Obituary: Ian Smith

Whenever I saw broadcaster Ian Smith I recalled to myself an incident I had witnessed during our schooldays at about 9.30pm on 22 November 1963. He appeared at the top of the King Alfred House steps at King's College in Taunton and quietly said: "President Kennedy has been assassinated."

He was then as calm and believable as he was to be later as a broadcaster and BBC television newsreader. At school as one of the very small group of senior prefects, he was an imposing and slightly detached figure. But he could be roused and when the school's Sheldon Society allowed a white South African student to give an address in support of apartheid it was immediately made known that I.P.L. Smith would be boycotting the meeting.

This was an interesting stand because a year after Smith left school his namesake in Southern Rhodesia made his illegal declaration of independence and young Ian Smith was soon in that country reporting on the struggle against racial discrimination. Indeed, television viewers saw Ian Smith interviewing Ian Smith.

Smith joined BBC radio in his home city of Bristol after a year at York University where he allowed extra-curricular activity to dominate his life after the constrictions of school days. He moved into television at Plymouth, where he presented the regional news programme, and later in London became a founder reporter on BBC2's Newsnight.

Working on Newsnight and Panorama he covered a wide range of subjects from Northern Ireland and the miners' strike to salmon poaching. Presenting Newsnight he once memorably adapted the weather forecast script by promising "what my grandmother used to call a perfect drying day".

He was also a veteran of the Cod War, having reported from a destroyer off Iceland, and a regular member of the BBC's party conferences team. His success as a journalist may have been helped by his ability to listen to interviewees. Many colleagues in the media confess to his patience when listening to them and the helpful advice given on personal matters.

Whilst he was a good reporter he wanted to be an even better skier. A person of tremendous energy, he discovered the sport in the 1970s having been an impressive tennis and squash player.

So concerned was he about his health that he once rang his physiotherapist in England from the slopes and exercised in the call box whilst listening to the instructions. He would take up to three skiing holidays a year on unpaid leave and the obsession eventually caused him to leave the BBC for a job working with Will Hutton on a Swiss business channel which offered the chance to ski by day and work by night.

When the job ended he returned to London to work as a freelance both with the BBC and as a teacher of television skills. But this was also to be short lived for in 1992 he slipped whilst going over a glacier in the Alps and hit his head on ice. He was in hospital with brain damage for the rest of his life never returning to either the family home in Wales nor his own Chiswick home handy for the BBC Television Centre.

During the past five years, when he could only glance at newspaper headlines, the friendship he offered in his happy working days was maintained by busy colleagues who continued to visit him.

Ian Peter Leslie Smith, television journalist: born Bristol 3 May 1944; died London 6 January 1997.

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: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project