‘Reggie’ 

10 February 2021 tbs.pm/72165

A tribute to the charismatic personality known to millions simply as ‘Reggie’

 

 

The Lens masthead

From The Lens, the staff newspaper for ITN, July 1984

Laughter and joy tinged with sadness marked the tone of the recent memorial service for ITN’s former newscaster-legend, “Reggie” Bosanquet.

The laughter and joy came from the memories of more than two hundred old friends and colleagues who joined Reggie’s family in celebration of his life at All Souls, Langham Place, two hundred yards from ITN House.

The sadness was for Reggie’s premature death from cancer in May. He was 51.

During the ceremony, speakers remembered him as a man of great warmth, wit and humour. He was recalled, too, as a significant pioneering journalist, especially in ITN’s early mould-breaking days.

To Andrew Gardner, Reggie’s former co-newscaster on News at Ten, Reggie was a “Toad of Toad Hall figure . . . an eighteenth century squire.” To another News at Ten partner, Anna Ford, he was simply “Old Bean”. For ITN’s Editor and Chief Executive, David Nicholas, Reggie brought “a certain dash, even glamour”, to the infant ITN. “Valuable qualities for the time.”

Andrew Gardner recalled many happy memories of the time he and Reggie were a highly successful presenting team on News at Ten. “He was a wonderful antidote to my own moments of pomposity … which were many,” he said.

He said people who knew Reggie gave thanks for his multitude of qualities: “There was Witty Reggie; Generous Reggie; Mein Host Reggie; Intuitive Reggie; Happy Reggie; the Lover Reggie; the Impossible Reggie; the Questioning, Challenging Reggie; the Reckless Reggie; the Naughty Reggie; the Very Naughty Reggie.”

 


 

Good humour

But he said another special quality should be added to all the others. Towards the end of his life, while he was ill, he never once complained, never lost his good humour. “So I would add, Brave Reggie,” he said. “He added to the richness of the lives in all of us who were lucky enough to be his friends.”

Anna Ford recalled meeting Reggie for the first time in nineteen seventy-eight, when she joined the News at Ten team. He didn’t like women reading the news — and he told her so. But his greeting present was a bottle of red wine and two glasses on her new desk. Later their friendship was consolidated over a game of darts in the office before bulletins.

And she remembered how Reggie used to relieve the tension in the News at Ten studio. Seconds before the show went live, he would murmur “Vroom … vroom …” as if the desk were a racing car. And he often used to place rude limericks, penned by himself, in front of Anna as she was about to read her next story.

“He turned news into theatre,” she said. “I loved old Reggie and I remember him with enormous affection as a life-enhancing friend. If you’re listening, Old Bean, you were good news.”

David Nicholas paid special tribute to Reggie’s professionalism as a journalist. The two men worked together often on News at Ten, when David Nicholas was Programme Editor.

He said: “When you think of the first 25 years of ITN’s history, you have to think of Reggie Bosanquet. The two are intertwined.

“In his heyday he was a fine journalist… as an interviewer he had a mind like a thermic lance. And particularly in those early days of ITN, where considerations of political balance were concerned he was a model … because he was equally irreverent (and often rude) to everyone, regardless of social station or political complexion.”

 


 

Fresh page

David Nicholas said his lasting impression of the working relationship they enjoyed was of the very rare occasions the men quarrelled – in the heat of the moment.

“An hour or so later, perhaps on some railway station on his journey home, he would ’phone and say: ‘Aw shucks, David …’ And I would say: ‘Aw, hell, Reggie …’ And you knew tomorrow was a fresh page.”

Many of Reggie’s old friends who knew him only from the other side of a television screen were at the Memorial Service to say goodbye.

One woman said: “We miss him … I think all the women do.” Another: “He used to make the news personal.” And “I wish more were like him.”

 

What they had to say

 

Andrew Gardner:

“He was a journalist of no mean skill and a passionate seeker after truth. He would ask endless questions to get at it. In his heyday he could have been the best interviewer on British television, in the class of Day or Dimbleby. He typified the spirit of ITN: independence, originality, inquisitiveness. He pushed the frontiers of information further than they’d ever been pushed before.”

Alastair Burnet:

“He was at his best a persuasive communicator. A man made for television who delighted in television… He had an unforgettable personality, and great charm.”

Diana Edwards-Jones:

“There was always a surprise when Reggie was on. It was totally different when he went. He made people laugh.”

Ivor Mills:

“His outstanding quality was generosity, a trait which didn’t always emerge in public. He was totally professional, full of wisecracks, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.”

Sir Geoffrey Cox:

“Reggie made a major contribution to ITN. He was an excellent interviewer and reporter. He played a big part in pioneering the probing interview. He was not abusive, but he had great skill in getting to the point.”

David Nicholas:

“He was an incisive interviewer. He was often at his best on Dateline in the ’sixties, where he was wonderfully balanced and even-handed with everyone regardless of status or background … His partnership with Andrew Gardner helped establish News at Ten as a major source of news to the British public.”

“His life was a mixture of talent and warmth and sadness.”

 

‘It was just his way’

 

Nigel Ryan, former Editor of ITN, recalled his first meeting with Reggie in 1961:

“‘My dear Nigel, if you want to know about appearing on television, the qualities you’ll need are clarity, authority and charm,’ he said.

‘I think you’ll find what you’re looking for if you watch the news tonight.’ There was a barely perceptible pause. ‘I’m presenting it!’

“The point, however, is that Reggie was not an arrogant man. He was by turns perceptive, naive, or breathtakingly direct. On and off the air he delivered an irresistible sense of fun. Right or wrong, he was unfailingly courageous. He was perhaps the most generous man I have ever met.

“Reggie began his career in television at a time when ITN was looking for a way to break the starchy mould of BBC news presentation. He filled the bill wonderfully. Sadly, with his passing, another mould, uniquely his own, was broken.”

 

The talented teaboy who was to become a TV news celebrity

 

Reginald Bosanquet joined ITN straight from Oxford, where he’d been a scholar, in July 1955: two months before the infant station went on air. He said he wanted to be a star. Aidan Crawley, ITN’s first editor, said he could be a teaboy. One thing led to another.

After two years as a scriptwriter, he was made a reporter. Here, along with the young Robin Day and George Ffitch he played a major role in changing the face of television news. He introduced leading British statesmen, like Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, and Duncan Sandys, to the idea of answering spontaneous questions, instead of addressing the camera with a prepared lecture.

And he made television history when he leapt onto a platform in Liverpool to interview the boilermakers’ leader, Ted Hill, in front of three thousand angry strikers. It was a big step for Reggie, and a giant leap in interviewing brassneck.

 

 

Favourite

He became a roving reporter abroad, and Diplomatic Correspondent with a special interest in East Africa, but his favourite role as an interviewer, for which he won high respect, was probably best realised while he was on Dateline, a popular topical programme of the ‘sixties. Then came News at Ten, in July 1967. By now, Reggie had given up trying to imitate the style of others, especially his early hero, Ed Murrow, the American newscaster. In Let’s Get Through Wednesday, Reggie wrote: “I had learned that you don’t copy other people, you develop your own technique. Mine may not have been conventional but my attitude was: ‘I am going to be me, take me as I am’.”

His style wasn’t always conventional, but it was accepted and loved by millions.

Like Reggie, himself.

The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: In the modern #MeToo world, Reginald Bosanquet (1932-1984) sounds on paper like someone people now campaign to have all archive appearances banned.

And yet his colleagues, whilst acknowledging his flaws, of which there were many, only seem to have good words to say about him, even 37 years after his death.

Someone who has never been backwards in coming forwards when it comes to the oddly unrestrained behaviour of professional men is Anna Ford, who was his co-anchor at News at Ten for much of the late 1970s. And even she has only good words for him, telling Bill Haggerty at the British Journalism Review in 2007: “Reggie was a dear. I mean, you wouldn’t have chosen a man who had epilepsy, was an alcoholic, had had a stroke and wore a toupée to read the news, but the combination was absolute magic. The first thing he said to me was: ‘Do you play darts?’ And he shut the office door and there was a very used dartboard on the back of it. Luckily, because of working on the newsdesk at Granada, I’d played a lot of darts and a lot of snooker, so I could keep my end up. And he put a bottle of wine in my desk — we got on very well.”

He spent much of his time at ITN making headlines of his own as he battled his alcoholism, unsuccessfully, and ran through three marriages. The tabloids couldn’t get enough of his antics. As Eddie Dyja writes for the BFI’s ScreenOnline, “[his] lively private life proved irresistible to the tabloid press whose exaggerated portrayal of Bosanquet as a man fond of a tipple led to nicknames such as ‘Reginald Boozalot’ and ‘Reginald Beaujolais’.”

Nevertheless, the public remained fond of him and his style, and his unexpected death from pancreatic cancer came as a shock. He was survived by his daughters Abigail and Delilah.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Paul Mason 15 February 2021 at 8:38 am

Reginald Bosanquet and Andrew Gardner were called the Morecambe and Wise of TV news By cruel irony, RB died on the same day as Eric Morecambe, and AG died within a short time as Ernie Wise in 1999.

Eddie Hutchinson 16 February 2021 at 4:22 pm

Not sure if you’ve ever heard Reginald’s remarkable (in all senses) spoken word single “Dance With Me”. Disco muzak with Reggie reading the words like a newscast.

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