Ron Cottrell – 1929-2014


Geoff Gough Big Band

Geoff Gough Big Band

Ron and Diane Cottrell

Ron and Diane Cottrell






















Photo copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission.

Ron Cottrell died a few weeks ago, in September 2014. His wife, Diane, wanted to make sure that colleagues from Pebble Mill knew about his death.

Ron was a musician, a drummer, with various bands, and he had a long association with the BBC. In fact he was in the orchestra for the original Come Dancing, the forerunner of Strictly, which was broadcast from Penns Hall, and presented by Katie Boyle.

As a young man with the Sonny Rose Orchestra, he broadcast from the old BBC Broad Street studios in Birmingham. The older members took him to the pub opposite, across a busy road and he was horrified that they’d left it so late to go back to the studio and they just made it with a minute to spare.

Again with Sonny at Penns Hall, Sutton Coldfield, Ron backed a young Morecambe and Wise. Ernie was very excited about their forthcoming television debut which sadly bombed, before they found success with their second attempt.

Diane and Ron met in 1966 at the newly-opened and highly glamorous Savoy Hotel Birmingham: Diane’s first and lasting impression was of a beautiful white pleated dress shirt, immaculate evening dress and a smiling face. He played with Maurice Udluff’s band who alternated with Harry Engleman’s band. One night he played all night because the Harry Engleman band got into a bitter argument during a card game in their interval and the drummer stormed off leaving Harry high and dry.

On another occasion he recalled a cold, dismal room with the band assembled to rehearse with Tommy Cooper. When Tommy suddenly entered they all collapsed into fits of laughter – which apparently was the usual response when Tommy walked into a room – and one which Tommy always failed to understand.

In 1972 Ron moved into perhaps the happiest and most fulfilling period of his musical career when he joined the Geoff Gough Big Band. The music was demanding and exciting and the band was full of characters.

Diane Cottrell would like to hear people’s memories of working with Ron, so please add a comment here, if you knew Ron.

(Thanks to Diane and to, Diane and Ron’s son, Simon, for sharing their photographs and memories).

Barrie Edgar – Service of Thanksgiving














I was privileged to attend the Service of Thanksgiving for Barrie Edgar at St George’s Church, Edgbaston, this afternoon. It was a celebration of his fantastically long and fruitful life, although tinged with a little bit of sadness.

Barrie died on the 28 Dec 2012 at the Sunrise Retirement Home, just across the road from St George’s, where he’d lived since the death of his wife in 2005. St George’s was also the church where Barrie and Joan were married in October 1943, so it was a fitting location.

The pews of the church were well filled, and I recognised a good number of Pebble Mill faces, including Steve Weddle, Tom Ross, Tony Rayner, Kay Alexander and John Couzens.

There were a variety of readings from members of Barrie’s family, and a moving eulogy from his son, playwright, David Edgar.  We learnt how Barrie had served with the Fleet Air Arm during during World War II, which included flying a Walrus Seaplane and picking up stranded Allied soldiers from the Channel during D-Day!  After the war he applied to join the BBC, and came up to BBC Birmingham as an outside broadcast producer in the 1950s. David made the point that his father had the privilege of being a generalist producer, in a way which couldn’t happen today. He produced a wide variety of programmes, and was sad to lose some of them to specialist departments, like the ‘Carols from Kings College’, to Music, and ‘Songs of Praise’ to Religion.  Apparently he didn’t approve of the revamped ‘Strictly’ version of his ‘Come Dancing’ series, but it was ‘Gardeners’ World’ where his heart really lay.  A keen gardener himself, he produced 225 episodes of the programme, first with Percy Thrower presenting, and later with Peter Seabrook.  Barrie retired from BBC Pebble Mill in 1979, but carried on tending the Pebble Mill garden on a voluntary basis until the mid 1980s.

Barrie was a producer of popular factual programmes, and it is perhaps fitting that his life spanned the era of network factual programmes being made at BBC Birmingham.

Vanessa Jackson

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Keith Brook: ‘I would love to have been there to commemorate his life. Barrie was one of those cool customers that every programme should have. He brought many talents to the table unlike the mono-talented or even zero-talented that we have today. However, despite what others have said about his television skills, by far his greatest talent was mixing rum punch. A lethal concoction of reindeer piss and sundry liquids from his compost heap. Great fun. Thanks Barrie. It was a delight to have worked with you.’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘A real gentleman of the sort that we miss in this day and age.’

Barrie Edgar 1919-2012

Barrie Edgar taken in July 2010

Barrie Edgar in July 2010














Barrie Edgar sadly died recently aged 93.

Barrie was closely associated with BBC Birmingham since the very early days of radio broadcasting in the city. His father, Percy Edgar was a Birmingham concert manager who was asked to start up broadcasting in Birmingham in 1922, by the chief engineer of the G.E.C. works in Witton, which was part of the British Broadcasting Company. He supplied artists, and produced programmes. Barrie’s reaction as a young child to a story called ‘Spick and Span’ was apparently the inspiration for establishing the first ‘Children’s Hour’ broadcast, which was years ahead of the BBC in London, and produced by Percy. Barrie made his first broadcast at the age of 14, playing Tom Brown in a radio adaptation of Tom Brown’s School Days.

Barrie started working in television in 1946, when he was demobilised after the war, and in 1951 he came back to Birmingham as a television outside broadcast producer.  The O.B. unit was shared with BBC Manchester. The first programme he produced was an amateur boxing contest at Gosta Green, the same building which became the BBC Gosta Green Television Studio in 1955. Barrie was based at the new Broadcasting House, in Carpenter Road in Edgbaston, which was where most programmes were made until the move to Pebble Mill in 1971.  Barrie produced programmes such as ‘Gardening Club’, which became ‘Gardeners’ World’, ‘Farming’ and ‘Come Dancing’. He also produced the ‘Kings College Christmas Carols’, ‘Songs of Praise’, as well as events like General Elections, and the consecration of Coventry Cathedral.

Barrie retired from television in 1979. Barrie’s son is the playwright, David Edgar.

The following comments were added on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Keith Brook: ‘Dear Barrie. Lovely man. Cool, calm and collected. That’s how directors and producers handle themselves when they understand the business. ‘

Gordon Astley: ‘Barrie was a mate of my dad, Pat Astley…and got me an interview for the Beeb via the back door. He looked after me for the first few months of a career that lasted 40 years. Lovely man.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Wonderful broadcasting practitioner the like of which has gone for ever. I really enjoyed interviewing such a terrifically talented man on Radio Birmingham/WM and also remember him taking charge of the garden at Pebble Mill….how many retired producers of standing would do that?’

Lynda Kettle: ‘An extremely wonderful gentleman!’