Only Words..

4 Sep

It was bad enough and sad enough when we heard that Cliff Morgan, great rugby player, great rugby man, great human being died a few days ago. To follow this with the news that first David Frost and then David Jacobs had gone too has given me such pause for thought.

What characterised each of these eminent but very different broadcasters was their use of language. Morgan was all passion and instinct – the words flowed as effortlessly as his enthusiasm. Frost developed from the sharp satirical witticism of TW3 to the consummate stealth interviewer of Richard Nixon. Jacobs, incongruously cast as the chair of Juke Box Jury in the early 60s was all suavity and a husky timbre of voice that I can hear as I tap the keys to write.

It’s unfortunate that my children can’t tap into the memories of the 50s and 60s when I was growing up. Of course they will have similar triggers, one hopes, for excellence in broadcasting and those men and women who were defined by a certain style – a way with words.

Cliff Morgan is renowned for his commentary of the 1973 classic New Zealand v Barbarians game. That try. He was enraptured: This is great stuff…Phil Bennett covering…brilliant!…Oh, that’s brilliant… great dummy…brilliant by Quinnell…this is Gareth Edwards…a dramatic start…what a score! Oh oh that fellow Edwards. If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no one would have believed it.

Naturally words in a blog can’t convey the poetry of the moment so Youtube should help. Cliff was an institution for those of us tuning in to sports on TV back in those days. His relish of that turn of phrase to convey his joy at brilliant skill was infectious. He was no commentator -that famous game apart – and he deferred to that other charismatic wordsmith Bill McLaren with characteristic charm and humility. His use of language was as instinctive as his love of people and life.

Sir David was higher profile from the moment Ned Sherrin took him on as the feisty frontman for That Was the Week That Was. So much followed. He became a broadcasting superstar but I still have shivers when I recall his demolition of the corrupt insurance executive Emil Savundra.

And David J. All huskiness and aplomb. It’s hard to imagine him fronting the ‘cutting edge’ pop music show Juke Box Jury in this day and age. What links the three men is their part in my youth but, more, their voices, their words, their charm. The spoken word can be so memorable and we are lucky to come across a few in our lives whose eloquence can raise our spirits and understanding. These three were broadcasters but perhaps even they might defer to Seamus Heaney whose death has added a fourth voice stilled of late.

Heaney’s Nobel Prize of 1995 rewarded a prodigious worker-in-progress. I missed him at school but his influence on my teaching life – and that of the current generation has been profound. Death of a Naturalist seemed a whole new way of conveying the experience of growing up. Affecting and effective Heaney wrote: Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests/I’ll dig with it. This fusion of his rural, farming heritage and his writing life gave his poetry a similar dimension to that of Ted Hughes:authenticity.

So wordsmiths all. And as Barry Gibb once sang: Words are all I have/To take your heart away. The heart has taken a little bashing this week.

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One Response to “Only Words..”

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