News / Asia

Foreign Correspondents Celebrate 100th Birthday of Reporting Legend

Clare Hollingworth observes the tributes being made to her at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong, October 10, 2011.
Clare Hollingworth observes the tributes being made to her at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong, October 10, 2011.

October 10th, 1911 marked the outbreak of the Chinese revolution. It also was the birthdate of a remarkable British woman, Clare Hollingworth, who would become one of the most prominent correspondents in the latter part of her life in Beijing and Hong Kong. On Monday evening, in the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong, she celebrated her 100th birthday.

Foreign Correspondents' Club

Clare Hollingworth sat impassively as the president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong, Anna Healy Fenton, raised a glass to mark the birthday of the club's oldest member:

"Very best wishes to Clare for reaching her century. Hip hip, hooray..."

Clare Hollingworth on the cover of the FCC's magazine in honor of her 100th birthday.
Clare Hollingworth on the cover of the FCC's magazine in honor of her 100th birthday.

Most of Hollingworth's colleagues toasting her 100th birthday were not even born when she achieved her first and most famous scoop. Despite being under Gestapo surveillance for her work aiding refugees, she risked entering Nazi Germany and spotted tanks rolling towards Poland, marking the start of the World War II.

Fearless

Time and again, Hollingworth took enormous risks to witness and report history for British newspapers during the African and Middle East campaigns of World War II, as well as latter conflicts in Algeria, Vietnam and elsewhere.

She survived the 1946 terrorists' bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.  

Her legendary fearlessness is no exaggeration says Patrick Garrett, who is finishing a biography about his great aunt.

"All the correspondents who I've interviewed and whose contemporary accounts of her on the front lines I've read that seems to be totally true. Clare is just one of these people who just isn't concerned by shot and shell."

Clare Hollingworth in her youth
Clare Hollingworth in her youth

Garrett notes that whenever British intelligence officers defected to the Soviet Union, Hollingworth seemed to be the first to report that as well.

"So she's got quite a track record in the world of espionage," he said. "And I've uncovered a few other interesting connections which I'll save for the book. But there are some surprising connections that certainly had me asking questions." 

She became one of the first western journalists to be accredited in Beijing after the Cultural Revolution and has lived in Hong Kong for the past 30 years.

Party

Perhaps after such a thrilling career it came as little surprise that Hollingworth professed to be underwhelmed at her birthday party.

"Not very exciting," she said, "I hope I behave."

That she did despite some imbibing of a bit of beer and champagne.

When asked by VOA News what she wanted most for her birthday,

"A dictionary...I've lost mine," she replied.

There is a good reason for that request. Hollingworth has never been hesitant to confess that despite all of her other skills as a journalist, she has never been a very good speller.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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