Joan Walsh


Pebble Mill canteen, photo by Philip Morgan, no reproduction without permission












Joan Walsh, who worked in the BBC canteen in Birmingham from 1952, sadly died last week (Oct 2017), aged 93. Louise Willcox has pieced together some of information about Joan’s career, with the help of former colleagues.

Joan worked at Carpenter Road, before Pebble Mill opened in 1971, rising through the ranks to become the second in command of the canteen. Eileen Bywater was brought in as Canteen Manager and she and Joan looked after the Pebble Mill canteen office. Jenny Brewer says that she was incredibly capable, delightfully calm and a joy to deal with.

Please add a comment, if you can add any more information about Joan.

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

Judy Markall: ‘Lovely lady. Her birthday was 28th May. I have many fond memories from when she was friends with my mom and then myself.’

Anne Smith: ‘Lovely lady, have lots of good memories of working with Joan and Eileen.’

Tracy Crump: ‘Sad, worked under Eileen and knew Joan.’



Memories of Alan Ward from Louise Willcox

Alan Ward in spring 2017. Photo by Louise Willcox, no reproduction without permission











Alan Ward, retired Senior Studio Manager specialising in serious music, passed away last Wednesday, 12th July 2017.   He died aged 85, peacefully, at his home.
Louise Willcox remained in touch with Alan after he retired and remembers his kindness well.

“I am a generation or so behind Alan in terms of my Audio Unit career and frankly, after Alan retired and moved to the New Forest, I thought that our paths might potentially never cross again.

Spool forward 20 years:  Alan’s lovely wife Rita had died, leaving him bereft.  Coincidentally, my daughter Heather was being employed by DSTL for a ‘year in industry’ before university.  Towards the end of that year, a mutual friend pointed out that DSTL was not far from where Alan lived, and Roger and I got in touch.  We and Heather took Alan out (or rather, he took us!) for the odd meal in one of the plethora of lovely eateries around the New Forest.  We kept in touch by phone and email, and a year later, when Heather was invited to spend her summer vacation continuing her work-placement, Alan stunned us by offering her accommodation at his beautifully appointed home – point blank refusing to let us pay him for it, and he’d got in touch with someone who could give her a lift into work!

Heather was a shy 20-year-old but, to my astonishment, said yes.  For four years she stayed with Alan during her summer placements – by year two she could drive and she would then share the driving (probably safer), going out for meals together – Alan making great play of having a 21-year-old on his arm!   He openly admitted that he had been lonely after his wife had died and that just having someone in the house (even if she was in her room on her computer all the time!) just helped.  They developed a firm friendship and Roger and I visited whenever we could.

Heather ultimately got a job at DSTL after university, and we have continued to visit Alan.  The last occasion was about four months ago, when it was clear Alan was becoming more frail.  He had lost none of his wicked sense of humour, though!

Towards the end, Alan had full-time care at home, and was becoming more confused due to his depleted oxygen levels.  I mention this only because, at one point Alan asked the family if they’d got enough XLR cables!  This will bring a smile to audio unit colleagues – the A. Ward Award – for emptying OB Stores of equipment – was apocryphal!   Alan’s family thought it was apt that towards the end, he was planning an OB.”

Louise Willcox

Freelance Sound Supervisor





The Curse of Doctors – Martin Fenton

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission











Martin Fenton notes the frustrating realism of continuing drama:

“I’ve recently remembered two incidents which might as well be called ‘The Curse of Doctors’.

I had very little money on me on my first day at Pebble Mill, but it was alright because I’d noticed a cash machine in the front wall of Pebble Mill when I went for my interview. As you all undoubtedly know, it was a blank, installed for Doctors. Louise Willcox generously lent me a tenner just so I could get some sustenance at the tea bar. I was so embarrassed – on my first day, too!

A couple of years later, I moved to the south end of Selly Oak. I’d noticed The Mill Health Centre on Bristol Road, and made a mental note to go and register there the following Monday morning.”

You can guess the rest.

(Martin Fenton)


I don’t think you are alone Martin, in wanting to register at The Mill Health Centre, from talking to a couple of the Doctors’ team, I understand that a few older ladies have also thought it looks like a very nice G.P.’s surgery!




William Smethurst

William Smethurst, photo by Simon Farquhar, no reproduction without permission

William Smethurst, photo by Simon Farquhar, no reproduction without permission














You may have heard on the news that William Smethurst, one time Editor of The Archers, passed away, on 22nd July.

William was at the helm when I was first trusted to mix the drama.  I have always remembered trying to compassionately manage a particularly lethargic spot operator during an episode that William was directing.  William, kindly but authoritatively, encouraged me to deal with the issue.  With knots in my stomach, fearing the immense hurt I was going to cause my colleague, I went into the studio, only to discover that he couldn’t have cared less!   I learned valuable lessons: that not everyone has the same sense of duty and obligation, and that difficult issues are best tackled sooner than later. This has stood me in good stead ever since.   Thank you, William.  Needless to say, said spot operator went on to become a very successful Radio 1 producer, later to forge a successful career in both broadcasting and feature films!

Writer, Jo Toye, was learning her craft at the same time that I was learning mine, and has sent this tribute:

“William arrived on the writing team of The Archers in the mid-Seventies and started his shake-up of the programme in his typically imaginative way then. By the time I joined the production team as a PA in 1980, he’d been Editor for a year and delighted in the team of ‘left-wing, feminist’ writers he’d engaged. His storylines eschewed social comment for what he called ‘social comedy’ – a typical Bridge Farm family story involved not the dawning realisation of domestic abuse but the saga of CND-supporting Pat changing their daily paper from the ‘Express’ to the ‘Guardian’, to Tony’s mystification.  As I typed the scripts his bold crossings-out and rewritings taught me everything I know – no chance of the writers doing their own rewrites then as everything was sent in hard copy, by post…

With his clear-sightedness about what The Archers should be – ‘the voice of the shires’  – and the support of then Network Editor Radio, Jock Gallagher, who’d rescued the programme from the doldrums after the retirement of the legendary Godfrey Baseley – William’s energy and ever-whirring marketing brain raised the programme’s profile and listenership.

So many of the characters he created are still there today – Caroline Sterling, Susan Carter, and the inimitable Grundys, while others (Nelson, Nigel) have passed into Archers mythology. So many of the writers he took on – me included – are still writing today.  His willingness to back untried young hopefuls didn’t stop at The Archers: when he later created and ran the sci-fi soap Jupiter Moon for BSkyB he gave their first big break to Anna Chancellor and Jason Durr.

He could be tough when he wanted to be – when he moved to Crossroads in 1986 he revelled in the title of ‘Butcher Bill’ – but he was also ingenious, inventive, intelligent, witty, warm, massively well-read, and a genuine lover of the countryside, its seasonal rhythms and its history.

He shepherded The Archers through what many now see as a golden age – in simpler times and in the very special atmosphere of Pebble Mill itself.   He brought great pleasure to millions of people but for me it was personal. I owe him everything and shall always be grateful.”

William’s funeral will be at 2pm, on Tuesday 2nd August, at Halford Village Church, Queen Street, Halford, Near Shipston on Stour.

Louise Willcox

(Here is an obituary for William Smethurst on the BBC website: )

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

Julian Hitchcock: ‘Sad indeed. Fine, much deserved tributes. I loved his sense of mischief and gossip, wry chuckle and that dangerous glint in his eye that warned that you or your name might just find their way into Ambridge.’

Cathy Houghton: ‘I worked with him on Midlands Today, a really lovely man.’

Linda Flavell: ‘Loved working with Bill so many years ago, a truly lovely guy.’







Sybil Jenazian

Photo of Sybil Jenazian by Julia Macklin, no reproduction without permission











Sybil Jenazian passed away on Tuesday, 17th May 2016, after a short illness.

For many years Sybil was PA to John McGonagle on Match of the Day. Before joining outside broadcasts at Pebble Mill in 1971, she had worked as a PA in Light Entertainment.

Thanks to Jim Dumighan and Louise Willcox for sharing this sad news.