Dong! Puffin reads in church. Dong! Puffin makes a mess of it. Dong! Puffin advised not to look at the comments. As the rules for such things changed yet again, and as such a thing became possible once more, I was asked to read at church. I take my reading very seriously. I wear my Marks & Spencer suit. Collar and tie job. Poppy lapel badge, laurel set to 11am. I have a certificate from the bishop admitting me to the “Ministry of Reading”. I polish my brogues. The pews are still socially distanced. The capacity of church is limited. Therefore, there is also a webcast, a laptop sits on a table near the altar. Obviously, I’ve never seen myself read. Here was my big chance. After the service, we try to mingle. Six foot apart, masks on, we do the best we can. Excitedly, I told the parishioners I was off home, pronto, to watch myself on YouTube. They all said the same thing and we all know what the Good Book demands when two or more witnesses agree. In this case, don’t read the comments.
Watching the stream, I couldn’t really hear myself, wobbled about a bit and made a little mistake in pronunciation that no one would notice. Incidentally, why hasn’t the Bible been translated into Gammon? Doncaster and Carlisle could replace Carcchemish and Kiriath-Jearim. It would make it much easier to read out loud. Sat before YouTube, temptation called. Could I resist? Tediously intense Scottish poet Rabbie Burns, whose spelling always suffered awfully while trying to find a rhyme, reminds us that;
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
No, I couldn’t resist. I had to read the comments. “Sounds like a bank manager closing down a small business”, “An undertaker calling bingo numbers”, “Like Gordon Honeycombe, but just from the eyebrows up”. The parishioners can be a bit ‘churchy’. But, upon reflection, would ‘Being Gordon Honeycombe’ be such a bad thing? Google called.
Ronald Gordon Honeycombe was born in Karachi in 1936. He was educated privately at the Edinburgh Academy, was 6’ 6” tall and did his national service with the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong. After studying English at University College, Oxford, he was called to the stage and subsequently joined ITN in 1965 as a newscaster, just before the introduction of News at Ten which enjoyed its first transmission in 1967.
ITN had been founded in 1955 by the original four ITV companies in order to present the news bulletins obliged upon them by the Independent Television Authority. The ITA itself had been set up the previous year to supervise the creation of commercial television in the UK. The first-ever commercial news bulletin was presented by Christopher John Chataway. Educated at Sherborne and Magdalen College, Oxford (where he graduated in PPE), Chataway spent his childhood in the Sudan. His father, James Denys Percival Chataway, OBE, served in the Sudan Political Service. An accomplished athlete, at one point Chataway junior held the world 5000m track record. After being a newsreader, he went on to become a Conservative MP. Leaving parliament aged 43, he became managing director of a bank and was knighted in 1995.
A die had been cast. The chaps and gals at ITN did tend to be patrician, well connected, with links to the colonies and lots of private education. Another good reason to be like Gordon Honeycombe, those interesting colleagues drawn from the upper orders. Amongst them was a well-refreshed news anchor, Reginald Bosanquet, nicknamed Reginald Beaujolais. Cursed with epilepsy, he also suffered a series of strokes, had a terrible toupee and, to top it all off, had to sit next to Anna Ford at work. Bosanquet was known to visit the green room just before the News at Ten broadcast, holding two very large glasses of wine, both for himself. If any remained as the introduction thundered, the glasses sat under the desk and were relieved of their contents during the adverts and filmed reports.
As an aside, what an introduction it was. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. As we already know, ITN types tended to be public school colonials, used to having to put on a bit of a show to release the monotony up-river (on the plantation) or in the lower fourth dorm. In keeping with the times (James Harold Wilson, John Enoch Powell) they also tended to be not known by their first names, or any of their names in the case of ‘Alastair’ Burnet. News at Ten’s theme derived from composer Johnny Pearson’s “The Awakening”. Accompanied by that impressive music, the camera swung over London. Reaching the Palace of Westminster, the face of Big Ben lit up with the words “News at Ten” while the headlines were announced between the clock tower’s ten o’clock chimes.
Oft to introduce Reginald Tindal Kennedy “Reggie” Bosanquet, son of Eton educated test cricketer Bernard Bosenquet, inventor of the cricketing delivery known as the ‘googly’. Bosanquet’s father had also been a First World War officer in the Royal Flying Corps. Reggie’s mother was Mary Kennedy-Jones. Her father, who later became a Unionist MP, helped Lord Northcliffe to found the Daily Mail. Reggie joined ITN from its outset in 1955, aged 23, having been educated privately at Ashbury College, Wellesley House School and Winchester College before going up to New College, Oxford.
Arni Wilson of the Daily Express used to tell an excellent tale. He received a late-night phone call in the newsroom. It was Reggie, with an exclusive, on condition he was not revealed as the source. The story? Reggie was going to burgle his first wife’s London apartment to retrieve some of his own furniture. It made the next day’s front pages.
Also behind the desk, Henderson Alexander ‘Sandy’ Gall, CMG, CBE. Born in 1927 in Penang, in the British Straights Settlements of the Malay Peninsular, his father was a rubber planter. Gall was educated privately at Trinity College, Glenalmond and then studied languages at Aberdeen University. He served as a national serviceman in the RAF and joined Reuters as a foreign correspondent in 1953 before joining ITN in 1963. As the resident troubleshooter, he could be heard using the famous sign-off, “Sandy Gall, News at Ten,” followed by the names of various exotic but troubled locations around the Far East, Middle East and Europe.
His daughter, Carlotta, became a New York Times journalist, awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting of Afghanistan in 2008. Sandy also developed an interest in Afghanistan and is the founder of ‘Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal’. He retired from ITN in 1991 and is still with us, aged 92. In 2017 the Daily Express reported that the then 89 year-old Gall and his wife, Eleanor, lived in Kent, had four children and four grandchildren.
Another of the original 1967 presenters was Andrew Gardiner. Born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, privately educated at Dauntsey’s School in Wiltshire. He was 6’ 5” and also did his national service in the RAF. Mr Gardiner’s journalistic career began in 1957 in Rhodesia. On returning to England in 1961, he worked as a freelance journalist prior to joining ITN. He was married with four children as well.
Sir James William Alexander “Alastair” Burnet was born in Sheffield to Scottish parents and was educated privately at the Leys School in Cambridge before reading history at Worcester College, Oxford. After graduating, Burnet worked for the Glasgow Herald and the Economist, first joining ITN in 1963. He returned to ITN in 1967 for the launch of News at Ten, after a spell at an ITV franchise. His fawning presentation made him somewhat of a figure of fun. During the live coverage of the Moon landing in 1969 he uttered the immortal line, “There it is, the old Moon – the one the cow jumped over.” His reporting of the 1980s year-long miner’s strike was so impartial that, halfway through it, Mrs Thatcher awarded him a knighthood. The BBC’s 2012 obituary of the then recently deceased 84 year-old Sir Alistair concluded,
“Burnet was the ultimate safe pair of hands in news presenting, with a mastery of politics and a concern for what the “plain folk” wanted to know.”
In keeping with the format of a late evening newscast, we will now take a short break. In part two, what has become of ITN many decades later? During the break, an excellent advert for being female and hailing from the Debatable Lands.
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The aforementioned Anna Ford was a Wigton clergyman’s daughter. She attended Wigton Grammar school (alma mater of Melvyn Bragg) and the Whitehouse Grammar school in Brampton. She studied at the University of Manchester, whereupon she became a pointless and irritating hippy, famously filmed singing silly songs in a silly voice on a bus trip to the Grosvenor Square riot in 1968, where she showed her support for North Vietnamese Communist dictator Ho Chi Minh.
Although in possession of a fine Borders surname, Pamela Armstrong was born in Borneo. Rather coy about her childhood in her public speaker biography, an old copy of ITN’s ‘Lens’ in-house newspaper reveals that Ms Armstrong was born in Miri, present-day Malaysia, the daughter of a marine consultant who worked for a major oil company. She was educated at a girl’s boarding school in Kent and joined ITN in 1983.
Her namesake, Fiona, joined in 1987. With a much better connection with the Debatable Lands, Fiona Armstrong had worked for Border Television and married Sir Malcolm Gregor Charles MacGregor, 7th Baronet, clan chief of the MacGregor’s. She is properly titled Fiona Armstrong, Lady MacGregor, and, these days, is the Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries. Our other Borderer is Sir John Montgomery-Cuninghame of Corsehill’s daughter. All will be revealed in part two.
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Welcome back. In part two, we take a look at modern-day newscasters, at what we now must call ITV (rather than ITN) News.
These days the anchor of News at Ten is the slightly exasperated and more than slightly opinionated Tom Bradby. Bradby, the son of a Royal Navy officer and an only child, was born in Malta and spent his childhood in Gibraltar, West Germany and the West Coast of the United States. He was educated privately at Westbourne House and Sherbourne, graduating from the University of Edinburgh. His wife, Claudia, is also the offspring of a naval officer, Vice Admiral Sir Nicholas Hill-Norton, captain of HMS Antelope, sunk during the Falklands war. Her grandfather was Admiral of the Fleet Peter John Hill-Norton, Baron Hill-Norton, GCB, former Chief of Defence Staff and First Sea Lord.
Claudia is a jewellery designer. A former colleague of Kate Middleton, her clients include Claire Balding and Suzanna Reid. Tom and Claudia attended Harry and Megan’s wedding. They live in Stockbridge, Hants. Tom also writes novels. In an interview in ‘January Magazine’, to promote his then new novel, Tom conceded that much of the heavy lifting involved in the actual writing is done by literary agent Mark Lucas, a friend and former colleague of his wife.
So much for a continuing patrician presence, what of the others? Would they own a plantation, join the Royal Artillery, read at church or even wear a poppy?
Nina Hossein, a West Riding Hossein, was born in Huddersfield. In Nina, ITN has continued its commitment to the colonies. Her father worked as a doctor in Bangladesh, albeit because he’s a Bangladeshi. Nina was educated at Newsome High School, Huddersfield. Hurray! A state school pupil at last. In the interests of equality of opportunity, diversity, equality and meritocracy, you will all want to send your children there. Or will you? In it’s most recent full Ofsted report, of the five assessed categories, two were judged ‘in need of improvement’ the other three, ‘inadequate’. Forty percent of the pupils aren’t white and British. Speaking of which, in the new scheme things, a brief mention of presenter Sharon White. She’s the one who refuses to wear a poppy.
Ranvir Singh was privately educated at Kirkham Grammar School. A Fylde Singh? In order to integrate, she wed Ranjeet Singh Dehal in 2012. In order to integrate a bit more, she named her son Tushaan. Rather than a graduate of English from an Oxbridge college, she qualified in Journalism, Media and Communication at the University of Central Lancashire. That would be Preston Poly in old money. Other alumni include colleague Nina Hossein and, deep breath, Kay Burley, in the days when she was a Wigan girl called Katherine, hadn’t been botoxed and lifted, and spent all day whispering while hiding behind her fringe.
Does this reflect modern Britain? No, it reflects some parts of the big cities and a London media Establishment’s stark naked terror of those who live in them. Is this depressing? Not really, nobody watches broadcast news anymore. Everyone, including you, me and the other ‘plain folk’, prefers social and alternative media.
However, some things haven’t changed. Perhaps the most patrician is yet to come. Mr Rageh Omaar, one of the Mogadishu Omaars, was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and Cheltenham College before going up to New College, Oxford to study Modern History. Back in Somaliland, other family members are newspaper proprietors, “businessmen” and cabinet ministers. Mr Omaar began his journalistic career at The Voice (was it called ‘The Black Voice’ in those days? I think it was) before moving to the BBC and Channel 4. During which time, he introduced an enlightening programme called ‘Race and Intelligence: Science’s last taboo.’
In the documentary, Raggy is kind enough to explain a hierarchy of intelligence based upon race, with Northern Asiatics at the top and the poor old Australian Aborigines down at the bottom. In a wonderfully hilarious self-contradictory politically correct load of tosh, Omaar ties himself in knots while trying to increase the IQ of the Bronx, by listening to Barack Obama speeches.
And finally ……
In the interest of equality, Omaar married Georgiana Rose “Nina” Montgomery-Cuninghame, our last Borderer, daughter of investment banker and venture capitalist Sir John Montgomery-Cuninghame of Corsehill, created in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia. She is the granddaughter of Sir John Christopher Foggo Montgomery Cuninghame of Corsehill.
Do the Omar-Montgomery-Cunninghame’s call their children by their middle names? Will they encourage them to join the RAF? Is there a family rubber plantation, next to an oil well in Borneo, for them to come of age on? You never know.
All that’s left to say is, in the spirit of this much-changed and more equal Britain, “Rageh Omaar, News at Ten, on an inherited country estate.”
The Press Gazette
© Always Worth Saying 2020
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