HUGHES, RICHARD JOSEPH (1906-84)
Richard Hughes was a respected and theatrical foreign correspondent who inspired fictional characters in books by John Le Carré and Ian Fleming, his employer as foreign editor of the Sunday Times. Under Fleming, Hughes had his biggest story, an interview with British spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess in 1956.
After working as a publicist for Victorian Railways, Hughes was employed as a journalist on the Star in 1934. Two years later, he went to Sydney to work on the Daily Telegraph. When the owner, (Sir) Frank Packer, launched the Sunday Telegraph in 1939, Hughes was appointed chief of staff.
Hughes’ interest in Asia led him to take leave and travel to Japan in 1940. He also visited China, until Packer insisted he return to Sydney. On the voyage home, he used a detailed diary to write stories for the Daily Telegraph. Later in 1941, he went to the United States as Packer’s representative, returning to Consolidated Press Ltd to join the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra. In 1942, following a satirical article about the Senate by Hughes, representatives of the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs were excluded from Parliament House for several months. The same year, Hughes published a book of mystery and crime stories, Dr Watson’s Casebook.
In 1943, he was appointed a war correspondent in North Africa. When Australian troops were recalled for the Pacific War, he travelled with the New Zealanders. He spent his last months in Cairo, where he contracted rheumatic fever and was repatriated to Australia.
When World War II ended, Hughes renewed his interest in overseas reporting, covering the Allied occupation of Japan. When Packer recalled him, he resigned. Back in Japan, he was appointed as manager of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo for a short time and worked as a freelancer for various newspapers. The Sunday Times put Hughes on staff in 1948, beginning his friendship with Fleming. He also reported the Korean War. Hughes was put on a retainer by Consolidated Press in 1953 before transferring to News Limited in the 1960s.
Hughes’ memoir, Hong Kong: Borrowed Place, Borrowed Time, was published in 1968; he also wrote The Chinese Communes (1960) and an autobiography, Foreign Devil: 30 Years of Reporting in the Far East (1972). Hughes moved to Hong Kong in 1971 to write about China for several publications, including the Far Eastern Economic Review. He was a popular figure in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and was appointed CBE in 1980.
REF: N. Macswan, The Man Who Read the East Wind (1982).