BBC journalist was a household name reporting the Falklands War
Published 26/12/2010 | 05:00
Brian Hanrahan, who died on Monday aged 61, was a long-serving and much-respected foreign correspondent for the BBC and became a familiar face to television viewers during the Falklands War in 1982.
Though he had been with the BBC for 10 years, Hanrahan was 32 and fairly new to reporting when he found himself on the aircraft carrier Hermes, flagship of the Task Force bound for the Falklands. He was on the bridge on May 1, 1982, when the first Sea Harriers set off, some towards Stanley airfield -- a key strategic position -- and others to Goose Green.
As the Harriers returned to Hermes without loss, Hanrahan earned his place in Falklands folklore with the line: "I counted them all out and I counted them all back." He was not permitted to broadcast how many aircraft took part, and the comment became an object lesson in how to evade reporting restrictions under pressure.
"I wanted to say, I think it was, all 12 returned safely. They said, 'You can't say that', so I had to cross that out,'' he recalled.
Hanrahan went on to lift the mood of an anxious nation by observing that the returning pilots "were unhurt, cheerful and jubilant, giving thumbs-up signs".
Hanrahan went on to report some of the biggest stories of the past 30 years as a foreign, then diplomatic, correspondent.
From 1983 he covered Asia from Hong Kong, observing the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in China, as well as the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the succession of her son Rajiv as India's Prime Minister. From 1986 he reported the Gorbachev era from Moscow, and in 1989 witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Romanian Revolution, the installation in Poland of the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Television viewers came to trust Hanrahan as someone of great sensitivity and personal humanity who had an instinctive feel for the public mood.
After spells in Asia and eastern Europe during the 1990s, Hanrahan showed a clear-eyed ability to sift the main points from the latest complex twists in the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo and in the Middle East peace process.
As diplomatic editor from 1997, he provided live studio analysis of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
In addition Hanrahan was part of the BBC commentary team for major ceremonial and state occasions, including the anniversaries of D-Day; the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother; the millennium celebrations and the death of Pope John Paul II.
Brian Hanrahan was born in Middlesex on March 22, 1949, and educated at St Ignatius's College, a grammar school at Stamford Hill, Tottenham. After taking a degree in Politics at Essex University, and a year teaching in West Africa with VSO, he joined the BBC in 1970 as a photographic stills clerk, progressing to scriptwriter then duty editor in the television newsroom. He worked for a time as the BBC's Northern Ireland correspondent before being sent as "a general reporter" to the Falkland Islands.
In recent years, as well as contributing to television reports, he was a regular voice on BBC Radio 4 as presenter of both The World at One and The World This Weekend.
Brian Hanrahan fell ill the week before this year's UK general election and was diagnosed with cancer. He returned to work while undergoing treatment, and last week had planned to report from RAF Cottesmore as the Harriers he had counted out in the Falklands were counted back for the final time before being scrapped because of spending cuts. Instead, he was readmitted to hospital with an infection. As the Harriers landed for the final time, the Harrier crews sent him a recorded get-well message.
He is survived by his wife, Honor, and their daughter.