Friday 15 December 2017

Obituary: Gordon Honeycombe

Newsreader for ITN and TV-am who had parallel careers as a novelist, actor and historian of crime

Here is the news: Gordon Honeycombe was an ITN newsreader.
Here is the news: Gordon Honeycombe was an ITN newsreader. Newsdesk Newsdesk

Gordon Honeycombe, who has died aged 79, was one of the faces of Independent Television News (ITN) between 1965 and 1977, returning to the small screen in the 1980s to read the early morning news on TV-am for five years before leaving Britain in 1989 for a new life in Australia.

He was a struggling actor when he joined ITN as a newscaster. "The news editor invited me to his office where I read two minutes' worth of headlines as a test," he recalled. "Two weeks later, I was reading the news, earning £25 a week."

He left ITN in 1977 to concentrate on a writing career. His last newscast was to have been on Christmas Day, but in mid-November he wrote a controversial article in the Daily Mail in support of the national firemen's strike. Suspended by the editor of ITN, Honeycombe decided to leave on the spot so that he could speak more freely on the firemen's behalf.

But in 1984 he returned to news-reading with TV-am. For the next five years he read some seven bulletins a morning. In 1989 he decided to change his life. "Although my career was going well, it struck me that I was 53 and time was passing me by. Fed up with the British climate, I quit TV-am and emigrated to Perth."

Honeycombe combined a television career with parallel ones as a novelist, actor and playwright. He was also a successful historian of crime. In 1982 his illustrated survey, The Murders of the Black Museum (1871-1970), detailed 50 case histories of murder for which there are exhibits in Scotland Yard's Black Museum, now designated the Crime Museum, which is closed to the public.

The son of a sales manager with an American oil company, Ronald Gordon Honeycombe was born on September 27 1936 in Karachi and educated at the Edinburgh Academy, where he took a part in the school's dramatic and concert productions. He first acted in Shakespeare in 1950, as Goneril in a school production of King Lear, when he was 13.

In 1955, he joined the Royal Artillery, and spent most of his National Service in Hong Kong, where he was also a part-time radio announcer with BBC Radio Hong Kong.

He went up to University College, Oxford to read English in 1957, spending his 1958 summer vacation as a radio announcer with the Scottish Home Service in Glasgow. In December that year he was diagnosed with TB and spent six months in hospital. He acted at Oxford, and in 1960 was Peter in his own dramatisation of the medieval mystery plays called The Miracles.

Graduating in 1961, he became a professional actor with a company touring schools and other institutions, and in May 1962 joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, for 18 months.

In May 1965 Honeycombe joined ITN as a script-writer and newsreader, and over the next 12 years became nationally known as a newscaster. He left ITN in November 1977.

He interleaved his news-reading duties with television screenplays; his first play for television, The Golden Vision, written with Neville Smith, was produced and directed by Tony Garnett and Ken Loach in 1968. Honeycombe's first novel, Neither the Sea Nor the Sand (1969) was followed by Dragon Under the Hill (1972). In 1974 his third book, Adam's Tale, a factual account of the drug squad at New Scotland Yard, was hailed as "the most remarkable book dealing with the British police ever published".

In 1993 he became a permanent Australian resident. "I've become seduced by the Australian philosophy that 'tomorrow's another day'," he confessed, "and I lead a relaxed life which couldn't be better."

Gordon Honeycombe, who died on October 9, never married.

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