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  • 5 years later...

John Charles Walsham Reith, 1889-1971 (from 1940 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven)


The previous post was about John Logie Baird, the pioneer of television. This is about “the other John” in Baird’s story, John Reith, who hated the very idea of television and was no supporter of Baird’s efforts.

2022 is the centenary of the BBC (incorporated 18 October 1922).

Many (most?) think Reith created the BBC. He didn’t.

Or did he? :unsure:

The BBC was actually set up as a commercial business by a consortium of six companies (five British engineering and telecommunication companies and one American company, Western Electric) who then advertised a vacancy for Managing Director.

Reith applied for and got the job in December 1922.

Reith was a “big” man both physically (6’6” tall) and in his forceful personality (domineering, intimidating, scary :o) and he imprinted his views, beliefs and values into the DNA of the BBC to such a degree that he created what it was to become for the next 50 odd years, arguably until his death in 1971.

But was John Reith always intimidating and scary?


For ten years from 1912, throughout WWI and until 1922 (a few months before he got the BBC job), Reith had a passionate, emotional and physical love for Charlie Bowser, a 15 year old boy who lived nearby when Reith (then aged 22) first met him in Glasgow. After the war ended Reith and Charlie moved into a house and lived together and Reith records in his diary that they sometimes slept in the same bed .

Then a curious ménage à trois developed after Reith met Muriel Oldhams, continuing after Reith’s marriage to Muriel in 1921. Less than a year later in 1922, when Charlie married Maysie Henderson (Reith had actually introduced them and encouraged the match) Reith was devastated to receive a letter from Charlie ending their relationship (probably egged on by a resentful  Maysie).

It seems Reith never got over his lost love for Charlie. Every year, for the rest of his life, he recorded Charlie’s birthday in his personal diary.

There’s obviously a lot more to the man’s story than this, but these aspects of his life are probably not well known.

A more detailed account of Reith’s love affair with Charlie is described in the following two BBC webpages (in date order):



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5 hours ago, Zombie said:

Reith was a “big” man both physically (6’6” tall) and in his forceful personality (domineering, intimidating, scary :o)

When I saw that you posted the photo of the man in the gallery I wondered, "Is this Zombie?" :unsure: And if it is, "He looks rather intense." :o

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