Have A Go

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‘Have A Go’ At Tintagel by David Flower

Wilfred Pickles & Mabel at Hurley, Warwks                                                     (Photo on right kindly sent by Jim Glendinning
                                                            of 'Have A Go' at Hurley, Warwks, 1956?)

During the years 1946 to 1967, a travelling quiz series with Wilfred Pickles as its host, travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain. In fact over 400,000 miles were travelled over its lifetime and when the show finished there were still invitations from more than 1,500 venues. The BBC, in it’s infinite wisdom in 1967, felt the programme had "run out of steam", and it finished even though it was still very popular. It was one of the most popular radio shows ever and regularly attracted audiences of over 20 million each week. 
The public liked the programme and warmed to it as a celebration of ordinary folk, who were encouraged to tell heart-warming stories and share their experiences. Wilfred’s wife, Mabel, gave out the prize money, and the programme was introduced "with Mabel at the table". Violet Carson, (Ena Sharples, of Coronation Street fame), played the piano on the show. Barney Colehan, was its producer and after Mabel retired, he was known for the famous saying " Give ‘em the money Barney!" The prize money started at 2/6d, then 5/-d, 10/6d and the big win was £1/1/0d (a guinea). In those days all the programmes were broadcast live from each venue but mishaps were few!.                                                                
On Wednesday October 14th 1959, Have-A-Go visited Tintagel and at 7.30pm on that evening the programme was broadcast live from King Arthur’s Hall. Before the programme began Mabel asked the audience to sing ‘ Happy Birthday To You’ to Wilfred Pickles as it was his birthday on that very day. Local people appearing on the show were William Boney, Alan Menhennick, Gwen Edwards, Tommy Knight and Mary Symons. I chatted to Mary Bartlett (Symons), a few years ago, and she told me what a wonderful evening it was. Wilfred Pickles was a charming host and put the contestants at ease before and during the programme. She said to him to him before the broadcast ‘I am very nervous’ and he replied ‘Not as much as I am!". I had hoped to have a longer talk with Mary but she has sadly died but I do know how pleased she would be to see at last I have written an article about the long forgotten programme. She told me the question that she failed on was a musical one played by Violet Carson and whilst she knew the answer, on the night she gave the wrong one, "The Lady of Shallot".

The audience consisted of about 100 local people and there has been a long standing view that a recording of the programme was made. Gwen Edwards, another of the contestants said she answered the first question correctly, "Which Is the Highest, Brown Willy or Roughtor" , "Brown Willy", she replied and won 2/6d!. Gwen said she failed on the next question so didn’t go on to win the large prize, in those far off times, of one guinea!. At that time you had to make your own way to the studio and Gwen travelled from Seaview Farm, Trewarmett, by car and walked back home afterwards!. Producer Barney Colehan first called on Gwen at home to ask her to take part in the show and he caught her plucking chickens!. When Wilfred and his wife Mabel called on the Friday before the broadcast, she was again caught plucking chicken’s, feathers everywhere!.

The whole team stayed at the Wharncliffe Hotel, Tintagel, and Tommy Knight, who was the head chef at that time, told me that Wilfred was an awkward customer who liked his whiskey, and that he baked him a 4’ long Cornish Pasty. At the end of the broadcast in King Arthur’s Hall, Tommy walked up to the stage carrying the large pasty and stumbled badly on the stairs. However, willing hands saved him, and the pasty, from utter disaster. Later the pasty was taken to the East Cornwall Hospital, Bodmin to be eaten by the patients. Wilfred was also presented with a ‘Fireside Companion’ in the shape of a Knight of the Round Table by Mrs Harry Bray, the wife of the then Chairman of the Camelford District Council.

Wilfred Pickles and his team made a visit to the local Tintagel Primary School and conducted a ‘Have Go’ with the schoolchildren, with cash prizes!. Les Baker, acted as a chauffeur for the whole team taking them where or where they wanted to go. I didn’t ask him if they gave a good tip at the end of the engagement, because whilst the visit was much enjoyed the BBC were apparently very tight with their money!.

During my conversation with Gwen Edwards, I thought I would ask her about the whereabouts of the recording which has been mentioned so many times since 1959. She immediately said she knew who made the recording and she was told at the time that she could go and hear it but never did. Ronnie Youlton was the man with the cumbersome reel to reel recorders of those days and my investigation stopped at Mrs Margaret Youlton, Ron’s widow. She kindly made the tape available to me and this has now been copied to the modern DVD. So at last Gwen heard that recording from the 50s, the days when Tintagel "Had a Go".

Give ‘em the Money Barney!"


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