Wilfred Pickles

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Wilfred Pickles in 1950

Wilfred Pickles OBE (13 October 1904 – 27 March 1978) was an English actor and radio presenter.

Born in Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he moved to Southport, Lancashire, with his family in 1929 and worked with his father as a builder. He joined an amateur dramatic society and in a local production there, met Mabel Celilia Myerscough, all of whose family had been connected with the stage. Pickles remained a proud Yorkshireman, and having been selected by the BBC as an announcer for its North Regional radio service, he went on to be an occasional newsreader on the BBC Home Service during World War II. He was the first newsreader to speak in a regional accent rather than Received Pronunciation, "a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for Nazis to impersonate BBC broadcasters",[1] and caused some comment with his farewell catchphrase "... and to all in the North, good neet". His first professional appearance was as an extra in Henry Baynton's production of Julius Caesar at the Theatre Royal in Halifax in the 1920s.[2]

Pickles soon became a radio celebrity, and pursued an acting career in London's West End theatre, on television and on film.

Have A Go and Ask Pickles

His most significant work was as host of the BBC Radio show Have A Go, which ran from 1946 to 1967 and launched such catchphrases as "How do, how are yer?", "Are yer courting?", "What's on the table, Mabel?" and "Give him the money, Barney", delivered in Pickles's inimitable style. He appeared in the show with his wife Mabel (née Myerscough, 1906–1989), whom he had married on 20 September 1930, at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Ainsdale, Southport.

The series attracted a weekly audience of over 20 million and a mailbag of around 5,000 letters. Contestants could earn £1/19s/11d by sharing "their intimate secrets." In May 1954 he brought the show to television with the programme Ask Pickles which ran until 1956.[3] The show was publicised enthusiastically by the BBC:

In 1948 a children's board game entitled "Ask Pickles" was published by noted jigsaw manufacturer Tower Press.[4]

Other television and radio

On television, among many performances, he appeared in Dr. Finlay's Casebook and For the Love of Ada, co-starring with Irene Handl.

He was in the play Come Laughing Home by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall on BBC Radio 4 in 1970. In 1971 he was the subject of This Is Your Life.

He was the guest castaway on BBC radio's Desert Island Discs on 2 January 1953; his chosen book was "The Oxford Book of English Verse" by Arthur Quiller-Couch and his luxury a yellow waistcoat.


In 1955 Wilfred Pickles published an anthology of poetry and prose of the 'north counties' of England. The book, My North Countrie, featured verses from a range of poets and writers including two Lancashire dialect verses, 'A Bird Song Away' and 'Th' Art Lookin' Sackless', from the award winning weaver-poet Nicholas Freeston.[5]

Later life

File:Wilfred and Mabel Pickles grave.JPG
Wilfred and Mabel Pickles grave, Southern Cemetery, Manchester

Pickles was the uncle of judge James Pickles and actress Christina Pickles, and great-uncle of actress Carolyn Pickles.

On 1955 he opened the Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics at Tixover Grange, Rutland.[6] Also in 1955, he and wife Mabel celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary by returning to the Sacred Heart Church in Southport, when they gave money for a statue of Saint Teresa, which still stands in the church. They recorded an edition of the radio show Have a Go from the church hall (now demolished) and later did a version of the show, in the adjacent school for the children.

He died in Brighton on 27 March 1978 aged 73 and is buried with his wife Mabel in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.


In 1950 Pickles was awarded the OBE for services to broadcasting.[7] The "Portman & Pickles" public house, in Market Street, Halifax, is named after him and film actor Eric Portman.

Selected filmography


  1. "Your Voice, Accentuate the positive". BBC. March 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Pickles on 'The Calderdale Companion' website
  3. Laurence Marcus (21 August 2005). "ASK PICKLES". .televisionheaven.co.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Ask Pickles (1948)". boardgamegeek.com. Retrieved 3 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Pickles, Wilfred. My North Countrie. George, Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1955
  6. Opening of Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics British Pathe newsreel 1955
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38929. p. 2788. 8 June 1950. Retrieved 9 January 2011.

External links