- Robert Dougall
Early life and radio broadcasting
Dougall was born and educated in the
Londonborough of Croydon. He attended Whitgift Schoolbut did not carry on to university despite having some talent in languages, specifically French and German. He joined the BBCinitially in the accounts department, but soon found a job as an announcer for the "Empire Service" (later renamed BBC World Service) on his 21st birthday in 1934. By 1939, he had risen to the position of senior announcer and his was the voice that announced Britain's declaration of war on Germanyto the world in September of that year. Shortly before this announcement, he had transmitted a message as an "anonymous" Englishman (although speaking in German), imploring Germany to withdraw its forces and avert the impending conflict:
"I got the first page with about three minutes to go. Then, the red light came on and it was up to me. It was an intensely dramatic script and most of the pages were fed to me at the microphone, so I had to get it right first time. God knows I put my heart into it."
Dougall worked as a radio reporter during the early part of the
Second World War, but also served with the Royal Navyfrom 1942. He resumed his broadcasting work after demobilisation in 1946 as an announcer and newsreader for the BBC Home Service. In 1947, Dougall was appointed Programme Manager for the BBC's Far Eastern Service, a position which required him to move to Singapore.
Dougall's radio work took a back seat when he returned to London in 1951 to work as a television newsreader (he is thought to be the only person from the BBC's early radio service who had an enduring career in television.) Between 1946 and 1955, the BBC news was merely voiced over a photograph of Big Ben, a measure sanctioned by Chief News Editor
Tahu Holeto reinforce the absolute impartiality the Corporation was renowned for. However, the arrival of ITNin 1955 prompted the BBC to have its newsreaders perform to camera - indeed, they began this approach only three weeks before ITN began transmission. Dougall was among the first of these newsreaders to appear in-vision in 1955 (the others were his contemporaries Kenneth Kendall, Michael Aspeland Richard Baker with Kendall being the very first).Dougall presented general BBC newsreports and the "Newsroom" programme during the 1960s and was awarded the MBEin 1965, receiving his honour on the same day as The Beatles. He was the first person to present the long-running BBC Nine O'Clock Newsin 1970, continuing in this role until his retirement from the newsroom in 1973. According to " The Times" he was probably paid about 100 pounds a week before his retirement. Dougall felt that there were too many programmes analysing the news: "There has to be self-criticism but it becomes destructive after a while. There is just too much of it and people get depressed."
Peter Woods, Dougall was considered an archetypal newsreader and frequently appeared as himself in comedy programmes of the 1970s and early 1980s, including " The Goodies" and " Yes Minister". He also presented seven series of Channel 4's over-60s programme, "Years Ahead" over four years and appeared in an advertising campaign for the jewellers "Preston's of Bolton" during the 1980s.
Dougall was also known for his love of animals and birds and he was president of the
RSPBfor a five-year period. He wrote several books about birds in the 1970s and an autobiography, "In and Out of the Box," in 1973. Robert lived in Walberswickin Suffolkthough his main home for many years was in Hampstead in London.
Dougall's granddaughter Rose is a singer/songwriter, formerly with Brighton band
The Pipettes.Dougall's grandson Tom Dougallis a guitarist with Brighton band Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong.
*"In and out of the box" (1973) ISBN 000272703x
*"Now for the good news" (1976) ISBN 0264663799
*"A Celebration of Birds", Collins and Harvill Press (1978) ISBN 0002621134
*"The Ladybird Book Of British Birds"
*"Basil Ede's Birds", Severn House (1980) ISBN 0727820052
**foreword by The Duke of Edinburgh
*"Birdwatch Round Britain" with Herbert Axell, Collins and Harvill (1982) ISBN 0002622564
**foreword by Ian Prestt
*"An Introduction To Bird and Wildlife Photography In Still and Movie", Marchington, John and Clay, Anthony, Faber & Faber (1974) - Foreword.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/571732.stm BBC obituary]
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