Final Thoughts on Rod Pounsett

Blog RodPounsett

I THOUGHT I had written the last words about my late uncle Rod Pounsett, who died following heart failure on 9 December 2015.

But in the 10 weeks since his loss I have been inundated with emails from friends and colleagues who were unaware that this pioneering journalist had passed away, aged 76.

So I have decided to collect some of these emails and memories here as a lasting tribute to my uncle.

Rod started his career as a reporter and photographer on the Worthing and Shoreham Heralds in the early 1960s.

He went on to host a daily show on BBC Radio Brighton in the 1970s – one of the very first phone-in radio shows – and later became senior producer for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. He was at the helm when they reported the death of John Lennon in 1980 and the great storm of 1987.

He also worked for the Daily Express and started the first western news bureau in Moscow after the end of the Cold War.

He had a troubled personal life. He was married three times, and, like me, had more relationships than you could shake a stick at! He was often a very difficult person to deal with, but he was an amazing journalist, a good uncle and a great friend to many people.

He was also the person who got me into journalism when I was just 17 years-old, by securing me an interview with the editor of my local newspaper.

Anyway, here are the tributes from his former work colleagues:

While we knew that Rod wasn’t always the easiest person to work with, his pioneering spirit, sense of adventure, and passion for all things Russian gave us Brits a real excitement about being in Moscow – that for some of us has lasted to this day – and brought opportunities to all of us, both British and Russian. 

He introduced me (and Andersen Consulting) to Moscow in December 1990 – in fact a number of us were in Moscow only last month celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “Moscow Bread Project” which began when Rod started to bang on Moscow City Council doors in September 1990 and arranged for us to meet the deputy mayor, Sergei Stankevich (who also joined us for the reunion last month).  

This led to a fabulous 3-year project, which was undoubtedly the most exciting project of my 25-year consulting career. How sad and ironic that Rod died on the day we returned from Moscow after a 25th anniversary reunion of the project he began. 

We (a team of five from Andersen Consulting) had an amazing fortnight with Rod in Moscow in December 1990, one that I am 100% sure that my colleagues and I will never forget – as he introduced us to the city and helped us set up our first ever project there. 

He was an incredible character back in those days, full of optimism and real pioneering spirit – and what seemed to be a real love of Russia and everything to do with it.  He was full of stories, plans, ideas, revelations, and theories – some of which turned out, we later discovered, to be complete figments of his imagination, but always entertaining nevertheless. 

The following year, late 1991, we returned to Moscow to conduct the main part of the project – we were now a 10-strong team, and Rod continued to work with us, to provide overall context of goings-on in Russia, and to help us arrange meetings with politicians, press, etc.   

I must confess it became quite tricky to work with him and he was clearly under a lot of stress through goings-on in his personal life which we never really understood.  He was always needing to be loved, and became melancholy and aggressive if he thought that he wasn’t. 

But despite all this, he remained one of the most colourful characters I have ever met and worked with, and I will always be grateful to him for opening the doors of Moscow to me, a place I remain to this day totally entranced by, and I still return several times every year, mainly just to remember those amazing days with Rod and the work we did there at such an amazing turning point in history.  

I stayed in touch with Rod for a few years after that, and then our contact dwindled to a call every couple of years or so. I started to send him emails and messages to see if we could meet. He rarely responded over the past few years, but on the couple of occasions I spoke to him on the phone he said he’d been very unwell and was awaiting various treatments and operations.  I wished him well, and he called me again out of the blue several months ago, and we shared a few wonderful memories of our timed together in Moscow. He sounded frail, but promised that we should meet again if he got through the latest round of treatments.  Sadly it was not to be, and I will always be sorry for that.

RIP Rod Pounsett.

Stephen (Andersen Consulting)

I was trying to find a current phone number for Rod when I sadly came across your notice of his death.  I had wondered why he didn’t answer his email, though we had been in touch infrequently of late.  I’m so sorry to hear of his demise.  I worked with him on the Today programme for many years and had a lot of fun during that time. 

Sue (Today, BBC Radio 4)

My husband, who was Deputy Editor of the Today programme for several years, was a colleague and friend of Rod’s for many years and Rod came to stay with us at our several homes over a long period.

I didn’t have to work with Roddy (as I always called him) which sometimes was not easy for his co-workers, and I was exceedingly fond of him – as were both our sons.  He had an amazing gentle charm about him which was very endearing.  

We went to visit him in Worthing when he was house-hunting but then at the end of 2014 we moved to France and lost touch.  We came home one day to find a message from him on the answering-machine with a phone number, but though we tried it many times he never answered.

I am sorry therefore to hear of his death via some BBC colleagues, and though indeed he had a troubled personal life as you put it – he was much liked by many people; I for one shall not forget his charm, his kindness, his lovely gentle and reassuring voice, and his constant stream of exciting fun ideas and things to do.

Sherry (Today, BBC Radio 4)

This is very sad… Rod was sometimes difficult to deal with, but I do have a lot of fond memories of the time we spent together.

One thing is for sure – he was never dull. RIP.

Sergei (Moscow)

Rod will not be forgotten.  He brought a unique spirit to our time in Moscow.  It was an unforgettable times for so many reasons and he was certainly one of them.

Katherine (Moscow)

It is always sad to lose one of life’s great adventurers and, in my experience of him, Rod was certainly one of those!

Ken (Moscow)

Rod was my first foreign employer, eccentric, superbly verbal, kind and hospitable, full of different unheard of stories, omnipresent and mobile, a great, but messy (you should see the kitchen after his creative job) chef. I remember him waiting for the doctor and saying: ‘What can I expect from the doctor and my health: I drink, smoke, eat a lot.” RIP, Rod

Larissa (Moscow)

Really sad… Rod loved life so much and seemed to enjoy every moment of it! It was never boring working for him.

Lena (Moscow)

There you go Uncle Rod, people did love you!

Rest in peace.

More about Rod can be found here:

https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/the-death-of-rod-langham-pounsett/

https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/john-lennon-my-working-class-hero/

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2015/news/former-regional-reporter-and-post-cold-war-pioneer-dies-at-76/

 

Note: If anyone wants to add their memories of Rod to this piece, please email me at: nicoutterside@writeahead.co.uk

 

John Lennon – my Working Class Hero

ON a cold December night 35 years ago, Mark Chapman waited for John Lennon outside the New York City apartment building where the former Beatle lived with his wife Yoko Ono and his son.

Chapman, who was 25 at the time, had asked Lennon earlier that day for an autograph, which the former Beatle signed.

Yet five hours later, the killer, who said he wanted to be famous, opened fire with a .38 pistol hitting Lennon four times.

The 40-year-old musician collapsed, and bleeding profusely, was dead on arrival at hospital.

TV networks in the USA interrupted their Monday Night Football broadcast to announce news of Lennon’s death.

Within hours, the murder became front page news across the globe.

With his death on December 8, 1980, the world began to grieve.

Some 3,300 miles away in the coal steeped pit village of Darton in South Yorkshire, I woke to the news on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Like millions of others I felt numb with shock and grief.

Lennon, along with Bob Dylan, had been the soundtrack to my entire life. And for the past 10 years I had hung on every word and every chord these two singer-songwriters had ever played or sung.

As a trainee teacher I walked slowly to my school singing quietly the words to Imagine, and trying to focus on the day ahead.

Then the irony hit me…. just seven days earlier I had been teaching my fourth year class (10th Grade) about 1960s’ culture, and in particular the music and impact of The Beatles. Somehow I had to continue that day as the curriculum demanded, and follow with the social changes brought about by that decade.

I need not have worried.

My charges’ cruel teenage excitement and questions about the murder of John Lennon made the lesson faultless. They even allowed me to play a couple of his songs as a kind of “education”.

Here was the life, death and music of a true Working Class Hero of my generation.

The day passed and I hurried home to spend the evening listening on my Dansette casette/radio player to hours upon hours of music and eulogies to this amazing man and musician.

One song hit me that day and has stayed with me ever since.

How? is a song from Lennon’s second solo album Imagine, released in 1971. It is a contemplative song inspired by the primal therapy he was undergoing with his wife Yoko, where he faced many personal questions such as “How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing?”

It summed up my feelings on that cold winter’s day, and now 35 years later it still epitomises my life.

But before I reprint and reload the song, I must share another sad irony.

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme that brought me the news of Lennon’s death in 1980 was produced by my journalist uncle Rod Pounsett.

Rod sadly died yesterday, aged 76.

How?

How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing? How can I go forward when I don’t know which way to turn? How can I go forward into something I’m not sure of? Oh no, oh no

How can I have feeling when I don’t know if it’s a feeling? How can I feel something if I just don’t know how to feel? How can I have feelings when my feelings have always been denied? Oh no, oh no

You know life can be long And you got to be so strong And the world is so tough Sometimes I feel I’ve had enough How can I give love when I don’t know what it is I’m giving? How can I give love when I just don’t know how to give? How can I give love when love is something I ain’t never had? Oh no, oh no

You know life can be long You’ve got to be so strong And the world she is tough Sometimes I feel I’ve had enough How can we go forward when we don’t know which way we’re facing? How can we go forward when we don’t know which way to turn? How can we go forward into something we’re not sure of? Oh no, oh no

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQU84QlukP4&sns=fb

 

The Death of Rod Langham Pounsett

IT is with great sadness I announce the death of my uncle Rod Pounsett (my mum’s young brother).

Rod started his career as a reporter and photographer on the Worthing and Shoreham Heralds in the early 1960s.

He went on to host a daily show on BBC Radio Brighton in the 1970s – one of the very first phone-in radio shows – and later became senior producer for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. He was at the helm when they reported the death of John Lennon in 1980 and the great storm of 1987.

He also worked for the Daily Express and started the first western news bureau in Moscow after the end of the Cold War.

He had a troubled personal life, but he was an amazing journalist and a good uncle.

I had not seen Rod for many years, but he was the person who got me into journalism when I was just 17 years-old, by securing me an interview with the editor of my local newspaper. I have many happy memories of listening to off-the-record tapes of interviews he had with the likes of Denis Healey, Jim Callaghan, Jimmy Young, Norman Tebbit, Clive James and many others.

It took a further 10 years before I became a fully-fledged hack, but it was Rod who started me off.

He passed away yesterday aged 76. More about him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rod-pounsett-6551891b

I will write a more lengthy eulogy in my blog at the weekend.

This appeared on Hold The Front Page on 17 December: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2015/news/former-regional-reporter-and-post-cold-war-pioneer-dies-at-76/