“Have a Go”

Those of a certain age will remember Wilfred Pickles and his wife Mabel, and the "Have a Go" programmes, broadcast between 1946 and 1967 weekly from towns and villages all over the UK. Described as "a spot of homely fun", it was one of the most popular shows ever broadcast; at its peak in the 1950s it attracted an audience of 20 million (yes, 20). "Ordinary folk" were encouraged to tell moving stories of their own and their family's lives, and then answer very simple questions for money prizes, which they always got - £2 at most. The programme from Walsingham was broadcast on Tuesday 12 January 1954. The pianist was Harry Hudson, who not long before had taken over from the programme's previous pianist, Violet Carson (later to become a star in her own right as Ena Sharples of Coronation Street). Below are two reports from local papers. Apparently not everyone was caught up in the fun, as the letter on the right reveals: below it is Fr Lingwood's swift reply.
Walsingham is “on the air” Mr Pickles’ “Have a Go” pays a visit Freda Pogmore has only been to Little Walsingham twice in her life - but had she not paid those visits Little Walsingham might never have gone on the air. Perhaps she was listening at her Scarborough home on Tuesday when Wilfred Pickles brought his “Have a Go” programme to the Odd Fellows Hall. Freda’s name may have been forgotten now, but it was headline news last April when she made an amazing recovery from a life- long paralysis after visiting the Shrine at Walsingham. Since then she has paid another visit to make the mile walk to the Slipper Chapel with some of her school-fellows. Mr Pickles mentioned her case in his Sunday newspaper column and there and then determined to take his “spot of homely fun” to “Britain’s Holy Land”. Originally the broadcast was planned for December, but the Odd Fellows Hall had already been booked by the Youth for Christ movement, and as there was no other hall in the village the BBC had to postpone their plans for a month. But on Tuesday, after a fortnight’s work by the engineers, laying lines to Fakenham Post Office, a weekend of interviews by Mr Pickles and his producer, Mr Stephen Williams, and a 30-mile journey from Norwich by an impressive grand piano, to replace the long-suffering original at the hall, Little Walsingham was able to “Have a Go”. And what a “go” it was! For an hour before the show the audience joined in uproariously with pianist Harry Hudson, learning the “Have a Go” chorus and “warming up” as thoroughly as any producer could wish. There was entertainment by a guitarist, a singer and a conjuror to start the ball rolling. Ten minutes before the show started the 40 candidates learned which of their number were to take part. Previously they had had tea with Mr Pickles at the Guildshop Restaurant, opposite the ancient Priory ruins, while he had run through his final interviews. Up on the stage went seven villagers of Walsingham and one old lady from Cley. The “locals” may have wondered at her presence - until they heard her moving story. Then Mr Williams made the opening announcement, Harry Hudson thundered out the familiar “dumpetty dumpetty dum” on the piano, and 300 sturdy Norfolk voices burst into the opening chorus. Little Walsingham was on the air. Appropriately enough, two priests opened the programme. The Rev A H Patten told of his 33 years’ work in Walsingham to revive the pilgrimages to the Anglican Shrine, and the Rev G Hulme, deputising for his twin brother, Anthony, who was ill, spoke of the prayers that were offered by the Catholic pilgrims who came there from all parts of the world. As they stood together before the microphone, they bore out Mr Pickles’ opening remark that in Walsingham the Anglican and Catholic churches worked side by side in harmony. They did not go through the usual quiz, but after the programme was over - “so that we did not sound patronising” as Mr Pickles explained - they each received their “winnings” for their church funds. Mrs Edna Lingwood - “Pip” to her friends - at whose house Freda Pogmore stayed at the time of her recovery, told of her life as a district nurse and later as a baker’s wife. Mr Eric Seaman, local correspondent of the “Dereham and Fakenham Times” revealed his ambition to be a journalist - and probably gave the producer an unnerving moment with his cry of “Well I’m damned” after discovering that he had lost a bet over the first place that “Have a Go” was presented! Miss Molly Bartholomew’s sincere story of her dedication to the work of matron at a children’s home struck a more serious note, and she gave this formula for happiness - “Be cheerful and have a life of prayer; forget oneself in working for others; and count one’s blessings with thankfulness”. David Wood, a 17-year old carpenter, raised a cheer with his comments on people with “goat trouble” - “they keep butting in on conversations”. Then came the old lady from Cley, Mrs Lizzie Gibson, aged 81, and there could have been few people among the millions of listeners who were not moved at her simple story of how the flood waters approached her home last year - how she prayed as the water covered her doorstep - and how the water stopped rising. She did not want to live to be 100, she said; she was very happy, she had saved two little children’s lives, and she was ready to go to “The Other Side”. One of the eight was unlucky: time did not permit Neville Woodbine to reach the microphone. But he was “given the money” too after the show was over, and also an offer of a BBC audition in London. Aged 27, he is a baritone singer. Father D Lingwood thanking Mr and Mrs Pickles for their visit, as chairman of the Parish Council, mentioned the work done in preparation for the show by Mr Arthur Bond, and Mr Pickles enthusiastically supported him. Mr Bond was the man originally contacted by the BBC to do the preliminary spadework, as a district and parish councillor, and the riotous success of the show testified to the thoroughness of his work.
Little Walsingham Has a Go with Wilfred Pickles For 30 crowded minutes last night Little Walsingham was on the air. Three hundred of the 500 villagers packed the Odd Fellows’ Hall to join Wilfred Pickles in his programme “Have a Go”. Over the weekend, from about 40 candidates, Mr Pickles and his producer, Mr Stephen Williams, selected eight local people to tell their stories of life on “Britain’s Holy Land”, as he described it at the opening of the programme. One of them, Mr Neville Woodbine, was unlucky; time did not permit him to reach the microphone. But the other seven told Mr Pickles - and millions of listeners - of their work, of their families, their hobbies and “What question I would ask the House of Commons”. After referring to the good relations locally between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, Mr Pickles brought together to the microphone representatives of both denominations, Father A H Patten and Father G Hulme. They spoke of the pilgrimages to Walsingham and the prayers of the pilgrims who came there from all parts of the world. They were not put through the usual quiz, but after the programme Mr Pickles presented them each with their “winnings” for the funds of their churches. Mrs Edna Lingwood told of her life, first as a district nurse and later as a baker’s wife, and Mr Eric Seaman, a local correspondent of the “Eastern Daily Press”, revealed his ambition to be a journalist. Miss Molly Bartholomew told how she had dedicated herself to the work as matron in a children’s home, and 17-year old David Wood raised a cheer with his condemnation of people with “goat trouble” - “they keep butting in on conversations”. But the most moving story of the evening was told by 81-year old Mrs Lizzie Gibson of Cley, who described how she saw the flood waters approaching her home last year - how she prayed as the waters covered her doorstep - and how the waters stopped rising. After the broadcast Mrs Pickles was given a bouquet by Derek Edge, of Egmere, who has spent most of his 13 years in a hospital and who was selected because of the work Mr and Mrs Pickles have done for children’s hospitals. The Rev D A Lingwood, chairman of the Parish Council, made a speech of thanks. Wilfred Pickles cracked a final joke and Walsingham's “Go” had gone. top of page
Letters to the Editor Sir - Little Walsingham was “on the air” last week - at least a very narrow section of its community was - but came back to terra firma the following morning with much discussion, dissatisfaction and disillusionment. Apart from the geographical inaccuracies in the “Have a Go” programme may I remind your readers that there is also a Great (or should I say “greater”) Walsingham, and the simplicity of some of the questions in that programme should not be accepted as indicative of the average mentality. It is to be expected that the influx of pilgrims will continue. Conversely, the regular pilgrimages out of Walsingham (for those parishioners who wish to attend a Church of England service) will also continue. I understand too that, following the broadcast, the membership of the Methodists has increased substantially. Yours faithfully A COUNTRY BUMPKIN
Sir - One of the questions which Wilfred Pickles sometimes asks the people who “Have a Go” is “What is it which you dislike most in other people?” and if I had to answer the question my reply would be “those people who write to the papers giving incorrect information and have not the courage to sign their names”. In a letter last week by “Country Bumpkin” it is stated that there are regular pilgrimages out of Walsingham for those parishioners who wish to attend a Church of England service. Perhaps “Country Bumpkin” does not know that the central service of the Church of England, as enshrined in her Prayer Book, is the Holy Communion, and any parishioners living in the Walsinghams have opportunities of attending both on Sundays and during the week. It may be true that there are a few parishioners who go out of the parish to worship God, but the majority love and use their parish church. To prove my point I give the numbers of those attending the Holy Communion (commonly called the Mass) on Sunday January 3rd, 189 people; January 10th, 184; January 17th, 201; and the 24th, 212 respectively. And during the week commencing January 4th, 167 people; 11th, 117; and 18th, 238 respectively. I challenge “Country Bumpkin” to produce any similar figures for a parish of like size. I give these figures for January because few visitors, if any, are about, and also unless the majority of the parishioners of Walsingham really loved their church and the services provided they would not bother to turn out in the depth of winter. Yours truly DERRICK A LINGWOOD The College, Walsingham
The 'conjuror' referred to in the first cutting was in fact a magician - and no ordinary magician either. The late Gil Leaney was Wilfred Pickles’s warm-up act for a number of years before he progressed and became a Vice-President of the Magic Circle, and also magic tricks and illusions designer/manufacturer for various magicians including David Nixon, Tommy Cooper and Paul Daniels. And he wouldn’t have known that his cousin, Graham Howard, would one day become very well known here for his years as the Shrine’s Photographer!