Hugh Rouse's voice was extremely familiar to listeners of South African radio. His contribution as narrator on the radio version of The Avengers was distinctive and essential to the production's success. However, South Africans will most certainly remember Rouse for a very different role in radio - namely his ground-breaking work in news reading. 

Of British descent, Hugh Rouse served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Having fallen in love with Durban during the war, Hugh decided to settle in South Africa once the conflict had ended. In April 1947, the opportunity arose to join the Durban staff of the South African Broadcasting Company, under Leslie Green. Hugh came on board, and worked initially with the English Service in an administrative capacity, which he found dull and not to his tastes. He thought of himself as a broadcaster, not a clerk. Three years after joining the SABC, Hugh saw his wish realised when Springbok Radio, a new commercial channel set up by the SABC in competition with the English Service, approached him to anchor their newscasts. Although the money on offer was not particularly enticing, he grasped the opportunity with both hands.

Springbok Radio launched on May 1st 1950, with Hugh Rouse presenting three newscasts on the station each day. His call sign - "The World at One, Seven and Ten-Thirty - Hugh Rouse reporting" - permeated the lives and routines of a nation of radio listeners.

Hugh's style was unorthodox, his delivery fast and punchy - a million miles from the measured tones favoured by BBC newsreaders of the time. The management at Springbok Radio were unsure of Rouse's style... but the audience were in no doubt. They loved it. Before long, Hugh Rouse had made his mark and South African newscasting was changed forever.

As Hugh's involvement in The Avengers suggests, his interests went beyond simply reading the news. He narrated documentaries and youth programmes, and one of his great loves was commentating on cricket. In radio drama, he used his remarkable voice to create several memorable characters, the most reknowned being Inspector Carr, in Inspector Carr Investigates.

Rouse also made film appearances, including the British film Burndown (1989) in which he played the character of George Blake, alongside, perhaps remarkably, two other Avengers radio series performers, Michael McCabe and Hal Orlandini.

Hugh Rouse died after a long illness in Alberton aged 78 in May 1998.

by Alan Hayes
based on an obituary by Bob Courtney and Adrian Steed

 

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