obituary: Gordon Clough

Gordon Clough was one of the founders of modern radio journalism.

An early member of the elite stable of The World At One under Andrew Boyle and William Hardcastle, he deployed wide learning (lightly), acute journalism and a beautiful baritone voice from the presenter's chair of The World At One, PM, and The World This Weekend, from the 1970s to the early Nineties.

A scholarship boy from Bolton School, he read French and Russian at Magdalen College, Oxford. After "bobbing about in a boat on the Baltic", listening in to Soviet radio traffic during National Service, he joined the BBC's Russian Service and was banned from entering the Soviet Union as an alleged former spy. He was to overcome that calumny later in his career.

In 1968 he joined mainstream radio journalism and soon made his mark, particularly in The World This Weekend, where he thrived by interviewing politicians reflectively, even ruminatively, years before the political interview had become a commonplace of weekend broadcasting.

At first meeting his guests were often surprised to see that the owner of the big beautiful voice was a small scruffy man, and Gordon Clough exuded a vulnerability that made some of the most unlikely people want to protect him.

Summoned to Chequers to interview the Prime Minister in the early-Eighties, Clough was stunned to see Mrs Thatcher tapping the vacant space on the sofa beside her and saying: "Come Gordon, sit by me" - and honouring him with a stiff whisky when the interview was over.

By the late 1980s the pathfinding World At One tradition had long become orthodoxy and this was probably enough for Clough to begin to tire of the presenter's chair. He started to grumble that too many programmes were chasing the same political story too hard and too long; the variety of life was being lost.

It was then that he made his providential self-discovery. Already a writer of some of the most eloquent - and the longest - sentences since Gibbon, he became a wonderful reporter in his mid-fifties.

His opportunity was the Gorbachev revolution. Unbanned, he returned to the crumbling Soviet Union to make four of the finest series of documentary journalism the BBC produced at the time, Revolution Without Shots (1987), The Indissoluble Union (1989), Death of a Superpower (1991) and Ashes of Empire (1991); he also won two Sony awards. With his fluent Russian Clough caught history on the wing, capturing the very essence of the break- up of the Soviet system as it happened, from the top of society to the bottom. The honours list of Soviet reformers around Gorbachev - Aganbegyan, Yavlitsky, Kagarlitsky and Sobchak - was rolled out on to Radio 4, while Clough was the first westerner seen by many a Soviet peasant in the steppes from the Volga to the Aral Sea.

Clough also covered South Africa months after Mandela's release and for a season he presented Europhile, Radio 4's European affairs magazine. But although his audience didn't suspect it, his strength and stamina were flagging and the Indian summer of his reporting life ended in 1994.

But there remained Round Britain Quiz. Clough was a lover and custodian of the language and never was it in safer hands. He indulged it as chairman and compiler of the questions of the donnish radio panel game almost up to his death.

Gordon Clough would not have apologised for spending virtually his whole career in the BBC, which he loved beneath only the thinnest journalist's carapace. And it is with no less than love that his many friends in the BBC and its audiences will remember him.

After a divorce from his wife Carolyn in 1991, he remarried her and died at home. She, three daughters and a son survive him.Arthur Gordon Clough, radio journalist: born Salford, Lancashire 26 August 1934; married 1959 Carolyn Stafford (one son, three daughters); died London 6 April 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions