Dublin lady Audrey Russell became the BBC’s first female news reporter and the first woman to be accredited as a war correspondent
The story of how Dublin girl Audrey Russell went from ‘Actress’ to internationally known ‘Reporter’ is one that happened by chance, brought about by a world at war.
Born in Dublin on the 29th of June 1906 (Muriel) Audrey Russell was the only child of John Strangman Russell of Dublin, director of the family woollen mill, and his wife Muriel Metcalfe. Muriel was actually a sister of E. Dudley (Fruity) Metcalfe, a very close friend of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and duke of Windsor, who gave up his throne to marry Mrs Simpson. (Fruity himself was married to ‘Baba’ Curzon, a daughter of George Curzon, the Viceroy of India.)
The 1901 census finds Audrey, then aged 4, residing with her parents on Raglan Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
From an Anglo-Irish, Church of Ireland background, Audrey’s parents were part of Dublin society, and her father led the life of a country gentleman. Hence Audrey was educated at home by governesses, and later at Southlands, a private boarding-school in Harrow, England; before going to a finishing school at the Villa St Georges in Neuilly, Paris.
Returning in London, Audrey trained as an actress for six months at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and then worked for several years as a ‘theatre dogsbody’, preparing stage meals, understudying, and taking walk-on parts. She was assistant stage manager for Rodney Ackland’s play ‘After October’, which ran for a year in 1936, and then became stage manager for the Group Theatre, an avant-garde theatre club at the Westminster Theatre.