ashley Hodgson's sons. He passed away 4 years ago and so it is good to see he still has web presence!!

Thanks for putting this up for all to see!

Unknown said...

I join Tim Hodgeson in thanking the Blogger for putting up pictures and short information on those famous veterans of the BBC world service of '70's and '80's. Will appreciate further information on Roger Collinge, Peter Shoesmith and Meryl Okeefe.

Unknown said...

I join Tim Hodgeson in thanking the Blogger for putting up pictures and short information on those famous veterans of the BBC world service of '70's and '80's. Will appreciate further information on Roger Collinge, Peter Shoesmith and Meryl Okeefe.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Iam looking for in information on Tony Szeleynski for a friend in Australia

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