Wednesday 28 March 2012

The dark brown voice of ...

A "dark brown voice" according to Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1982: 291) is

The acronym 'P.B.' at the end of the dictionary article stands for Paul C. Beale, editor of the 8th edition of the dictionary, who made this contribution.

According to the scanty sources available to me Patricia Hughes (= PH) was the only female announcer with BBC radio 3 in the 1970s. In 1972 Stephen Hearst (born Hirschtritt, naturalised in 1946 according to The London Gazette) became controller of BBC Radio 3 and held that position till 1978.

credit: BBC

In The Telegraph of the 1st of April 2010 we are told that "Hearst made plain his initial disapproval of Patricia Hughes, the station's only female announcer, demanding that it get rid of "that terrible woman with the Kensington voice" (he later relented)." I wonder why he disliked PH. Was it male chauvinism? I don't know.

Stephen Hearst
credit: photoshot

In a comment to a blog of the 21st of July, 2010, maintained by The Spectator, someone wrote: "Radio 3 used to have a continuity announcer called Patricia Hughes whose voice sounded like dark molasses-somewhere between Marlene Dietrich and Joan Greenwood."

Joan Greenwood
credit: Cine Text/Allstar

There are hardly any photos of PH available in the internet. She must have had a few TV appearances when she introduced the annual promenade concerts. But I don't know when and how often.


  1. Now let's have a sample of Joan Greenwood's outstandingly recognisable
    voice quality.

  2. When you first mentioned her, I had only an ill-defined feeling of nostalgia. Then I listened to your clip of her introducing the André Tchaikowsky... and suddenly it all came into focus! The lunchtime concerts at St John's Smith Sq! I remember attending these when I was an undergraduate - and now I clearly remember seeing/hearing PH there in person. Thanks!

    1. I'm glad you like my blog entry, Geoff!