Obituary: C. H. Rolph

Cecil Rolph Hewitt (CH Rolph), writer and scriptwriter: born London 23 August 1901; served City of Lonodn Police 1921-46; editorial staff, New Statesman 1947-70, Director 1965-80; editor, the Author 1956-60; member, Parole Board 1967-69; books include Crime and Punishment 1950, Mental Disorder 1958, The Trial of Lady Chatterley 1961, Hanged by the Neck (with Arthur Koestler) 1961, The Police and the Public 1962, Law and the Common Man 1967, Books in the Dock 1969, Kingsley: (a life of Kingsley Martin) 1973, Living Twice 1974, London Particulars 1980, Further Particulars 1987; married 1926 Audrey Buttery (died 1982; one daughter; marriage dissolved 1946), 1947 Jenifer Wayne (died 1982; one son, one daughter); died Guildford 10 March 1994.

CECIL ROLPH HEWITT was first a policeman in the City of London Police, but foremost he was a writer, CH Rolph. As he explained to me in his deep gentle voice, 'The quickest way to get sacked from the police without a pension was to write for the public prints, especially to write about police matters, and more especially to do that in a left-wing weekly, so I had to change my public name.

'But I didn't want to get lost, so I juggled these absurd names of mine and called myself CH Rolph in the New Statesman.' This, one gathered, was why everybody knew him as Bill - it seemed quite logical. There was nobody else anywhere writing like CH Rolph, so when the Spectator sought to emulate its rival, and Bill was short of cash, he wrote for them under the new rebus of RH Cecil, until he soon discovered that the name was already used by a rather distinguished judge who wrote novels.

Thus he was maintained principally by Kingsley Martin's New Statesman, which did not pay him riches but gave him fame so that when the brilliant post-war Radio Features Department of the BBC under Lawrence Gilliam put Jenifer Wayne to work to make a series called This is the Law consisting of what would nowadays be called drama-docs, educating the pre-

television British society in the law, she had Bill Hewitt as her adviser on the police and the law. The programme was an outstanding success. To quote Hewitt again: 'I advised Jenifer on This is the Law and when it was finished I advised her to marry me. I was delighted to find she was still taking my advice.' The Somervillian daughter of the headmaster of Marylebone Grammar School and the much less formally educated journalist had a close and happy marriage of mutual affection and respect.

The rivalry between Scotland Yard and the City Police was deep, with the Met unable to stomach the autonomous and rather gentlemanly enclave in the middle of their empire. In the 1950s the Met were perhaps not as scrupulous as they are now and three of their officers were found guilty of a rather shabby crime. Hewitt was doing a topical talk for us on the then European Service of the BBC and naturally did a straight account of this story of justice but unfortunately based his piece on the Times Law Report of the case, which had mentioned four defendants. Scotland Yard were tipped off and their lawyers, who must have seen a chance to snatch something from the jaws of their recent defeat, slapped a writ for libel on the BBC and Hewitt in the interests of the fourth man, demanding the considerable sum of pounds 2,250.

The BBC caved in completely without a fight. I as the editor concerned was ordered to plead culpa mea maxima culpa and Bill Hewitt by his contract was ordered to pay 10 per cent of the damages, which he actually could not afford. However a quick contract for a series of talks on his beloved London solved that problem and we were left unharmed and contemptuous of our betters.

For the flavour of his writings many readers will be able to disinter from their shelves The Week-End Book, the delight of every fairly sober citizen of the Thirties, and find therein a sequence called 'The Law and How You Break It', which, though out of date in places, is still a good and typically humorous summary for ordinary people, in 15 short pages. His conclusion was written long before the affair outlined above but is apposite: 'The law may be likened to a whimsical lady. It is an advantage to have knowledge of her character, but her embraces are to be avoided, for they are apt to be both ill-timed and

expensive.'

Bill Hewitt was a good writer, and a good man, who never fought trivial battles and never avoided great ones when justice and freedom were at stake. His 32-foot diapason of a voice, quiet, deliberate, beautifully paced to let the meaning come through at a proper speed, was a model which modern radio would do well to emulate and leave the frantic patter to the box.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect