BBC Radio 3 announcer Patricia Hughes dies, aged 90

Patricia Hughes Patricia Hughes was described as an "utterly idiosyncratic voice of Radio 3"

Former BBC radio announcer Patricia Hughes - one of the most distinctive BBC voices over several decades - has died at the age of 90.

Famed for her elegant tones, Hughes started at the BBC as a secretary in 1944, before appearing on what was then the "overseas service".

She later appeared on the Light Programme, the Home Service and the Third Programme, now known as Radio 3.

In 1969, following a career break, she returned to Radio 3 until 1983.

For many years, she was the only female announcer on Radio 3. As well as introducing chamber music concerts, her duties also included reading news stories.

'Appalling voice test'

In later life, she continued to use her vocal skills, recording a number of audiobooks, including an autobiography of Margaret Thatcher.

She died on Friday at a nursing home in Winchester, Hampshire.

She leaves a daughter, Emma, and two granddaughters.

Michael Berkeley, presenter of Private Passions on Radio 3, said she had been an "utterly idiosyncratic voice of Radio 3 for many years".

Radio 3 controller Roger Wright said he was "saddened" to hear of the death of "one of BBC Radio 3's best loved voices".

Your memories: Chris Hancock

Patricia Hughes (4th left) at the wedding of Sue and Chris Hancock

Without the help of Patricia Hughes (above, 4th left) and BBC Radio 3, my wife Sue and I would never have married.

I met Sue in a Proms queue in 1981. I didn't expect to see her again, but as I was queuing a few days later there she was in the queue with her father.

We enjoyed the evening together and went our separate ways.

As the months went by, it seemed to me that I should try and track down that girl I had met.

The only information I had was that she was called "Sue" and lived in Ealing and that the family were friends of Patricia who might very well have been in the Radio 3 box that night.

Armed with that information, I sent a Christmas card to Patricia at Radio 3 and asked if she could pass on the extra card I had enclosed to "Sue, who lives in Ealing".

I gather it sat in her in tray for some time, but eventually she got in touch with Sue's father who asked if it might be anything to do with his daughter.

And so the card found Sue.

We married in 1983 and Patricia read at our wedding.

I am pleased that we managed to visit her a year or so ago in Winchester. She was a wonderful character to whom we are so grateful.

I still miss her voice on the radio but remember with particular affection her readings late at night of Mrs Caudle's Curtain lectures, complete with character voices.

They deserve another outing.

He added: ""Her contribution to radio in general and the station in particular was significant; not least her memorable introductions to lunchtime concerts. She was much-loved by our listeners and her death marks the passing of an era."

She was one of the first women to read the news on BBC radio - four years before Sheila Tracy famously became the first woman newsreader on Radio 4.

Hughes said once: "Reading the news isn't something that it is absolutely necessary for men to do... you don't have to have a deep voice to sound authoritative."

She later later recalled her first audition: "I did an appalling voice test, it was full of German names, and I knew no German but I spluttered away. I could hear them giggling at me. But I got the job. When I asked them why...they said 'You were the only one who kept going'."

'Reluctant departure'

Her departure from the BBC in 1983 was said to be "reluctant" - she had reached the statutory retirement age - and she was rewarded with a special commendation at the inaugural Sony Awards that year.

Patricia Hughes had many outside interests, including gardening, animals and the piano and she also wrote a number of light music pieces that the record producer Joe Meek helped her to have published - including one, It Happened in a Dream, which reportedly still earns royalties today.

In Simon Elmes' book, Hello Again: Nine Decades of Radio Voices, Hughes described how she used to spend nights in the radio announcers' dormitory - in a building which has since been converted into the Langham Hotel - and recalled one particularly memorable broadcast.

She told the author: "By the mercy of God I'd remembered to take a diaphanous negligee to put over my nightie, which I didn't normally do.

"I rushed down the stairs, tore across Portland Place into Broadcasting House and luckily with about three or four minutes to spare, got into the studio, very breathless. I read the news at nine. Then, at 10, I realised with appalling clarity that I was still in my nightdress, hair in all directions looking like nothing on earth."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Woman standingMysterious miracle

    It's extremely unusual and shouldn't give false hope, but what makes the body beat cancer on its own?


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach - why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.