Fulfilled living in later life

Monday 13th March 2023

My story - Christine

Christine, 83, grew up in the village of Mottram in Cheshire, which became part of Greater Manchester. She now lives at Emmaus House in Harrogate. We chatted to her about her experience of working for the BBC Radio Manchester in the 50s and 60s

Children’s Hour was once a staple of BBC Radio. Broadcast every weekday from 5pm to 6pm, it catered for children home from school and winding down for the evening. The programme contained a mix of short plays and features and was recorded at various BBC studios around the country.

One of those working away behind the scenes at BBC Radio Manchester was Christine. “My first job at the BBC was actually in the post room,” says Christine. “I went in the summer to do holiday relief. I had to sort all the mail and deliver it to the different floors of the building. One gent I used to deliver post to asked me what I was going to do after school – was I going to go university or do secretarial training. He said, ‘if you do secretarial, I’ll have you here.’”

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Christine duly went to secretarial school in Manchester, getting up to speed in shorthand and typing. She was then given a permanent role as production secretary, working alongside producer Herbert Smith. The overall producer of the programme was Trevor Hill, who also worked with Harry Corbett on the television programme Sooty.

Christine’s role involved all the usual secretarial tasks such as taking telephone messages and typing letters. She also played a key part helping to prepare scripts for programmes. “To help us come up with ideas, we would invite experts in to talk about their specialist subjects,” says Christine. Christine would record these conversations in shorthand and then type them up to help shape the script. She remembers the team running features on places like Chatsworth House, Harewood House and Chester Zoo. On occasion, they would go out with a sound recordist to record background sounds on location.

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One very popular series produced for the programme by the team at BBC Radio Manchester was ‘Wandering with Nomad.’ The programme was presented by Norman Ellison who went by the pseudonym Nomad the Naturalist. “He was an older gentleman who wandered round the countryside with three of his friends remarking on natural phenomena, saying things like ‘aren’t the snowdrops lovely,’” recalls Christine. “It was the Springwatch of its day.”

For the plays and stories, children used to come in sometimes to read parts. They had to be 12 before they could appear on the show.

A frequent visitor to the studio was the actress and singer Violet Carson who recorded music for Children’s Hour and content for another programme for children produced at BBC Radio Manchester, Nursery Sing Song. Carson went on to play Ena Sharples in Coronation Street.

As children’s television grew, Children’s Hour suffered a decline in listenership. In 1964 the decision was made to discontinue the programme. “It felt like a natural end,” says Christine.

Christine stayed on at BBC Radio Manchester until 1966, working on general programmes, features and docudramas in the North region. The team featured places as varied as Sellafield nuclear power station, the picturesque Lake District of Arnside and the seaside town of Morecombe in Lancashire. One programme they ran was about shipping and the sea. “If the Queen was launching a new ship we’d cover it, or we’d run features about children who did things like canoeing and kayaking,” says Christine. They also often recorded “the morning story”.

In 1961 Christine had married Peter. She left the BBC in 1966 when they had their first child, Susan (Sue). In 1968 the family moved to Harrogate on account of Peter’s job in advertising (he later retrained as a psychiatric nurse). Two more children followed, Rachel in 1972 and Andrew in 1975.

In her working life Christine took on a variety of roles including as a playgroup assistant, a care assistant in a nursing home, as a dinner lady at Western Primary School and as a shop assistant at Lancaster’s Bakery.

She has enjoyed travelling extensively around the world and has achieved her goals of seeing Mount Everest and the Taj Mahal and crossing the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.

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Christine came to Emmaus House in Harrogate in July 2020. Her husband Peter sadly passed away in June 2021. Christine enjoys living at Emmaus House because it feels, she says, “like one big family”. She says that whatever she asks of staff is met with a cheerful “yes of course, no problem”. The food is good and plentiful and everyone is friendly.

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