In this bulletin we take a look at a particularly personal piece of Mortoniana.
The newspaper clipping below was sent to me by founder-member and Morton biographer Kenneth Fields. Kenneth informs me it was originally sent by HVM to his sister Piddie in 1974 and later passed on to Kenneth by Jo Walters, Morton’s niece. Kenneth points out that Morton’s age is corrected in his own hand – even at the age of 82 (or 83) this was a journalist who wanted to get the facts correct!
By way of background, it seems South Africa had no television until 1976 and this article was an account of the preparations by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for their television network. They proudly declare they have (by 1974, when the article was written) accumulated 50 hours of programmes ready to be broadcast.
The person who was to interview Morton was Dewar McCormack, head of the English service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Cape Town. He was described by Pamela Coleman (who ran the SABC equivalent of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour with him as her boss) as a good-looking man in a craggy, Robert Mitchum sort of way, a part-Irish South African who had travelled around and done a stint broadcasting in New Zealand. An old-fashioned, professional broadcaster, he was friendly but stern and didn’t approve of ‘larking about’!
The print of the scan is quite small so I have transcribed the relevant section:
The Cape Times Weekend Magazine, Saturday, July 20, 1974
Television: a taste of things to come
by Ian Forsyth
He’s an old man now, 83 [HVM has corrected this to 82 in his own hand! Ed.]. And he sits in his study, inevitably book-lined, remembering – for SABC television. As a television personality, Robin Knox-Granger, manager of the SABC television service, thinks he’s “just tremendous”.
This television personality of South Africa’s pre-television era is Author-journalist H.V. Morton who lives at Somerset West. And some time after January 1976 South Africans will see six programmes in which Morton talks of things that fascinate him and memories he has of a lifetime of writing and reporting.
He is interviewed for the English television service by Dewar McCormack at half hour stretches.
“It’s very, very seldom, if ever that you get someone who can just sit and talk and be interviewed in this way,” Knox-Grant told me in Grahamstown this week. “Once, perhaps twice only, we have had to stop the cameras, and this was only for technical reasons – for cut-ins, where you have to move to something which he has been talking about and will show you. He comes across superbly. You can just sit and watch him without any kind of interruption.”
Knox-Grant and a television team travel from Johannesberg to Somerset West for their filming sessions, which almost never exceed the allotted 30 minutes of time for which the programmes are scheduled. And it is only a small facet of the work now being done by the television service, which now has about 50 hours of viewing material available for English and Afrikaans viewers – about 25 hours for each language…
Many thanks go to Kenneth for providing us with this delightful insight into HVM’s later years.
With best wishes,
Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England
This article was originally distributed as HVM Society Snippets – No.192 on 26 September 2015
2 responses to “HV Morton on the television”
Another excellent piece, thanks Niall and Kenneth. HV must have gained courage in his old age. A decade earlier he wrote to a friend in the UK:
“Methuen wanted me to come over for a publication party, and to appear on Television! If nothing else would have done so, this would have kept me away from the dear Homeland. The thought of sitting in the beams of flood lights, like a thief at a police line-up, while millions of unseen spies study every muscular twitch and facial irregularity (“he’s as bald as an egg” … “what a disappointment, Elsie, he isn’t a bit as I always imagined”) is quite revolting and abhorrent. It is one of the ultimate indecencies …”
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