Langley Brown

Langley Brown

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 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 great character, please do leave a comment – talking of which . . .

Calling Kevin Driscoll:

Kevin – see the comments on this post – click the balloon top right. I have tried replying to you several times. Langley would love to get back in touch with you.

Horizon Magazine March 1966

Horizon Magazine March 1966

Horizon Magazine March 1966

Horizon Magazine March 1966

Horizon Magazine March 1966

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16 comments on “Langley Brown

  1. Oh Steve, I certainly do remember Langley! What a lovely chap; what a perfect gentleman.

    I too have searched for him on the web, hoping to be able to make contact with him again and find out how he’s doing.

    I well remember the time when I was helping him and others to write a script; there was I, the humble typist, pounding the keyboard during an evening and night, finishing at about 1.30am the next morning. Langley kept us all going with his lovely sense of humour, and it’s one of my happiest working memories.

    If you’re reading this, Langley – Hi and Hugs from me!

    Linda

  2. Hi, I would like to contact Langley and Jean. He was my best man in Lusaka when I got married. Call me Langley!,
    Kevin

  3. How strange that I am sat at home and thinking of former days, and idly Googled Langley to find this tribute. I completely concur . (He’d be proud of the cap ‘G’ on Google). I have had a great life with journalism and the media, and owe this to three mentors – Langley was one. To us he was ‘Bargs’, nick-named after a Private Eye character by Graham Ellis in the Radio Kent Newsroom in about 1983-4. Warm, friendly, completely professional, he used to thrill us with endless stories at lunchtimes and into the evenings in the Ship Inn in Chatham High Street. This was a concern because we loved him so much – as witnessed at the furore caused by his depature – but also because he never seemd to eat save a hard boiled egg or two sat at his desk. The newsroom he ran was fiesty, robust, strived for the highest standards always in days when these included honesty, balance, lack of speculation. He led us through great stories such as the Miners’ Strike and Zeebrugge. And Langley was the man who picked me to join this team…and the BBC. I still exchange Christmas Cards with Langley and Jean, and writing this, I suddenly regret not having seen him for two decades plus. I remember Langley predicting in pre-mobile phone days, that we’d all communicate with personal devices. We scoffed. What this great future thinker has is the last laugh. And as a committed Socialist, Langley would probably share that also! All the best, David.

  4. Seems I am not alone in wondering: Whatever happened to Langley Brown? Like Kevin Driscoll, Langley was best man at our wedding in Lusaka on February 8, 1963. Maybe he was a professional best man as well as being a journo! His mother, Molly, was one of the six people (including us) at our wedding at the Boma. The catalyst for pursuing Langley is our fast-approaching 50th wedding anniversary.

  5. Langley was an inspirational trainer for us in BBC Local Radio.. A dozen of us started our broadcasting careers with him in September 1985. I have fond memories of lunchtimes in the Langham Bar with Langley over spritzers. Where is Langley now?

    • Langley is retired and living in Rochester with his wife, Jean. We visited him this summer. He’s a bit frail but still enjoying life. If you wish to get in touch, email me at stevebell [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll pass on the details. If you happen to know the whereabouts of Kevin Driscoll, Langley would love to hear from him, too.

  6. Great Langley Brown, I worked with him on many News programmes at BBC Medway/BBCKent. ‘Newstide’ & Midway were excellent news shows. Lots of laughs & super man.I was so pleased to see him again at Tony Revetts funeral couple of years ago. I delighted he’s still kicking – cos that’s what he did :) . I remember his brief campaign to call Medway ‘Medwayside’ Great news man… one of the best.. Rod Lucas

  7. I first met Lamgley when I was working as a compositor on the Northern News in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia in 1962. That newspaper which changed to The Times of Zambia on Independence was a remarkable place to work. The way the editorial staff and works staff gelled together was fantastic. They not only worked they drank and played together. Langley being one of them The most adventure”s 12 years of my life!

    • Langley trained me and 11 others in the BBC Local Radio Training Unit from September 30th 1985 – we were collectively known as “The Dirty Dozen” – I think it might even have been Langley who coined that term for us.

      We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Langley. He coached us in all the little extras – the importance of joining a union, that we were not to think we were special just because of where we were and above all else – that our humanity stretched beyond the shores of the United Kingdom – that people all over the world were the same. He never once said “This is what you should think”, but he always made clear what he thought himself. These are values which transcend journalism, and as a 22-year-old they helped shape me and no doubt generations of journalists!

      Viva Langley!

      ________________________________

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