Monday, June 30, 2008

Red Harrison

I was thinking about the voice of Red Harrison, who died last week in Australia. He was 75.

Radio Four rarely carries much Australian news but in the past when it did it was delivered via Harrison's distinctive voice, which had the resonance of an Anthony Hopkins marbled with the slightly querulous overtones of a retired newspaper man who had seen too much human folly. I've been reading about his funeral the other day. They sang Jerusalem and played the Dambusters March.

Harrison had one of those voices which couldn't help but be moving, no matter what he was talking about. He sounded as if he belonged in a world where communication was rare and consequently precious. Here's a clip of one of his reports from Australia.


  1. Reading Red harrison's obit reminded me of the bit in Terry Pratchett's blurb about seeing a dead body on his first day as cub reporter "work experience really meant something in those days" I can't belp but imagine that the news would be better if it was reported by more former "jackaroos"

  2. Although I didn't know who he was at the time, I remember his voice from listening to the World Service in the 70s and 80s. Having to listen to it on short wave made everything sound like the 1950s anyway and his voice fitted the bill absolutely.
    His style also reminds me of the period media coverage portrayed in the film 'The Dish', which is a quite charming film about a radio telescope; not a phrase one could use very often really.

  3. Anonymous6:50 pm

    My favourite Red Harrison report was from Alice Springs. They'd decided to erect traffic lights on the main street there and, after 3 months of "education" about their use, they were switched on. No-one took any notice of them and they were quietly switched off a few days later. (I have no idea what the current situation is)

    Laugh? I almost wee'd meself. Red was superb in delivering this report deadpan and Brian Redhead, I believe, corpsed in the Today studio when it was played.

    RIP Red, thanks mate!

  4. Anonymous3:23 pm

    That's sad, some people say he died from a generic viagra overdosis... I'm pretty sure that's a lie, anyway he had a voice that when you hear it you feel happy with wanting to laugh.