Percy’s Post­bag

Percy Bick­erdyke

Evergreen - - Contents -


The first car­toon from the au­tumn is­sue was “Two Lovely Black Eyes” by mu­sic hall star Charles Coborn ( 1852- 1945), whose other well- known song was “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”. The sec­ond car­toon was “When I’m Clean­ing Win­dows”, one of Ge­orge Formby’s big­gest hits which the Forces in­vari­ably re­quested dur­ing his wartime con­certs. The song be­low should be easy to solve but the one op­po­site needs more thought.


Many of us re­mem­ber Con­stance ( above) singing “Rule, Bri­tan­nia!” for a record ten times at the Last Night of the Proms. As well as her clas­si­cal ca­reer, for six years she played the Mother Abbess in the Lon­don pro­duc­tion of The Sound of Mu­sic. Born in 1913 at Bul­well near Not­ting­ham, she died in 1999 and Trevor Lee in­forms me she has just been com­mem­o­rated with a blue plaque at Not­ting­ham’s The­atre Royal.


P. McGrath of Perth in Scot­land asked about John Ben­nett, the pop­u­lar Ul­ster Ra­dio pre­sen­ter of Sun­day Club, a late night mu­sic pro­gramme “de­signed to soothe away the prob­lems of the week gone by.” This fire­side pic­ture of him with an LP of Bing Crosby sums up his ap­peal to older lis­ten­ers but, like so many oth­ers across the BBC Lo­cal Ra­dio net­work, he is vul­ner­a­ble to fi­nan­cial cuts. Mean­time the BBC wastes vast sums on “stars” and so­cial en­gi­neer­ing for which it has no man­date from the lis­ten­ing pub­lic.


The lyrics to this hu­mor­ous but rare Ge­orge Formby song were re­quested by Tar­rance Butcher of With­ernsea in York­shire, and are avail­able on re­ceipt of a s. a. e. marked “Toolshed”.


This lit­tle gem de­lin­eat­ing the UK na­tions dropped on my desk re­cently:

The Scots keep the Sab­bath and any­thing else they can lay their hands on.

The Welsh pray to God and prey on their neigh­bours.

The Ir­ish aren’t cer­tain what they be­lieve in but will fight to the death to de­fend it.

The English con­sider them­selves “self- made men”, which must spare God a great deal of em­bar­rass­ment!


When a query oc­curs to which we can’t find the an­swer, we turn to an en­thu­si­as­tic band of Ever­green ex­perts who are al­ways keen to help. Mau­rice Rob­son, an oc­to­ge­nar­ian from Hal­i­fax, spe­cialises in mu­sic hall and solved an en­quiry from Hen­ning Hoff­man who lives in Mem­min­gen, Ger­many, con­cern­ing a song pos­si­bly called “’ Appy ’ Amp­stead ’ Eath” by Al­bert Che­va­lier ( 1861- 1923). Mau­rice says Al­bert may have per­formed a song with a sim­i­lar ti­tle but there is no cer­tainty and he never recorded it.


This mas­sive se­ries of mys­te­ri­ous tun­nels was fea­tured on Un­der­ground Bri­tain on Chan­nel 5 tele­vi­sion. Chris Iles sends me the mag­a­zine, The Mole, which charts the ex­ca­va­tion progress in this ver­i­ta­ble labyrinth. Vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion can be found at:

www. williamson­tun­ uk



Lewis from North­wich in Cheshire wrote in about Jimmy Leach ( 1905- 1975) with whom he served in the RAF. After con­sid­er­ing be­com­ing a den­tist, en­gi­neer and stock­bro­ker, Jimmy set­tled for mu­sic and was in the first en­sem­ble to broad­cast on Mu­sic While You Work in June 1940 ( see Ever­green, Spring 2004). Dur­ing its 27- year run on the BBC Light Pro­gramme, he ap­peared more than 250 times, and was also the last to ap­pear on the show as Jimmy Leach and his Organo­lians.

As a com­poser he wrote the hit song “The Lit­tle Boy that Santa Claus For­got” and his record, pic­tured left, was made for ENSA ( En­ter­tain­ments Na­tional Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion), nick­named by troops “Ev­ery Night Some­thing Aw­ful”.


Their 100th news­let­ter in­cluded a pic­ture of the blue plaque un­veiled at his prep school in Ox­ford ( be­low). John Betjeman was a lovely man who com­mu­ni­cated with the pub­lic far more than any poet lau­re­ate be­fore or since. You can con­tact the so­ci­ety at: news@ bet­je­manso­ci­ety. com ( news­let­ter) vi­talorg@ msn. com ( mem­ber­ship)


I com­mend Ex­plore Eng­land 2017 pub­lished by our sis­ter mag­a­zine, This Eng­land and, fol­low­ing a re­cent B& B hol­i­day with my wife at a con­verted rail­way sta­tion at Bell Busk on the Set­tle to Carlisle line in the York­shire Dales, in­vite you to write in or email about any­where un­usual in the UK where you have en­joyed stay­ing. You can also rec­om­mend en­joy­able places to visit for Ever­green’s Favourite Places ( see page 71).


How pleas­ing that blue plaques recog­nise places as well as peo­ple. The City Va­ri­eties Mu­sic Hall in Leeds dates from 1865 and is a rare sur­vivor of a Vic­to­rian en­ter­tain­ment genre which of­ten op­er­ated at sim­i­lar venues at­tached to large pub­lic houses, most now van­ished. Hou­dini per­formed here in 1902 and a splen­did new book doc­u­ments all his Bri­tish tours, show­man­ship and amaz­ing es­capol­ogy ( see “Book­shelf”, page 137).


Ian Reed, a for­mer BBC sound en­gi­neer, sent in th­ese pic­tures of Jack Hollinshead, prob­a­bly the old­est ac­tive BBC pen­sioner. For Jack’s 102nd birth­day, Ian and his wife

Joyce took him to a vin­tage record­ing stu­dio where he is seen us­ing a 1970s sound mix­ing sys­tem. Jack, who has lived all his life in Swin­ton, part of Sal­ford in Lan­cashire, worked for the BBC from 1930 un­til 1975 and was re­spon­si­ble for all kinds of sound ef­fects, in­clud­ing im­i­tat­ing Ro­many’s dog, Raq.

Al­ready en­gaged, dur­ing the war he was sud­denly posted to Egypt so he got mar­ried just be­fore he left and did not see his wife again for three years! A re­mark­able gen­tle­man.

The for­mer rail­way sta­tion at Bell Busk on the Set­tle to Carlisle line ( above), is now a pa­tri­otic B& B called Tu­dor House. The Tan Hill Inn ( right), lies in Arken­garth­dale, North York­shire and, at 1,732 feet above sea level is the high­est pub in the...

One of the larger Wil­liamson tun­nels un­der­neath Liver­pool.

An ex­pert on mu­sic hall, this is Mau­rice Rob­son’s im­pres­sive record­ing stu­dio in Hal­i­fax, York­shire.

Al­bert Che­va­lier

This car­toon rep­re­sents a pop­u­lar wartime song from 1915. Note the stripes on the sleeves of the un­for­tu­nate man on the right and you should get it.

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