Updated December 2013
I suppose it’s a sign of getting older that you look at the past with a clearer vision of the people who have affected you; even though you didn’t realise they were doing so.
Some people, in retrospect, deserve more credit and respect than you gave them at the time. It’s also the case, that one regrets not knowing more about these people. Langley Brown is one such person in my life.
I’m not sure what suddenly brought him to mind or why I decided to see what Google has to say about him. Perhaps it was because I was tapping my fingers on the keys of my keyboard while waiting for inspiration to strike (see below).
The answer to the Google question, is however, there is very little and certainly not enough.
BBC Radio Medway
I met Langley Brown when he was News Editor at BBC Radio Medway (as it was then) in the 1970s. I did have the sense at the time to realise that here was an exceptional person. He lived and breathed radio news. A reporter of the old school, whenever the ‘Rip-and-Read’ machines burst into life, he was first to grab the printout and see what was new.
I remember his habit of tapping his fingers on the typewriter keys while searching for the perfect word or phrase; it never annoyed me, because of the purposeful smile that appeared when inspiration struck. Even now, I sometimes find myself doing the same and I know it’s a habit I picked up from him.
His persona on air was one of total trustworthiness, if Langley said it – it was true. His voice was made for radio, distinctive, measured and instantly recognisable. He could put words together on-air without a ‘script’ as such, and be coherent, grammatically correct and hit the GMT time signal spot on cue without the slightest sign of hurrying or leaving an item unfinished.
The end of every evening saw him down the pub, smoking and drinking – something that no doubt contributed to his recognisable voice.
I was only supposed to be an occasional visitor at Radio Medway, putting together ‘M2KA’, a monthly show for the Kent Police, but I spent more time there than I needed to, and quickly learned to like and respect this man. Just observing and listening to him taught me a lot. I think he liked me, too.
I’m not the only one he affected
In searching for him on Google, I learned more about his past. The images below are from Horizon magazine of March 1966. Thankfully there are just about readable. Do yourself a favour and read about this man ‘born to be A Reporter’. (Note caps.) [You may need to save them and zoom in using a Picture Viewer.]
He found the perfect medium for himself in Radio, but Langley was, first and foremost, ‘A Reporter’ through and through. He probably won’t be happy for me to recount that following the Flixborough disaster in 1974, he once joked to me, “Flixborough on the Isle of Grain – that’s what we need!” He said it with a huge grin and didn’t mean it of course, but true to his calling, he always had one eye looking for the next ‘big story’ to break on his patch.
Interestingly, another of the few Google references to Langley Brown is in the foreword to a book entitled Basic Radio Journalism by Paul Chantler and Peter Stewart in which Chantler, on page 19, makes the following notation;
“Paul Chantler would particularly like to thank Langley Brown, former News Editor of BBC Radio Medway in the 1970s, who was the personal inspiration for him becoming a radio journalist.”
Other people have been in touch as well – have a look at the comments to this post. It seems I was not the only one on whom Langley made a deep impression.
Update for December 2013:
We visited Langley and Jean at their home in Rochester this Summer. The ‘voice’ is still there as is the twinkle in the eyes – although he’s a little frail. It was a great get-together which we all enjoyed.
If you knew this wonderful character, please do leave a comment.
Update for December 2018:
On 11th December 2018 David Bennett added a comment to this post. He said,
“Sad but inevitable news that Langley passed away a few weeks ago. He’d been in hospital for some time. His funeral was last week (December 2018). Sadly I only found out from Jean’s Christmas Card so didn’t attend the funeral but I’m sure it was full.
Langley’s philosophy would have been very much to remember, get pissed, and move on. I’ll do just that but never forget this wonderful man.”
I agree wholeheartedly. I too found out from Jean’s 2018 Christmas card; sadly only one day after I posted ours to them both. I will write to Jean and express my personal sadness.
Langley’s legacy is words, millions and millions of them. He would have done better at finding the ones I’d like to find right now.