Listen With Mother (1950-82)
with Ann Driver, George Dixon, Daphne Oxenford, Dorothy Smith, Eileen Browne (left), Catherine Edwards and Julia Lang (right).
Few radio memories come as misty-eyed as this: no other signature tune evokes the warmth and tenderness of childhood security as powerfully as the Berceuse from Faure's Dolly Suite.
The time is a quarter to two. This is the BBC Light Programme for mothers and children at home. Are you ready for the music? When it stops, Catherine Edwards will be here to speak to you. Ding-de-dong. Ding-de-dong, Ding, Ding! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!
Listen With Mother Introduction
So began Listen with Mother every afternoon at 1:45pm (just before Woman's Hour), a fifteen minute programme of stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children under five. The audience was over one million at its peak.
With nursery rhymes set to music by Ann Driver and sung by George Dixon, a senior schools producer with a long and distinguished career in broadcasting, and Eileen Browne, the songs were often unaccompanied. There cannot be many children who did not march up and down the hill with "The Grand Old Duke of York".
Meanwhile "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" was growing neat rows of silver bells and cockleshells in her garden, while the King of Spain's Daughter regularly visited a "Little Nut Tree" which only grew a silver nutmeg and a golden pear. Humpty Dumpty and "Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross" were other favourites.
Then, helping us to count was "One, two. . . . three, four, five; Once I caught a fish alive; six, seven. . . . eight, nine, ten; Then I let it go again" and the rhyme "Ding, Dong, Dell, Pussy's in the Well" all turned out for the best once we had found out who put her in and who pulled her out! So "Polly Put the Kettle On, We'll All Have Tea!
Also "Hob Shoe Hob"
particularly memorable song, which featured at least once a week,
This is the way the old men ride, Hobble-dee Hobble-dee Hobble-dee and down into a ditch!
It is quite likely that this latter song was the origin of the following anecdote sent in by George Dixon's son, Paul: "My father told us one story about the programme. A listener had called in with the complaint that her child had been terrified by the sound of galloping horses. It was explained to her that the sound effect was made with the traditional half coconut shells, and how she could make the sound herself to show the child. They would not run that song again until she let them know that the child understood, which she did. Presumably there was one satisfied customer!"
The stories were read by Daphne Oxenford, Dorothy Smith and Julia Lang. The storytellers wrote several of their own tales and Dorothy Smith's readings of the My Naughty Little Sister stories written by the late Dorothy Edwards are still remembered with affection.
Daphne Oxenford and Dorothy Smith were very long-standing members of the team and read the stories on the programme for 21 and 26 years respectively.
Audrey Hindley [Allen] wrote several stories for Listen With Mother in the 1960's
I created stories for my two children (Mark
was the younger). The children asked me to repeat the
stories and they are the best critics!
Listen With Mother
Mark and his
Some of these stories were also broadcast on BBC Welsh Service .
It wasn't only children who listened, but seamen on board ship were also regular listeners, as were the occupants of Buckingham Palace.
Browne (top) an early presenter of "Listen
With Mother" later moved on to "Watch With Mother" and provided the voice of
"Jenny" in "The Woodentops". Eileen's nephew, Geoffrey Browne remembers:
"As a child, I visited Broadcasting House to watch them make the programme with a wonderful new invention: the tape recorder. This incredible machine enabled them to record all the programmes for the whole week in one go, without having to do it live every weekday. The music and stories were on 78 rpm records with a yellow crayon mark that showed where to put the needle down. Eileen was of course wearing a tweed suit and sat in front of the famous BBC 'lollypop microphone'. If I remember rightly, women were not allowed to wear trousers in the BBC until 1971."
Joyce Williams wrote several stories for Listen with Mother in the late 70's, such as Black Beetle, Amy Kate's Lion and Tim's Tomorrow.
The programme transferred over to the Home Service during the 60's but he audience numbers diminished over the years with the advent of Watch With Mother and the programme finally ended in 1982.
Sue Burden has memories of the programme in the 1970s:
I was an avid 'Listen with Mother' listener in the 70s. My parents originally thought the programme was weedy, but I reckon it had improved a lot by my time. To me it was a winning formula.
I enjoyed the stories and the songs. When I was small I didn't like Scottish accents with their rolling rs, but as I grew more mature I thought Alison Mcmorland's accent was lovely.
Apart from the sung nursery rhymes,
the programme had the following songs on regularly;
I remember all these and haven't
been looking on the Internet for them. I never heard the
Hobbidy Hobbidy Hop song.
Quarter to three was Listen with Mother time. I remember for a while that they pared two minutes off it by having it after the three o'clock news bulletin - "Remember, it's 2 past 3 on 4."
I was disappointed when it finally ended, because although I was a bit too old for it by then, I thought that there should be radio programmes for children as well as TV ones. I grew up without a telly, unlike everyone else in my class. I remember the BBC brought in as a replacement, the Listening Corner, which was far too short and not a patch on Listen With Mother.
If you would like, I can tell you what the layout of a Listen with Mother show was like in the 70s. The signature tune at the beginning was different to that at the end (the Berceuse).
Helena Socha also remembers:
|I too was sorry when Listen with
Mother, stopped I loved it so much in fact I loved it
Story's poems, songs, and rhymes, captured a young heart at that time.
I wish I could go back in years to a small girl listening with Mother there, to here the tales I recall so well
Now i'm writing little poems myself.
With fond memories
Hilary Stout remembers:
|Like so many others, I have very
fond memories of this programme. I remember 'sitting
comfortably' on the big brown leather armchair in the
dining room, with my little legs pointing straight out
because of course the chair was much too big for me.
One day my mother sat me comfortably on the armchair, and before she went out of the room, presumably into the kitchen I suppose, she told me to sit and listen to the programme and not to get up out of the chair. But half way through the programme the 'man on the radio' suggested that when we heard the next song (or piece of music, I cant remember which) we get up and march round the room like soldiers. I was born in 1948 and I am 73 now, and to this day I can very vividly remember the terrible dilemma into this put me. I desperately wanted to march around the room like a soldier, but my mother had told me to sit nicely and not get up out of the big brown leather armchair. Which was I to do? I thought very hard : the 'man on the radio' won. I was very proud of my marching, and my mother didnt seem to mind at all when she found out what I was doing. Moreover, I can remember also being extremely proud of having come to that decision all by myself probably the first important decision I had ever made.
Many years later, about 1982, I bought an LP which was a compilation of various pieces of music. I took the LP home and put it on. The first few tracks were pleasant. And then unexpectedly came the theme tune of 'my' programme. I was instantly transported back into that dining room, that armchair. There I was, 'sitting comfortably,' listening to the music. But more memories came flooding in. I could picture the whole room, where the furniture was, where the window was and where the high up cream coloured shelf was, upon which stood the radio. I stopped what I was doing and went immediately to my mother's. I described the picture that the music had conjured up. But it wasnt right," I said. "It wasnt at all like the house where we used to live when I was a child." My mother replied that I had just perfectly described, in some detail, the dining room of the house that we had LEFT when I was three tears old. Magic. The music won't bring it back any more - I've tried many times to recall that picture. But it shows that somewhere it is still locked in a tiny corner of my mind, forever there, "sitting comfortably."
If this little story brings back lovely memories to anyone, then I shall be very happy indeed.
John Jascoll remembers:
|Dear Radio Days,
I've been reading through some of the "Listen with Mother" memories.
It's not only women who recall that delightful radio programme. A 72-year-old grandpa does as well.
My daughter just bought her 3-year-old son a second hand "Mother Goose" board book of nursery rhymes with the quaintest Edwardian illustrations which he asked me to read to him.
And there they all were! The "Listen with Mother" songs.
I didn't read them to the child - I sang them to him. My memory banks from a childhood in England instantly brought back the tunes to Humpty Dumpty, The Cat and the Fiddle, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, et al. They'd been locked away in my mind for decades but as I sang them I heard in my head once again the music that accompanied the songs on those programmes from oh, so long ago.
Thanks for the website.
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