Friday 24 May 2024

Westward Television's Roger Shaw


I read today in Plymouth's Herald newspaper online that Roger Shaw had died (24.5.24). Back in January 1968, we returned to England  after spending three lovely years in Singapore where my dad was serving in the navy.

British tv was new to me then. I remembered shows from the early 1960s such as Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben, Fireball XL5 etc before we left for Singapore and were fed an array of wonderful American programmes such as The Time Tunnel, Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Batman, The Monkees and wonderfully coloured comedy and dramas.

When we returned to England, we lived for a year at Healy Place opposite the dockyard in Devonport. I loved living there exploring the cobbled streets, building dens in Devonport Park, playing in the streets at night and generally exploring the area in the evening. The area wasn't tame however. I remember my brother getting punched full in the face by drinkers (he was 11 years old) while dressed up for penny for the guy. Another time, we were attacked by a group of lads with a machete knife. Amazingly, no-one thought to call the police. Lots happened but no-one thought anything of it.

We played in the streets, fought mock wars, threw fireworks about, made toy radios, played in parks, searched for birds eggs, collected butterflies, built dens and go-karts, dressed as cowboys, batman and commandos.

We swopped bubblegum cards, played with cereal boxes and toys and visited anywhere we could.

Kids stayed away from the police and had little to do with them if possible. They patrolled the streets on foot, looking for any minor misdemeanour. I remember getting told off for crossing the road without looking (there was no traffic) before being marched off back home and told off again!

The television programmes I remember were Westward Television with all their presenters including Roger Shaw, Stuart Hutchison, Lawrie Quayle, Kenneth MacLeod and others I've long forgotten. Doctor Who was on also featuring Patrick Troughton being chased by yetis somewhere in Wales. I loved it!

Roger Shaw was listed in the paper yesterday under his real name, Roger Ollerearnshaw. He'd died on Saturday 18th May 2024 aged 92. I liked all the Westward television presenters but I particularly remembered Roger because he read out my 7th birthday during the Gus Honeybun Show in August 1968.

The last time that I saw Roger, he was sitting in his car with his wife in the car park at Lambhay Hill. It was probably a long time ago now, many years anyway!

Hope to update my blog from time to time (does anyone still read it?) and add any new bits and pieces occasionally.

I promise to edit this better soon.

Saturday 12 August 2023

The Obelisk at Mount Edgcumbe

There is a story that the Obelisk was erected to celebrate the life of the Countess of Mount Edgcumbe's pet pig, Cupid. However, other sources say that the Obelisk was erected, in its current position, by Timothy Brett in 1770 in honour of his friend, George, the 3rd Baron of Edgcumbe. Brett was a former Commissioner of the Navy. The Obelisk was originally sited where the Folly now stands. The 50 ft monument has been used as a navigational point by various shipping in the Sound over the years. Cupid the pig was said to have been buried in a gold casket beneath the obelisk when he died in 1768. In the book, 'Animals Graves and Memorials' by Jan Toms (Shire Publications 2006), it says that when the obelisk was moved to its present position, in 1770, nothing was found. However, the date of 1770 may be misleading as the obelisk appears in its present position on shipping maps as early as 1768. As this was the year that Cupid died, it might be reasonable to assume that he is buried beneath the obelisk in its present position. It is known that Fern Dell once contained an urn that commemorated Cupid but this has since disappeared. However, it is also recorded that Cupid was buried at Fern Dell and this was noted by George III and Queen Charlotte. The dates prove confusing. For instance, the Folly was said to be erected on the spot where the Obelisk originally stood. However, the folly was erected in 1747 so how could Cupid have died and been buried beneath the obelisk, in its original position, in 1768? Research shows that the obelisk in its original position had already collapsed when the work to build the folly got underway. Cupid led a charmed life eating at the dinner table of the Edgcumbes and even accompanying the Countess, Emma Gilbert, on trips to London. The Edgcumbes love of their pets can be seen at Fern Dell where many of them are buried. When a later Countess of Mount Edgcumbe, Caroline Georgia, died in 1909, she requested that a fountain be erected near the shore at Cremyll which bore the inscription, 'For the Doggies'. In ' A Complete Parochial History of the County', published in 1870, it states, 'In the Cypress Grove is a monument to the memory of Timothy Brett Esq, one of the commissioners of the Navy, who, about the year 1770 erected the obelisk on the knoll near Cremyll as a memorial for his regard of his friend, George, the 3rd Baron of Edgcumbe.' At the time, George was still alive and serving in the Royal Navy. During 1770, he was promoted to Vice Admiral and was appointed Vice Treasurer of Ireland. Today, the obelisk is almost hidden away on a hill behind the Mount Edgcumbe Arms. There is no plaque on the monument to say who it is dedicated to and it's probably seen better days. It's hard to imagine now that it once stood where the folly stands. To add to the confusion, the date, '1st July,1867', has been carved into the base of the obelisk. Beside the date is the name, 'R F Crowther'. This mystery has, however, since been solved. Richard Crowther was in training during the 1860s on the boy's training ship, 'HMS Impregnable' which was moored off Cremyll. One day, Richard wandered towards the obelisk from the training ship armed with a hammer and chisel and left the inscription and date. He was born in 1853 so would have been 14 years old in 1867 when he left his mark. Cupid's remains may or may not be buried beneath the Obelisk but please don't go looking for them!
There is more information about the history of the Mount Edgcumbe estate in my book here:

Thursday 21 October 2021

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle assisted at a medical practice at Durnford Street and Sherlock Holmes was said to be based on his colleague, Dr Budd.Conan Doyle achieved the titles of Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in 1881 and had studied with George Turnavine Budd at Edinburgh. When Budd opened a practice in Durnford Street in 1882, he asked Conan Doyle to join him. The partnership didn't last long. Although Budd and Conan Doyle were friends, Conan Doyle found his partner over prescribed drugs for his patients, for which he charged them, and was unorthodox in the extreme. He wrote and told his mother, Mary, about Budd's ways. She had never been an admirer of his. After two months, the partnership was dissolved because Budd said that it was short of both finances and patients. Conan Doyle discovered later that Budd had found one of his letters to his mother and the real reason for the break up of the partnership was that he had been upset by what he had read.
Conan Doyle left and set up a practice in Southsea with just £10 to his name. At first, it wasn't very successful and, while he was waiting for patients, he wrote his first story featuring Sherlock Holmes, 'A Study in Scarlet.'
Conan Doyle died on the 7th July 1930 (aged 71). Today, passages from his works featuring Sherlock Holmes can be found on brass plaques set into the pavement at Durnford Street.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Plymouth Sound

Nowadays, with endless television and radio stations, it's hard to imagine the excitement when Plymouth got its own radio station. At the time, the main stations were all broadcast by the BBC.
Almost 40 years ago, Plymouth Sound was launched and it soon had a huge following. The station was based in a former organ factory at Earl's Acre off Alma Road in Pennycomequick and was launched on 19th May 1975. The first song broadcast was Cat Stevens' Morning Has Broken.
Andrew Knight, who was aged nine at the time, won a competition to be the first voice heard on the new station. With prompting from station controller, David Bassett, Andrew went live on air at 6am on the morning of Monday 19th May.

Popular presenters at the time included Ian Calvert, Louise Churchill, Carmella McKenzie, Brian Measures, Peter Greig and David Bassett. There were many more in later years.
I was thirteen and at school at the time when the station opened. It's hard to believe now but there was a big thing about how to find the station and how to tune into it (much the same as there was when Channel 4 was launched). There was a show at the Guildhall to find out more about the station and to meet some of the people behind it.

Me and a school friend went along in the hope there would be some free records (we didn't get any). Like everyone else, we came away with souvenirs such as free car stickers and mugs. It seemed a big thing at the time.
Everyone at school listened to the station and by far the most popular presenter was Ian Calvert whose evening show was broadcast just at the time when we were all doing our homework. In between records, Ian talked about his girlfriend, his dogs, his horses and anything else that was going on at the time. I remember him being the first DJ to play David Soul's single when it first came out and also remember he'd sent a tape to Radio One of his show. There were nightly phone-in competitions and the prize was inevitably 6 singles. I'd recognise some of the kids from my class entering the competitions (I won a few) and once we'd collected our prize singles from the station, we'd take them to school and try and swap them. They were always by artists you had never heard of and were, mostly, terrible but the fun was just in winning them.

David Bassett broadcast a talk show at 10am every morning and would have conversations about topical subjects or just anything anyone wanted to talk about. Some of the people who phoned in were unintentionally hilarious which made the show even more entertaining. In the summer holidays, most of the kids at school listened to it and many of them also took part.
Brian Measures hosted an easy listening show in the evening which attracted a large audience. I won a Frank Sinatra LP on his show and my mum went to collect it. While she was waiting at the reception, she said that there was a bloke beside her who didn't stop nattering on and telling jokes. She thought that he was just there to collect a prize but it turned out to be Frank Carson!
Adverts needing an American sounding voice-over were done by my old guitar teacher, Pete Martin (he was actually Canadian). I wonder what happened to him?

The DJs were very popular at the time and I remember Ian Calvert bringing a football team to our school in the 1970s to play the teachers. Our teachers were hopeless (even the sports ones) so they inevitably lost!
The station was a big thing in the 1970s and 1980s and was eventually re-branded Heart Plymouth in 2009 before being amalgamated into Heart Devon in 2010. For me, the best time to listen to it was in the 1970s when it all seemed so new and there were few other radio stations about. As the station grew older, there was suddenly a huge choice of other stations to listen to. By then, I'd moved on to the crackly fading broadcasts of Radio Luxembourg!
Like Westward Television, there seems something very nostalgic about the early days of Plymouth Sound. Today, we're overloaded with stations, many of which are listened to on the internet. Somehow, it just doesn't seem to be the same and a lot of the appeal of the smaller radio stations, where we felt that we knew all the presenters, seems to have been lost over the years.

Thursday 30 April 2015

The ABC advertising hoarding at West Park

I noticed today that the billboard hoarding, on the side of the Peter Goord building, at West Park, has been taken down. Underneath has been revealed an old advert for the ABC Cinema. It's obviously quite old and wasn't there in my lifetime so I'm guessing that it dates from the 1950s or early 1960s.
Unlike modern bill posters, it has been painted onto the side of the building. I think there's more of it but this has been covered with modern spar dash probably some time in the 1970s.

I don't suppose it will be too long before it's covered up and disppears for another fifty years so if you want to see it and take a photo, now's the time.
Footnote: I contacted the Herald about the advertisement and they've written a piece about it here:

Monday 20 April 2015

Films shot in and around Plymouth

After my article appeared in the Shopper, a couple of months ago, about David Soul filming in Plymouth, several people wrote to me about other films that had been made in the area.

In the 1940s, 'The Way We Live' was shot in the city. It was directed by Jill Craigie who later married Michael Foot, whom she'd met while making the film.
It told the tale of Alice Copperwheat and her family, whose house had been destroyed in the blitz and who were then billeted to Horrabridge before becoming the owners of a brand new pre-fab in the city. There are various interesting scenes showing Plymouth as it was in 1945. Patsy Scantlebury, who lived in St Budeaux, was chosen for the role of Alice after being seen on Plymouth Hoe jitterbugging with an American sailor. At the time, she was just 17. She had previously worked in a post office. Patsy went on to sign a seven year contract with the J Arthur Rank Organization and appeared as an air hostess in the film 'Blind Goddess' as Patsy Drake (her stage name).

John Tozer wrote and asked if I remembered anything about the film 'The Uncle,' part of which was shot at Whitleigh. The film starred Rupert Davies who was very popular during the 1960s for his role as the tv detective 'Maigret.'
John wrote: 'The camera crew stopped outside where we lived and soon drove off toward Aylesbury Crescent with me and two pals cycling behind the car waving our hands! They then filmed an indoor scene in a house on Taunton Avenue, opposite the west end of Aylesbury Crescent.'
The Uncle was made in 1965 and Davies played David Morton, the father of a boy, Gus, played by Robert Duncan. The story concerned the boy's life over one summer. Like many films made in Plymouth, it hasn't been shown much over the years and many people probably won't have heard of it.
In the late 1970s, Tatum O'Neal was in the area shooting 'International Velvet' which also starred Christopher Plummer and Anthony Hopkins. Several of the scenes were shot on the beach at Mothecombe. Tatum was interviewed by Westward Television several times and other scenes for the film were also shot at Newton Abbot racecourse. The movie received mixed reviews.

Also in the late 1970s, Force 10 From Navarone, starring Harrison Ford, Robert Shaw and Edward Fox, was partly shot in the dockyard. Ford was just finding fame at the time as Han Solo in Star Wars.
In 1982, the film 'Remembrance' was released. It featured the story of a group of Royal Naval ratings based at Devonport and their exploits in Plymouth before setting sail for America.

Much of the film was shot in Union Street and featured Timothy Spall, Gary Oldman and John Altman as well as many other stars who have since become far more famous. Timothy Spall recently returned to the area to shoot 'Mr Turner' which was partly filmed at Kingsand.
Remembrance was shown on Channel 4 soon after but, again, hasn't been shown much since. It's good to watch it just to see how Union Street once looked and how it's all changed over the years.

In 1985, Goldcrest advertised in the local papers for extras to appear in their film 'Revolution' which was shot mainly at Burrator and starred Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, Nastassja Kinski and a host of other well-known stars. I went to the auditions at Ballard House but didn't get a part. If I remember rightly, they were paying £20 a day which seemed a lot back then. Even with a huge budget and many big names, the film was again a flop but can be seen regularly on one of the Freeview channels.
In 1994, 'Sense and Sensibility' was shot at Saltram and starred Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant in a lavish period drama.

'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997), starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, featured action shot, again, in Devonport Dockyard as well as scenes filmed on several naval ships.
In 2009, 'Alice in Wonderland' was shot partly at Antony House and starred Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway and was directed by Tim Burton. A follow up is to be released shortly. Many local people appeared in the background.
There have been many more movies shot in the area over the years such as 'War Horse,' 'We Bought a Zoo' etc and many people in Plymouth will have fond memories of appearing in them as extras.
Of course, there have also been endless tv shows shot in the area and these include Doctor Who, Hornblower, Casualty and, more recently across the Tamar, Poldark. Perhaps people reading this blog have appeared in one of the many productions mentioned? It would be good to feature their memories in a later post.
Update: Richenda kindly wrote to me with her memories of appearing in 'The Uncle:'
Dear Derek
A friend drew my attention to your article on films shot in and around Plymouth in The Shopper.
I was an 'extra' for a day for The Uncle. I was one of at least six teenage girls who had to run across the beach at Tinside. I think involved a lot of waiting around and a few takes until the camera man was happy with the shots. We were each paid £1 for the day. I was about 14 or 15 years old at the time and I seem to remember that the film wasn't put out on general release at the time. Was it a bit controversial?  I did see the film many years later and only our legs were in shot. Very disappointing and difficult to spot my own legs as they dashed across the screen.
There must have been a lot more of a beach at Tinside in those days. Summers were also different. We all had season tickets to the round swimming pool and swam from March to October. We spent most of our summer holidays on the seafront and were joined by large numbers of French students who came and went for two weeks at a time. We helped them with their English speaking.
Best wishes,
Richenda .
As from July 2015, The Uncle will be available on DVD. Here it is on Amazon:

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Inclement weather

Long before global warming was ever mentioned, Plymouth was being hit by inclement weather.
In the great storm of January 1814, the snowfall in Plymouth fell to a depth of twenty inches in just six hours. The snow lasted for six weeks.
During the great blizzard of March 1891, the people of Plymouth had a rare opportunity for skating when the Chelson Meadows flooded and froze over. Water supplies to the city were halted as underground pipes froze.
The photos shown here show a flood in Tamerton Foliot in November 1929. The heavy rains flooded much of Devon and Cornwall during the month and the story of Tamerton Foliot was reported in the Western Morning News of Friday 29th November 1929. It read:
'Waters invaded Tamerton Foliot yesterday and entered many of the cottages, the occupants of which had to move their furniture to drier quarters.
The river, which has swollen to a lake, is partially restrained from the flooded main road by a high wall, and on the stream side it is said that the water is about six feet deep. Planks span the gardens as improvised bridges.

The general traffic to and from the village is diverted to another road but several cars came to grief yesterday on the flooded main road.'

By Monday 2nd November 1929, the Western Morning News was reporting the ongoing plight of Plymouth residents under the headline 'Beleaguered by Floods.' The story read:
'A serious situation faces some of the residents in the Laira district of Plymouth as a result of the floods. They have been besieged in their upper rooms and have had to be conveyed to and fro in a large boat requisitioned for the purpose. Provisions and newspapers were brought to them by the same means. Today, two large lorries provided by the corporation will replace the boat.
Throughout yesterday, pumping operations were carried out by the fire engine.
The rainfall, which has caused so much flooding to the Westcountry during November, has broken all previous records. In the Plymouth area, the fall has been the heaviest since 1914.
In the lower part of Stenlake Terrace, Prince Rock, during the floods, the local postman carried out his duties wheeled in a bath-chair. Thanks to fine spells experienced this weekend, the floods have subsided in most districts.'

After the heavy rain, serious gales hit the area during December bringing down trees and causing much disruption.

On a brighter note, during the previous summer, in July 1928, Plymouth was enjoying a heatwave, which can be seen in the final photo, shown here, of two girls, complete with drinks and a parasol. There was much written in the newspapers about the warm, hot summer of 1928 including this article from the Western Morning News of 20th July:
'In Plymouth, the weather was brilliant. Bathing was popular among holidaymakers. The scene from the Hoe could not have been equalled. In the blue distance could be seen the white-sailed yachts drifting on a sapphire sea. The maximum temperature for the day was 75 degrees comparing favourable with the 80 degrees in the shade in London.'
Fashion also got a mention in the article:
'Noticeable this year at south-western seaside resorts is the variety of summer frocks worn. A feature is the large number of sunshades. Two or three years ago, sunshades went completely out of fashion, but have quickly come back into fashion again.'
Little seems to have changed over the years. Today's weather may seem balmy but, it appears, that it's nothing new!