My first TV appearance was in 1961 – as was my last TV appearance, but still a story worth the telling.
1961 was early in the history of national TV in the UK. The BBC was covering most of the country by 1955, but still with limited broadcasting hours, and it was in that same year that a group of commercial stations under the title ITV – an abbreviation of Independent TeleVision – had come into being to bring some competition to the established channel. At this time, all programmes were shown in glorious black and white – there was no colour broadcasting as yet, whereas conversely, the paying customer had been used to seeing colour in the cinema since The Wizard of Oz in 1939.
I grew up in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and the local ITV franchise was the Manchester-based Granada Television. This was set up to cover the Lancashire/Cheshire/North Wales areas, and took not only national ITV programmes, but was also tasked with creating its own output. One such drama series of its own making, was called Family Solicitor.
This was composed of 18 episodes, all made and broadcast in 1961, and starring Geoffrey Palmer, Philip Grout and Robert Flemyng – all well-known British character actors.
One of the 18 episodes was titled First Eleven Plus and this is the one in which I featured. I can only imagine the plot surrounding the new ‘young star’ in the show, a 14 year old by the name of Peter Noone, but this was an open door for a budding actor wanting a career on stage and screen. In Peter Noone’s case, it didn’t give him an instant career break – he followed this up with a couple of appearances in the Granada soap Coronation Street (yes, that one!), before really hitting the big time after forming the pop group Herman’s Hermits in 1962.
Over the next 9 years, this group, with Peter Noone as ‘Herman’, sold many millions of records, with 14 gold singles and 7 gold albums of unremittingly clean, feel good music. Who, of a certain age can fail to remember such songs as No Milk Today, I’m Into Something Good, There’s A Kind of Hush, and Mrs Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter*. Peter still performs, living in Australia, and still looks enviably young and fit.
Back to me, and First Eleven Plus. This episode featured Peter as the schoolboy who was also a cricketer. My school was chosen to host the cricket match in which he featured as a batsman, with the school first XI filling in as the fielding team. I was the wicket-keeper in the team, so had the pleasure and privilege of standing directly behind Peter, as the camera, positioned at silly mid off, was filming him batting. It rings a bell with me, that Peter, as the batsman, hit a cover drive which succeeded in striking the cameraman on his shin, which must have brought much pain and laughter. I remember little else about the filming.
The broadcast date was August 31 that year. This coincided with being on holiday in Trearddur Bay in Anglesey with my parents and brother. Those of you who know this part of the world, will know that you can’t really go any further west in North Wales, without falling in the sea. This geographical fact also means that it was just about at the full range of the Granada Television transmitter at Winter Hill, near Bolton. something over 100 miles as the crow flies.
We sat down to watch in the cafeteria of the caravan site where we were staying, and waited with bated breath as the titles rolled. This is where the 100 mile gap between transmitter and TV betrayed the technology. It was like watching a raging blizzard. Alas, there was no chance of making out much at all visually. There was sound, but I never did get to see my TV debut – nor was it repeated, and nor has the Granada Television archive been able to turn up a copy sitting on a shelf. What a shame – my TV debut and swansong consigned to the bin….it almost might never have happened. But I keep thinking that someone, somewhere, must have a copy.
We both went on to wildly different careers after that TV programme and are now both in our 70s, and, I hope, happy with our lot.
* Mrs Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter was written by the actor and songwriter, Trevor Peacock, best known to many TV viewers for playing Jim Trott in the BBC comedy series, The Vicar of Dibley.
A young Peter Noone , and
An older Trevor Peacock (as Jim Trott)
ADDENDUM – February 2021
I watched a programme on the late comedian Bob Monkhouse last week, and established that he was one of the first to import a recording machine from SONY around 1960, for the price of a small car. His intention was to record as many TV programmes as he could, at a time when nothing was recorded, and many broadcast shows were overwritten immediately after broadcast, to save on film usage.
When BM died, his entire collection was given to Kaleidoscope, otherwise known as TV Brain, an archive of British TV from 1936 onwards ( http://www.tvbrain.info ), specialising in lost footage. It’s well worth a trawl if you have time.
I enquired as to whether “my” TV programme was part of the archive – alas it isn’t, so another door closes on this one. I still firmly believe that there must be a copy somewhere…..