Bradford Telegraph & Argus 1948
From 'This is Bradford' site
darling of the radio
January 21, 1948
year of 1948 is usually associated with the Berlin Airlift, when America and
Britain beat the Communist blockade of West Berlin by flying in thousands of
tons of food, coal, medicine and clothing and other essentials.
least the first month or two of that year are special for Bradford for an
entirely different reason. A very great broadcaster, revolutionary in his own
Yorkshire way, was starring at the Alhambra with a young woman who went on to
become Britain's most popular comic actress.
broadcaster was Halifax-born Wilfred Pickles, whose travelling radio programme
for the BBC, Have a Go, regularly attracted a listening audience of 18 million
and upwards. The young woman was June Whitfield. He was Buttons and she was
Cinderella in Francis Laidler's marvellous pantomime which bridged Christmas
1947 and the New Year. The panto was broadcast on the BBC Home Service on
January 21, 1948.
the Michael Parkinson of his day, was revolutionary because he refused to
disguise his distinctive Yorkshire accent. He fought successfully against
attempts within the BBC hierarchy to use the bland Received Pronunciation which
broadcasters were expected to use.
has been a gradual standardisation of spoken English. Too many Northerners,
I'm afraid, are ashamed of speaking the language their forefathers
spoke," he said.
1948 Pickles read Shakespeare's sonnets in his own voice on the radio. The
public loved it, and they loved him and his wife Mabel for taking 'Have a Go' out
into villages, towns, and cities beyond London to "let the people meet the
people". Have a Go was first broadcast from Bingley on March 4, 1946. It
was a cheerful neighbourly sort of programme, a precursor of Down Your Way,
exactly suited to Wilfred Pickles' personality. He made people laugh by asking
fan mail was colossal, more than 1,000 letters a week. He employed three
secretaries to deal with it, and ordered signed photographs of himself 10,000 at
a time. He thrived on getting out and about.
were regular venues for his radio show. At 2.15pm on Christmas Day, 1947,
dressed up as Santa Claus and accompanied by June Whitfield and other members of
the Cinderella cast, he broadcast a special show for the Light Programme direct
from Bradford Children's Hospital, Manningham.
Yorkshire Observer reported: "While the millions who heard little Harvey
Matthews, aged 11, of Torre Crescent, Bradford, sing from his bed the second
verse of Away in a Manger, and the third verse by eight-year-old Jean Scotcher,
of 8 Bowling Alley Terrace, Rastrick, accompanied by Jack Harvey's Orchestra,
must have immediately understood the whole spirit of Wilfred's party."
pantomime stars in their stage costumes brought gasps of surprise and pleasure
from the children. But there was more, a link from the hospital to Walt Disney
in Hollywood, who persuaded Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse to send their Christmas
greetings to that hospital in Bradford.
was Wilfred Pickles all over. The loss of his son at the age of seven had the
effect of making him go out of his way to do something for children.
Freddie Trueman, Wilfred Pickles was an unapologetic
Yorkshireman. Pride in his roots, however, did not make him small-minded or
career was multi-faceted. One newspaper described him as "a superb actor of
He brought cheer, fellowship and a bit of silliness to the nation during the years of rationing after the war
This page was last updated 11th October 2020