|Lieut.-Commander Henry Maldon Fitch O.B.E.|
Template:Error Template:Error0 December 1891 |
Lieut.-Commander Henry Maldon Fitch O.B.E., served as the BBC's Glasgow Station Director from 5 July 1927 until 1929, and from 1933 was Northern Regional Director in Manchester. He was widely viewed as an excellent adminstrator, although his ignorance of music was seen as a handicap to ever becoming a successor as Scottish Regional Director.
A native of Essex, Fitch was 12 years in the Royal Navy and, during the war, was secretary to Admiral Sir Ernest Troubridge. He served on several of the fronts and was in Serbia for a period of four years, taking part in the great Serbian retreat. He was invalided from Salonika on Armistice Day 1918 and came to Deeside for his health in 1920. It was remarked that the Deeside air must have been good for him, for he was able to take up work again in January 1925.
His wife was daughter of the Sheriff Principal Lorimer, KC, of Aberdeenshire.
Fitch joined 2BD on 19 January 1925 as a station assistant and announcer. A year later he became organiser of programmes. He was well known to young listeners in Aberdeen as 'Uncle Harry' of the Children's Corner.
The BBC's Northern Area Director, David Cleghorn Thomson, transferred Fitch to Glasgow on 17 February 1927 to take up the position of senior assistant to the station director. This was partly to relieve the burden on Thomson ahead of him taking on the additional responsibility of interim Glasgow station director. On 5 July 1927, Fitch was made the permanent station director.
Character and personality
Filson Young described Fitch as "a very good example of the calm, clear-seeing type of naval officer at his best".
Rex Kingsley remarked that after working with Fitch for a month "I knew why Britain rules the waves. The Royal Navy disciplines the mind — and the action follows suit without question." An instance of this was when Kingsley was on his way to the studio to announce an hour's gramophone records, he was called into Fitch's room for a chat. It left him one minute late for his programme. Afterwards, Fitch called him into a side-room, notoriously known to the staff as "the carpet":
Mr Fitch walked up and down for a bit, then wheeled round, "Kingsley, I suppose you know you were one minute late with your records this morning? What have you to say?" Dash it all, what could I say? No use saying I was in plenty of time before he held me up by his last-minute call. "I've no excuse," I replied, "but I'm terribly sorry about it." He looked at me sternly, "You may be imagining I was slightly to blame in calling you in as you were on your way. If so, you're quite wrong. Your duty is to the public. Even if you had been speaking to the King, it was your duty to excuse yourself in order to be on time for your job." Thereafter he laid into me good and hard.
However, half an hour later, Fitch popped his head round the door of Kingsley's room. "What about a game of golf this afternoon, Kingsley?" he asked. "I melted like a 'sider' in the sun," Kingsley later wrote. "If you pay attention to the bark of the British Lion you will never feel its teeth!"
Working relations with David Cleghorn Thomson
Fitch had a tempestous relationship with his boss David Cleghorn Thomson, though things had started well.
It was Thomson himself who had transferred Fitch from the Aberdeen Station on 17 February 1927. Thomson had not long been in the job as Northern Area Director when the Glasgow Station Director, George Marshall, moved to a similar role at Newscastle. Thomson temporarily took on the additional responsibility of Interim Station Director and Fitch was to be his deputy. Less than five months later, Fitch was installed as permanent Station Director at Glasgow from 5 July 1927.
Fitch was initially very loyal to Thomson. Following Filson Young's stirring, Fitch faithfully reported to Thomson how the visit took the form of an inquisition and that Young had made it clear that he had a low opinion of the Northern Area Director.
Thomson returned the compliment, giving a glowing report of Fitch to Head Office:
It was extremely interesting to me to watch how very quickly Fitch became persona grata with everybody on the staff. So far as I know he is liked by everyone, and he has run the routine of this Station with conspicuous success, maintaining close contact with the Engineers and handling enquiries from the public and the press with courtesy and success. I have every confidence that he will do very well indeed as Station Director, and that the friendly atmosphere here will be maintained under his control. I still think that Head Office under-estimates his ability on the artistic side of the programmes and thinks of him only as an administrator. I consider he has an exceedingly good sense of balance, and that he will be a good programme man, quite apart from organisation, although he professes no expert knowledge on music or the drama.
However, by the end of 1927, Fitch was complaining of Thomson's interference in programming matters, instructing him to broadcast programmes he did not wish to carry out.
Career after BBC Scotland
Thomson sacked Fitch in 1929 as part of the cuts forced by the BBC's policy of centralisation. His final salary was £800/annum.
In July 1929 it was announced that Fitch would be transferring to Plymouth as Station Director to replace Langham, who had resigned. In October 1932 he moved to Manchester to be assistant director at the North Regional Station and, following the transfer of Mr E. G. D. Liveing to London in 1933, Fitch took over as North Regional Director, in charge of an area stretching from the Scottish border to the Midlands. By 1937 he was listed as being the North Region Executive.
- Press and Journal, 17 February 1927, 5.
- Ariel, 19 January 1925, 33.
- Assistant Controller to Station Directors, 'Northern Area', 4 July 1927, BBC WAC R13/369/1.
- Rex Kingsley, I Saw Stars (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals, 1947), 33.
- 'Staff changes', Assistant Controller to Station Directors, 26 Feb 1927; BBC WAC R13/369/1.
- 'Northern Area', Assistant Controller to Station Directors, 4 Jul 1927, BBC WAC R13/369/1.
- Fitch to Northern Area Director, 7 December 1927, BBC WAC R13/369/1.
- Director General's report for Board of Governors Meeting, 10 July 1929, BBC WAC R1/65/1.
- 'Scottish Regional staff', Admin Exec to Assistant Controller, 4 July 1929, BBC WAC R49/571/2.
- Western Morning News, 30 March 1933, 5.
- Ariel, 19 January 1925, 33.