Sunday, 23 November 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and said "Farewell" to an old, 'invisible' star of television, Paul Vaughan

Paul, a talented clarinet player since his school days, who has died at the age of 89, presented BBC TV's 'Horizon', science documentaries and Radio 4's arts magazine, 'Kaleidoscope' in the last quarter of the twentieth century and was instantly recognisable from his 1995 Orange mobile phone advert : "The future's bright. The future's Orange" :

What you possibly didn't know about Paul, that he :

*  was born in 1925 and grew up in Brixton, in the borough of Lambeth, South London, which he recalled as 'a clattering, grimey district', where his Grandfather, who died from the effects a gas attack in the First World War when he was a year old, had worked as a prison warden and his Father worked as the secretary of the 'Linoleum and Floorcloth Manufacturers' Association'.

* was 9 years old when the family moved to a new semi in New Malden, Surrey with the countryside within walking distance and first attended Malden College, then in 1936 at the age of 11, Raynes Park County School, a boys' grammar school opened the year before with the 33 year old, John Garrett, as its charismatic headteacher.

* benefited from : Garrett's large circle of friends including poets, novelists, theatre people and fashionable dons,
who visited the school and talked to the boys ; the presence, on the staff, of the novelist and poet Rex Warner, who taught classics; the Euston Road Group painter, Claude Rogers (left), who taught art; readings from poet Cecil Day-Lewis and WH Auden (right), who wrote the school song and its motto, adapted from Marx : 'To each his need, from each his power' and the presence of T S Eliot, inveigled into presenting prizes on speech day.

* with his life in New Malden and at the school, later said that it 'was shaped by two quiet different phenomena of the 1930s : the rapid redistribution of population that went with the creation of the London suburbs and the literary and artistic movement of the times. In Raynes Park, the Man on the Clapham Omnibus came face to face with the Auden generation' and found that Garrett 'with the manners and bearing of an Oxford aesthete, he brought an exotic distinction to an ordinary, outwardly colourless corner of suburban England'.

* later recalled : "We all lived in these suburban houses, self-improvement was the thing. It was very important for people to better themselves and you could do that by being able to speak proper English. Talk proper" and had his speech shaped by 'Mr Gibb who taught 'Geography and English Grammar, and took the latter to include pronunciation. He would go round the class making each of us say, in turn "how now, brown cow' and 'put caols on the fire', grimacing at our nasal South London dipthongs and exhorting us to listen carefully to the BBC announcers and their faultless dialect-free English'.

* left school in 1943, during the Second World War and started his undergraduate studies in French and English at Wadham College, Oxford, interrupted when he was enlisted into the Army with  the 'Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers', set up and responsible for the maintenance, servicing and inspection of equipment in the combat and described by Field Marshal Montgomery as : "REME exists to keep the punch in the Army's fist".

* enjoyed a brief friendship with a Lance Corporal called John Schlesinger and weekends spent in the sophisticated family house in Berkshire where he was 'propelled into a beautiful new world : but it made me feel clumsy and gauche', returned to his studies at Wadham after the War in 1947 on a Government grant of £267 p.a. and an Oxford "filled to bursting point with returning servicemen- older than the average pre-war undergraduate and eager for the kind of intellectual stimulation they'd been denied.'

* was, for three terms, the Films Editor of 'The Isis', the oldest undergraduate magazine and after graduation stayed on briefly to study for a B.Lit but flunked the exams, returned home and then worked for five years exporting pharmaceuticals for 'Menley and James' in Camberwell makers of 'Mother Siegel's Syrup' for dyspepsia and 'Dethblo' for ringworm and 'Antidipso' for alcoholism.

* recalled of his occupation, that 'it was boring work and the more I did it, the more boring it became' and with time on his hands, enrolled on a correspondence course for writers and was amazed to have his first article about Victorian theatres, accepted by 'The Lady' Magazine.

* at the age of 26, in 1951, married Barbara Prys-Jones, daughter of Welsh poet Arthur Prys-Jones and in 1955 started work as assistant to an 'almost unbearably twitchy' PR officer at the British Medical Association, rose to the position of 'Chief Press Officer', where he was involved in the fuss over the surgical separation of a pair of Siamese twins in Hammersmith Hospital filmed for the tv programme 'Your Life in their Hands'.

* in 1958, after making his broadcasting debut with a two minute report on the BMA's annual clinical meeting in the BBC World Service radio programme, 'New Ideas', resigned from the BMA, taught himself shorthand, joined the Press Club and National Union of Journalists and as a freelance, started occasional work for the BBC and in 1962, recorded a talk with James Watson and Francis Crick about : 'how they discovered DNA ? whether their discovery of DNA changed the direction of scientific research ? and regrets about what they did and didn't do ? '

* was kept financially afloat by writing stories about the state of British medicine for the American magazine, 'Medical Tribune' and kept his contact with the profession with the publication of 'Family Planning: The Family Planning Associations Guide to Birth Control' in 1969, with po-faced anatomical drawings, including one of the erect penis, helpfully labelled 'Penis' and 'The Pill On Trial' by Penguin Books in 1972, dealing with how the medical profession coped with the first throes of the sexual revolution.

 * in 1968 at the age of 43, started his 27 year career working as the main narrator of the BBC's science documentary series, 'Horizon' in a period rapid development of science and technology, with much to report in biology and electronics.

* later recalled that "I realised my voice was a saleable commodity. I was the voice of 'Horizon' and there's a difference between someone like me- a journalist, basically doing that and an actor who will give a performance of a man reading a commentary and somebody else who reads the commentary, understands what it means, a kind of intelligent appreciation of what the script was all about" and put his voice to good use on the BBC World Service, 'Science in Action' and 'Discovery' and on Radio 4's, 'New Worlds'.

* in 1977 in Horizon's 'The Chips Are Down', apparently watched by Cabinet Ministers seeking enlightenment, dealt with the invention of the silicon chip, the predicted death of the Swiss watch industry and the new 'word processor' , which would see the end of the typing pool and was followed by a debate with a Government Minister about what could be done to prevent a  future of mass unemployment.
* saw his older brother, David's career flourish, as a dance archivist and historian and himself moved into 'The Arts' presenting the BBC Radio 4 magazine 'Kaleidoscope' from its beginning in 1973 until its closure in 1998 and on Radio 3, used his musical expertise, not the least as a lifelong clarinetist, in presenting  'Record Review' from 1981.
* memorably interviewed Gerald Scarfe on 'Kaleidoscope' in 1982 about his reportage drawing in SE Asia and Northern Ireland, reducing characters to abstracts, the influence of other artists and his drawing process and making sculptures in paper mache.
*  narrated the visceral, 1984 Hot War tv drama, 'Threads', dealing with everyday life in 1980s Sheffield, devastated by a nuclear missile attack and its aftermath which drew upon research and footage from director Mick Jackson's 1982 QED documentary, 'A Guide to Armageddon.'

* in 1988 narrated an 'Horizon' programme, filmed and based on interviews in Newcastle and Burnley, which examined the theories to explain why working class people were more likely to suffer ill health and die young than those in professional classes :

*  published his autobiography 'Something in Linoleum: A Thirties Education' in 1994, a reference to the comment he suspects his old Headmaster wrote about his father's occupation after his interview, as an 11 year old, for a place at Raynes Park County School and followed it in 1996 with 'Exciting Times in the Accounts Department' about his time at the BBC, with references to the 'bored, off-hand, unsmiling' Otto Preminger, 'modest, almost embarrassingly polite' David Niven and Tony Benn's exclamation : 'Golly. It's James Mason.'

* in 2010, at the age of 85 provided narration for the British English edition of the Japanese Nintendo Wii video game 'Kiby's Epic Yarn' and in 2013 narrated the audiobook, 'Paddington and the Grand Tour' :

* had fellow Kaleidoscope presenter, Paul Gambacinni say of him on the BBC Radio 4 'Last Word' this week : "He did have a remarkable voice and he knew how to use it. He was a master of tempo, enunciation and he used this gift... it was absolutely riveting; it commanded attention. It's how people would speak if they could speak well, an example : "The futures bright. The future's Orange". Six words, two of which are 'the' and yet entire generations know them because of the way Paul Vaughan said them."

* Paul also said that he presented the last regular edition of Kaleidoscope about Arthur Miller, who had been asked :"what he remembered from the opening night of 'Death of A Salesman' because there was no recording of it ?" and Miller said : "All that's left are memories of voices in the air and that's not nothing." Well, after this week's news, all I have are  memories of Paul Vaughan's voice in the air and that's not nothing."

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