Birmingham Mail tribute to Ed Doolan

Tribute to Ed Doolan, who died this week, from the Birmingham Mail (Jan 16th 2018).

Ed Doolan in his library at home in 2010



The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Sue Welch: ‘Lovely tribute. When I passed the news on to my daughter, she replied that she had Ed to thank for tickets to see Fame. She had “destroyed Doolan” (still got the badge to,prove it) one Sunday with her her riddle “Why was Columbus’ crossing of the Atlantic so economical?” – because he got 2000 miles to the galleon.
I’ll get my coat……’

Tony Pilgrim – Birmingham Mail article

The article below was published in the Birmingham Mail on 4th Feb 2015

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission













Tributes have been paid to a former BBC engineer pivotal in bringing the iconic Pebble Mill studios to Birmingham.

Tony Pilgrim, who has died aged 91, was a ferocious critic of the BBC’s move to the Mailbox in 2004, describing it as “one of the worst decisions ever taken by the corporation”.

In a BBC career spanning more than 40 years, he was also responsible for organising outside broadcasts, including one by King George VI from Sandringham in 1945.

Although taking place six years after the events depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech, it was for a momentous event – the monarch’s first post-war Christmas Broadcast.

Subsequently Mr Pilgrim took charge of communications facilities at the Wembley Olympic Games in 1948.

But it was the growing trend for moving out to the regions which led to him transferring to Birmingham – marrying actress Ysanne Churchman in 1951 and settling in Edgbaston when she took the part of Grace in radio soap opera The Archers.

At the BBC, he oversaw the construction, building and installation of all technical services in Pebble Mill, the state-of-the-art radio and television headquarters for the Midlands which opened in 1971.

From then until his retirement in 1983 he was a key figure in the provision of technical facilities to support the blossoming programme output in television and radio from the major production centre.

But the BBC move to the Mailbox and demolition of Pebble Mill left Mr Pilgrim angry, and in an interview in 2005 he said: “I remember the excitement we all felt moving into a new, purpose-designed radio and television broadcasting centre, which seemed to be a beacon for the future of broadcasting in the Midlands.

“This beautiful building, which was such a joy to work in, could still have been given a new lease of life for substantially less than the cost of the Mailbox.

“The corporation’s stated objective was to move the BBC into the centre of Birmingham to bring it closer to its public.

“But the Mailbox is on the wrong side of the inner city motorway and remote from the main shopping areas in New Street, Corporation Street and the Bullring.

“If shoppers do find their way there it is a long walk through a shopping mall to the BBC at the rear of the building.”

Speaking of Pebble Mill’s successes, Mr Pilgrim said Phil Sidey’s arrival as head of centre in 1973 led to the launch of the live, lunchtime show Pebble Mill at One which made the building famous across the country.

“He created a wonderful team spirit for all who worked there leading to many great programmes over the years,” he said.

Mr Pilgrim also helped to found the Midland Centre of the Television Society, of which he became chairman in 1964. This led to a seat on the council which in turn led to his chairmanship of the society in 1970.

The society was granted Royal status in 1966 and during his term he opened the very first Cambridge Convention in 1970, which has grown into a high profile bi-annual international event, and served as honorary secretary for 19 years.

In 1987 the RTS celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and Mr Pilgrim organised a reception at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, which was attended by The Queen.

On leaving the BBC, Mr Pilgrim devoted his time to further developing the RTS.

RTS spokeman George Pagan said: “He was forward-looking by nature, seeking to improve and develop everything he was involved in, which brought recognition in many ways including the Gold medal of the Royal Television Society in 1987, and in 1992, the MBE, for services to the Television Industry.”

Mr Pilgrim is survived by Ysanne, after a marriage of 63 years.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Donald Steel: ‘I’m incredibly sad to hear of Tony’s death. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. He was the most terrific company and full of great stories. A wonderful wonderful man.’

Ed Doolan interview

Ed Doolan

Ed Doolan













Radio WM presenter, Ed Doolan, recorded an interview with Caroline Martin, broadcast on Radio WM today. Below is a link to the interview. Ed talks about living with dementia in a moving discussion. The Birmingham Mail picked up on the interview and the article below was published this afternoon.

[The article below appeared in the Birmingham Mail 27th Jan 2015]

BBC WM radio legend Ed Doolan has today revealed he has been battling dementia for two years.

“I’ve spent my entire life communicating and suddenly I find I can’t communicate,” admitted the man who has interviewed every Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan.

But the defiant Aussie promised that he was determined to carry on broadcasting – for as long as the BBC would let him.

Ed, 73, said: “I must say that it’s just wonderful to be able to come in and do my Sunday show, which we now pre-record.


“I’m finding that it is a very therapeutic thing that I can just come in and record and put the show together.

“If we find we can’t do something, and I can’t tell the difference between 1963 and 1983, it’s not funny.

“Then you click back in and do it another way.

“The BBC have been brilliant, because what a fantastic opportunity they have to say: ‘Ed, you’ve had a good run’… and they could do that quite easily and justifiably I would have thought.

“But the BBC have said it’s up to me to decide when I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go.

“And, at the moment, the show is going well.”

Ed can still walk normally, but sometimes uses a wheelchair for speed to get in and out of public places.

With wife Christine by his side to discuss the nature of caring, the couple hoped that by speaking out on BBC WM they would be able to encourage other families to see their doctor, find the right treatment and to carry on with as normal a life as possible.

In an interview in the Mailbox studios with lunchtime presenter Caroline Martin, Ed did not give into the emotions which had made him apprehensive about speaking out.

But after two years of thinking about it, he said it was now time to explain why he hadn’t participated much in his annual Christmas show at Symphony Hall ‘for the past two or three years’.

During that time he has given up his daily BBC WM show.

His replacement hour-long archive programme every Sunday features the pick of his three decades of interviews with stars from Charlton Heston to Danny La Rue and Jasper Carrot, with world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Margaret Thatcher.

Ed reintroduces each clip with his trademark bonhomie.

But prerecording the shows during the week means he can pause ready to start again every time he makes a mistake or loses his concentration.

“I can’t do a live show any more,” Ed admitted before recording an interview for Caroline Martin’s show at 1pm today.

“The BBC have been so kind and so good, they understand if something goes wrong, or if I forget something, we just shut up and start again.”

Talking directly to Birmingham Mail readers in a video interview, Ed said: “The paper has been very kind to me over many, many years – I must have done about 950 columns for the Mail.

“Up till now I’ve kept pretty quiet about this because I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.

“But I think if what’s happening to me is happening to other people who can come out and say this is me, this is what’s happening, then people don’t get frightened by it.

“The images they show on television are so dramatic, but I haven’t found it dramatic at all.

“It’s a bit annoying and a bit frightening when you lose your track, but you get back on it again.

“I do spend a huge amount of time in the house. I watch a bit of telly and have a bit of a sleep.

“Friends still come round with sandwiches and we’ll have lunch.”

Pharmacist wife Christine, 55, added: “People associate dementia with forgetting things, but there are different types.

“Ed has been told he’s got Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), which involves Parkinson’s disease.

“The medication has really helped the latter, but with the dementia it’s not that he forgets things because he can remember.

“With him, it seems to be more of an on-off switch – and once it goes off it then comes back on a bit later.”

Ed helped to launch BRMB on February 19, 1974, before switching to BBC WM on September 20, 1982.

During all of that time he has rarely missed a show while fighting a string of health conditions which began with a serious car crash on October 28, 1971.

On his way to interview the then Prime Minister Edward Heath in Edinburgh, a multiple pile-up hospitalised Ed for months in Durham – where he began to record a pop programme for Forces’ radio.

The crash also left him with a virtually continuous scar from his nose to his ankles.

Ed had only been married for eight weeks to Christine when he needed triple heart bypass surgery in December 1987 just weeks after falling ill with stomach cramps following a belated honeymoon to Thailand in November that year.

Other ailments have required five laser operations on his tongue (1985-87), as well as operations for a non-malignant bowel condition (July, 1993) and a detached retina (May, 2009).

In August 2007, he spent the day of his 20th wedding anniversary with Christine having a pacemaker fitted.

Two weeks later, he had to have it replaced before declaring: “The new one is like a Rolls-Royce compared with a Citroen 2CV.”

I have never heard Ed complain about any health issue – and he has not lost his sense of humour either.

Ever the joker, Ed said in today’s interview: “I love it when people ask me for directions in the car. I say to them: ‘Who the hell are you asking?’.”

He also said his friends had “not stopped taking the mickey” about his latest health crisis.

“They are a damn sight ruder now,” he said.

“Once friends understand (what has happened to me), all the bad jokes about mental health, maybe it’s terribly wrong, but they do pass in front of me.”

Official Opening – free lunch

2013-03-07 15.03.08












Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This memo was sent to staff at BBC Pebble Mill in autumn 1971. All staff, including artists and freelancers who were working on the day of the Official Opening of Pebble Mill on 10th November 1971, were to be given a free lunch, including a glass of wine, to celebrate the occasion. For their free ticket, staff just had to fill in the slip at the bottom of the memo. The Broadcasting Centre was opened by Princess Anne.

(It’s noticeable from the memo how official abbreviated job titles were habitually used, you don’t see that today).

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Judith Markall: ‘I remember this and my mom Elsie Brown was in the line up to be introduced to Princess Anne. I have the photo somewhere that was in the Birmingham Mail.’