Press & media

Whitehorn, Katharine (4 of 7).  Oral History of the British Press

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  • Subjects

    journalists; broadcasters

  • Recording date

    2009-02-12, 2009-03-03, 2009-03-20

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Whitehorn, Katharine, 1928- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: In 1953 KW went to Finland for the British Council. Finland had been cut off from the West during the War. She had to run the club in Mikkeli and give lessons in English. It was difficult at first because the Fins were shy, but eventually she really enjoyed it because she was running her own project. She liked skiing and made friends. Story of Christmas Eve. [5:57] Influence of Jack Gallagher on her life and his telepathy while she was in Finland. She has come across other examples of telepathy which she remembers. The scientists haven’t yet caught up with the brain in this matter. [10:23] Finland was a springboard for her and she found herself. It was being thrown into a different world. She wanted to go to America which everyone wanted to do then, and got a travel grant to go to Cornell University to study American literature, half studying and half teaching. American English is not the same as English English. They were six post graduate girls living together and they became very close. KW was a lousy cook but learnt. She dedicated her later cooking book to them. She is still in touch with them. [18:37] Britain was still in austerity, Finland was even worse, so to come to America where they had supermarkets and fantastic clothes and beautiful cars was heaven. She also found Colin Leys who she thought she would marry at the time. She had a ludicrous trip to Mexico with Carlton Smith. He sounded as if he was the Arts Council, which opened all sorts of doors. She went with Colin down to the South and found it marvellous. In 1954, no-one knew America as they do now from photos and films and TV. It is hard now to imagine the impact of Manhattan and the situation in the South in 1954. Story of being rescued by an African/American. KW has a base in New York with friends. With Colin she took the car to Chicago. They took illegal jobs. Story. Colin went home first while KW got another job and can balance a tray on one hand. She would ride horses, which she did badly but enjoyed. She came back via Washington seeing all the ideals of democracy. [33:33] In Aspen Colorado KW had decided that she wanted to be a journalist. She arrived back in the UK and was staying with her parents. Colin sent her a letter saying that he was going to marry a Danish girl. KW was devastated at the time. Now she realises that this was the time when she found herself in her writing and she found Gavin, both of which are central to everything she has done. [36:24] She was very fond of Jack Gallagher but never fell in love with him. The Picture Post years were wonderful, the life she was made for. She had taught for a term to get some money. She shared a flat with Sheila Gibson, who was a brilliant architect. Edward Behr came into her life. Story. [41:11] The relationship between photographers and journalists was crucial at PP, they were working as a team and captions or articles and pictures were equally important. Bert Hardy used KW as the model in a series about people being lonely in the city. One of these photos has followed her round and she has appeared on posters. KW can write articles and blurbs or captions. She doesn’t really know how she learnt her trade. PP was owned by Hulton Press. Lionel Birch went off with the only other woman from there. Klaus and Willi kept on countermanding each other. Trevor Philpott held the whole thing together. KW likes an unsettled life and you never knew what assignment you would be sent out on. [48:37] KW and Gavin (Lyall) knew that PP was folding, as indeed it was. KW called it off with Edward. Memories of the unfolding situation with Gavin. They went abroad, and Gavin went first as he had not really had any experience kicking around overseas. They arranged to meet by the whale in the Monte Carlo museum. KW received a profound letter from Edward, but did get to Monte Carlo. [57:37] KW and Gavin worked their way through Italy. Story of the marble mine. They spent time in Florence where they realised they were growing in love. It was just lovely. After Rome they got to Naples and Pompei. Athens was so different, wonderful after the money grabbing Italians. They chose an island with absolutely nothing touristy on it. Everything came right. [1:03:15] Gavin was tall and handsome and funny. He had ideals and morals. This complexity informed his writing. He could draw and did cartoons. He would stop and think before making decisions, more than KW. He wanted KW to be good at her career, and having a conscience. They were both made with the same tools, left wing non conformists with a belief in the importance of education. Her parents, Jack and Gavin all required her to achieve something with her life.

  • Description

    Life story interview with journalist and broadcaster Katharine Whitehorn

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