The BBC Christmas Schedules for 1932

9-1932-Dec-23--500x643Following on from a recent Jot exploring what the BBC were offering as TV entertainment for Christmas 1932 — half an hour from 11 pm onwards showing either a singer crooning into a microphone, female dancers prancing about in special costumes, or a short poem or play – we at Jot HQ thought it might be interesting to examine what listeners could expect to enjoy throughout the rest of the festive season.

First, we should explain that in the ‘thirties the Radio Times, though ostensibly a guide to radio schedules, was also a kind of feature magazine in which along with the programme information  could be found other entertainment in the form of short stories or feature articles. In this particular issue we find material by well-known authors which, in most cases, had little or anything to do with the actual programmes. For instance, in this special Christmas number we find a tale by Compton Mackenzie entitled ‘ New Lamps for Old ‘, a new Lord Peter Wimsey story  from Dorothy L. Sayers called ‘ The Queen’s Square, a satirical skit by Winifred Holtby entitled ‘ Mr Ming Escapes Christmas’, a memoir from popular travel writer S. P. B. Mais , a comic confection by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and a rather tiresome  faux medieval dramatic piece by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon. There were also a couple of ‘poems ‘and some similarly light features by a handful of lesser known writers.

It must be said that while the writing sometimes fails to impress, the illustrations that accompany it are usually charming in the best traditions of the Radio Times. For instance the cover ( see earlier Jot ) of the magazine is  characteristic art work from book illustrator Edward Ardizonne, while some superb illustrations from the gifted illustrator John Austen , who was to become a favourite of the Radio Times, decorated the borders of the Farjeon piece. Other notable illustrators included Mervyn Wilson,  Roland Pym and Clixby Watson. It goes without saying too that the adverts ( some full page) are no less captivating, most notably the wonderful back cover colour advert for Bovril by Alfred Lees featuring the ghost of Jacob Marley. Continue reading

A Christmas number of the Radio Times

Christmas Radio Times 1932 cover 001 

Next year the BBC will be a hundred years old. To celebrate this momentous anniversary Jot 101 is looking at the Christmas 1932 number of the Radio Times,which can be found in your Jotter’s private collection.


The issue in question is the ‘ Southern edition ‘,which gives a flavour of the Corporation’s output, although it seems to exclude Northern England and Scotland.


Obviously, the festive period was a chance for the BBC to broadcast some of its best wireless programmes, but the magazine is also significant in that it tells us about the latest development of the period, which was Television. In the UK (other countries seem to have been more advanced in this area) the BBC were committed to the Baird system of ‘ low definition ‘ Television. This used a rather primitive method of revolving discs to scan an image of performers standing between two sets of photo-electric cells. Because the apparatus was comparatively rudimentary the result was a distinctly blurred image. The performers also needed to apply heavy make up and adopt a certain costume in order to convey their presence across the ether. Television broadcasting using this basic system began in August 1932, essentially as an experiment. Radio was king at the time and Television was relegated to a mere half hour of ‘ entertainment ‘ tagged on to the end of the day’s programmes at around 11 pm.


The TV fare offered by the BBC for this half hour was pretty basic and usually consisted ( in late 1932 at least) of a short dramatic reading and some singing or dancing. On December 27th, for instance, viewers were treated to a ‘Christmas Puppet Play ‘ entitled ‘Robinson Crusoe’ in which a certain Nell St John Montague was accompanied by a dancer called Priscilla Sarsfield. On the following evening ‘Donald Peers, Collins and Annette ( a Song and Dance Trio)’ did their thing accompanied by the dancer Rosemary Reynolds. Continue reading

Old Radio Shows of the Fifties

0Found – an article in an Australian comic book collectors magazine from about 30 years ago. Slightly truncated but a view of radio before internet radio quietly revived the medium. The author refers to himself as part of ‘…a lost race of knob-twiddlers, racing up and down the dial in search of something other than canned music, football and talkback.’

Listening to repeats of the Glumms on BL’s City Extra a few years ago stirred in me a deep well of nostalgia for the fifties and sixties, when radio still had a lot more to offer than pop music, sport and Parliamentary frolics. To an isolated child, as I was, radio was friend, entertainment and to a large extent, education. During the day, as part of my correspondence schooling, I listened to the schools broadcasts, but at night I had a galaxy of choice, from situation comedy and soap opera, to suspense, variety and science fiction.

‘Life with the Glumms’ was a regular part of the comedy show ‘Take it From Here’. It was a satire on the saccharine family show ‘Life with the Lyons’, starring Ben Lyon, Bebe Daniels and their children. The Lyons had strong American accents, and the whole show had a definite American bias – I preferred the Wodehousian delights of the divinely decadent George Cole in ‘A Life of Bliss’, who was forever getting into scrapes with his girlfriends – how innocent people were then. The theme of the show was ‘a Bachelor Gay’, and no one doubted George’s sexual preferences for a moment.

In Australia, the doyen of the serials was Blue Hills.
In England, it was The Archers. They droned on week after week, stolidly discussing their way through births, marriages, deaths, accidents, disasters, and more plot convolutions in a week than Sons and Daughters might face in a year. Dan, Philip, Grace and Gwen et al had been chewing the bacon fat ever since I could remember, and the Ancient Walter Gabriel got ever more ancient, but never died…

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Wood Norton Hall, former home of French royalty that helped to win the war against Hitler

Henri (left) with his brother 
Antoine and his mother
Queen Marie Amélie.

In his Shell Guide to Worcestershire of 1964 the peerless James Lee-Milne is rather hard on Wood Norton Hall, near Evesham:

‘Now the BBC Engineering Training Department, tarmac-ed and pig wired. Built 1897 for the Duke of Orleans, who lived here in exile and secluded splendour. The house of red brick and half- timber is sprinkled with crowns and fleur-de-lis; interesting on account of its period ugliness ‘.

What he doesn’t mention is that just twenty years earlier the Hall was the HQ of the BBC Listening Station, where eminent writers, journalists and linguists worked together in specially built huts to listen into communications from Europe. The great critic and poet Geoffrey Grigson and eminent art historian Ernst Gombrich, not to mention the TV star Gilbert Harding out of ‘What’s My Line’, were a few of the celebs who did their bit for the war effort here by intercepting messages, mainly from the Germans—vital work that has received far less attention than that done at Bletchley Park. The full story is told in Assigned to Listen while the less than enjoyable experiences of Grigson can be read in his autobiography Crest on the Silver (1950).

What we have here though is a letter from ‘H. d’Orleans’ dated 8th March 1862 to an agent --- thirty years before the present building was erected. Here is my translation:

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Mornington Crescent – the poem

Found - a slim volume of poetry called Annotations (London: Humphrey Milford, 1922) by 'Susan Miles'' (i.e. Ursula Wyie Roberts 1887-1975 feminist, suffragist and poet). She wrote a pamphlet in 1912 The Cause of Purity and Women's Suffrage. This copy is signed in 1960 to Russell and Letitia Sedgwick. The poem's title is taken from the famous tube station (and later the humorous improvisational radio game) Mornington Crescent. It is slightly reminiscent in sentiment and setting of Ezra Pound's earlier imagist haiku of 1919 In a Station of the Metro - 'The apparition of these faces in the crowd;/ Petals on a wet, black bough.'  Persephone recently republished Susan Miles's  Lettice Delmer, a novel in verse, which had first appeared in 1958. ‘Its simplicities are at a profound level. The theme is a great one and the characters are superb,’ wrote Storm Jameson. Her poetry was also anthologised in the 1920s by poetaster Harold Monro, said to be a hard man to please when it came to poetry...

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