OBITUARY : Michell Raper

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Michell Raper was a remarkable broadcaster of the old, civilised Home Service - later Radio 4 - school. Although something of a maverick, with tastes tending towards the highbrow, his aim in writing, producing and presenting feature programmes was always to popularise though never to patronise.

"Mitch" Raper was born in Somerset, in 1926, and educated at Sherborne, where he showed promise in writing, and in drawing. He did National Service at the time of the war in Palestine. He was proud that his reminiscences and poems from that period are now in the National War Museum archives. After being demobbed, he went up to Oriel College, Oxford, where he was a popular figureduring the glittering post-war era, alongside such contemporaries as Tony Richardson and Michael Codron.

Raper went into broadcasting, then the coming medium, and served an apprenticeship at Radio Luxembourg before becoming a BBC announcer. With the advent of commercial television, he made a name as a presenter for ABC and Associated Rediffusion: his good looks and cultivated but unaffected voice attracted a fan following. He returned to the BBC in the 1960s, producing Points of View, and had his own archive spot, "Plunder", on Late Night Line Up.

Latterly he returned to his first love - radio. His feature subjects ranged from the supernatural to pantomime dames. The programmes were always idiosyncratic and he was himself a sympathetic interviewer and narrator.

After a nerve-racking spell as producer for the effective but bibulous personality Jack De Manio, he became producer of Morning Story in the 1970s and 1980s helping and encouraging many new writers. His methods were quite eccentric. A first encounter with him could be disconcerting. Arriving late and mumbling apologies this small, enthusiastic figure would linger over a cup of coffee, gossiping amusingly about Oxford or BBC intrigue before finally recording the story unrehearsed.

This apparently slapdash approach concealed a thorough professionalism. Raper knew that seasoned actors, relaxed and unhurried, would probably give of their best in their first take. But he was meticulous in spotting errors or in cutting or clarifying awkward passages.

Although a loner, preferring his cats to most human beings, he was splendid company with close friends - full of ribald anecdotes and shrewd character observations. He had extensive knowledge of poetry, books and films - notably Hollywood films noirs and European classics.

He leaves behind much of interest to the archivist and social historian. He was a kind man - not just to animals but to anyone needing help - and a stimulating companion.

Godfrey Michell Hamilton Raper, broadcaster: born North Perrott, Somerset 3 October 1926; died London 17 March 1995.