Hugh Rouse was an extremely familiar voice 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 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", became
very much a part of the daily lives of a nation. 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.
After a long illness, Hugh Rouse died in Alberton aged 78 in May 1998.
by Alan Hayes
based on an obituary by Bob Courtney and Adrian Steed