Obituary: Barbara Mandell

AS THE first woman to present the news on a national television service in Britain, Barbara Mandell secured a place in history during ITN's early, pioneering days in the mid-Fifties.

Although the fledgling Independent Television was not screened across the entire country until more than five years later, her appearances on its midday news when the commercial channel began in 1955 made her a forerunner to the BBC's Nan Winton, who presented bulletins regularly in 1960, and Angela Rippon 15 years after that.

However, by the time Anna Ford teamed up with the irrepressible Reginald Bosanquet on News at Ten in 1978, many of those who accepted ITN's widely accepted dominance in the field of television news had forgotten the woman who had preceded her two decades earlier when the organisation was launched as a direct competitor to the BBC's news service.

Mandell was picked for the job by ITN's first editor, Aidan Crawley, shortly before ITV's launch on 22 September 1955. In an attempt to steal a march on the BBC, whose news programmes had for years been little more than radio bulletins illustrated with pictures and presented by announcers who were not seen in vision, Crawley declared: "News is human and alive, and we intend to present it in that manner."

ITN had newscasters who not only presented the stories but wrote some of them - as opposed to the BBC's newsreaders, who were essentially announcers reading other people's words - and the new organisation could boast lightweight 16mm cameras with more flexibility and impact than the newsreel companies' bulky, 35mm equipment, as well as natural sound broadcast with the film. Its effect, bringing news stories such as strikes to life, was dramatic.

From among 150 candidates, Crawley chose the first three newscasters: the former Olympic runner Christopher Chataway presented the main programme at 10pm, the barrister Robin Day, who had some experience as a BBC radio talks producer, fronted the 7pm bulletin, and Mandell was seen at noon.

The London-born broadcaster, whose family moved to South Africa in 1924, had followed her late father into journalism by joining the Rand Daily Mail, where he had been deputy editor. She then worked as a radio news editor for the South African Broadcasting Company, where she met Alan Mandell, who became her husband and later found fame on BBC radio as Alan Dell. However, the marriage lasted little more than 10 years. After a short trip to America at the beginning of the Fifties, the couple moved to Britain and Mandell worked as a freelance scriptwriter for the BBC's Television Newsreel before joining ITN.

Like the rest of ITN's enthusiastic but small staff, Mandell was thrown in at the deep end. Once, she was not helped by Reginald Bosanquet, who also joined the television news organisation at its inception. "As a scriptwriter very much with my L-plates on," he recalled in his 1980 autobiography, Let's Get Through Wednesday: my 25 years with ITN, "I landed Barbara in the cart when I had her telling the viewers that 6,000 troops had been despatched from Northolt to Cyprus when in fact it was 600 from Blackbushe."

In those early days, everyone at ITN contributed wherever needed. With Lynne Reid Banks, who went on to become an acclaimed writer, Mandell was one of the company's first two female reporters. With their male counterparts, they were the first broadcasters to conduct vox pops - interviews with ordinary people in the street.

At the time, it was controversial for a woman to approach a male stranger in public, but Mandell was helped by the presence of a film cameraman and sound recordist. She also reported on a Paris fashion show, something that had never been seen in BBC news bulletins.

However, following her first broadcast a day after ITV's launch, Mandell's time as a newscaster was short. By January 1956, ITV was losing money, slashed ITN's budget and dropped the midday news, causing Aidan Crawley and Christopher Chataway to resign. In the event, the former national newspaper journalist Geoffrey Cox took over as editor and built on the reputation that Crawley had gained for ITN, and Ludovic Kennedy replaced Chataway.

Mandell continued at ITN as a scriptwriter and reporter, and returned to newscasting briefly to present Sunday-evening bulletins, although she eventually disappeared from screens to work behind the scenes, serving out her days as chief copytaster on News at 5.45 until her retirement in 1980.

Then, she lived in Luxembourg with her partner of more than 20 years, Martin Gray, an ITN film cameraman who distinguished himself with coverage of news stories such as the Hungarian uprising in 1956 but left after losing a leg through gangrene. The couple made travel films and Mandell wrote books, most notably about France, Spain and Portugal. In 1992, they moved to Devon and Gray died four years later.

Allada Barbara Grenville-Wells (Barbara Mandell), television newscaster and reporter, and travel writer: born London 15 July 1920; married 1945 Alan Dell (marriage dissolved); died Holsworthy, Devon 25 August 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own