Colin Pierpoint blog – Part 16 Comms on Location 2

CMCR9 photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission

CMCR9 photo from John Abbott, no reproduction without permission












(Here is the continuation of Colin Pierpoint’s blog about his BBC career).

I did 5 days in Wales for Songs of Praise to BBC Wales from St Asaph. Several days in Hastings for a cricket OB. (A great moment here. There was a delay in setting up the link signal which was received at Swains Lane in North London. The London Comms Engineer there said on the RT (Radio telephone) “I suppose we are waiting for Birmingham are we?” So Paul in the Birmingham links van replied “No, actually we are waiting for the London Links van to arrive”! I did a link at the Oval Cricket Ground for a test match, working late into the night sending VTR recorded on site to the Television Centre VT.  And of course I did Edgbaston several times (My first ever radiolink which was a bit of a disaster! The Cricket Ground were having a management meeting when we arrived for the Vision Circuit Test and they had all parked where the links van should be. I sent requests to move their cars but they would not come out. Our van was one from Wales and all the mains sockets were different from ours!) I also did the radiolink for the opening of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) by the Queen [see comment at the bottom of this post]. It was freezing cold with snow on the ground and I had to stand outside CMCR9 with a field telephone in my hand for ages, doing a lines test which had problems. It was at the NEC on a later OB that I was ordered off the site by the Shop Steward because I was not a member of the ABS (Association of Broadcasting Staff). I went to tell the Engineering Manager in the scanner (CMCR) first, who agreed that it was best if I leave, and then reported it to the CPE in Pebble Mill. In fact, all I had missed was the derig and making the tea for our rigger-driver! It was the Rigger-Driver Jim, who asked me to leave! He should have waited until I finished making his tea before he told me.

There was one cricket match Television OB while the BBC were having strike action. Sound was cut for some programmes but not all. The Engineering Manager came to my links van and said “What action have you taken to ensure that our sound is not cut?” So I said that on yesterday’s cricket match from somewhere else (not mine) the OB had rung the Television Centre and said can you guarantee that our sound will not be cut? So they cut it! I told the EM that because of this I was keeping my head down. He said “Good Idea” and our sound was not cut. (Although I was not in the union at that time, I did contribute to the strike fund. Later I also joined BECTU  trade union at Wood Norton and did go on strike for one day in support of my colleagues). I also did a midpoint at Daventry Transmitter site; it was only a test in case of London flooding, but a chance to talk to my transmitter colleagues.

Sometimes we operated a repeater inside the telephone exchange. This is a box of BBC equipment used to correct the frequency response before it is passed on to the nearest BBC centre. (Later this was stopped when the Post Office union decided that their staff should do it). I did repeaters in Kettering, Coventry, Hanley and Shrewsbury. I did the repeater for the famous broadcast for the BBC anniversary at Sudley Castle. Very embarrassing!

You will remember that I preferred to take the Comms self-drive car for lines tests. My own Land Rover was getting rather elderly and unreliable at the time and if it brike down on official dury, it would have been my fault. So I thought that by using the Comms Department car there would be no problem if it stopped working. How wrong I was! At Burghley Park for the horse trials I took the self drive car which did break down! I was crossing the course near the finishing post when the engine stopped half way across the track; right where the horses would be finishing the event! An image entered my mind of people at Pebble Mill watching the trials on BBC2 as the horses went round an abandoned car at the finishing post, saying “Isn’t that the Comms Self drive car?” So I rang the transport office Neville Mowl and they called out the AA. It seems that I had flooded the carbuettor with an automatic choke (Ford Escourt). The AA man told me that I should have told him where I was and not where the car was, but I had to move about and get on with testing the cross course cables as there was less than an hour to transmission.

An interesting lines test was at Holme Pierrepont, the national watersport centre. The man on the gate let me in a few times, and then said “You have been through here too often today, I am not letting you in again”! So I showed him my BBC pass. When he saw the name Pierpoint, he thought there was a fiddle somewhere but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Meanwhile, the Post Office Engineer, who I was working with, went in and out past me without being stopped once!

Colin Pierpoint

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

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Jim Lloyd and I were stood by the link on the roof of the NEC because it was a grade 1. It was hissing down, so we took shelter in a walkway that crossed the roof. There were 2 men stationed there who were in suits and they had shoulder holsters with guns. We could see a semicircle of people inside the building at the end of the walkway. We did look a bit scruffy in rigging jackets and duffle coat and as the queen got a bit closer, they told us to get out, so we never actually got to shake hands.’







Paul Woolston in Lichfield Cathedral

Paul Woolston in Lichfield Cathedral RSPhoto by Richard Stevenson, no reproduction without permission.

This 1990 photo is of cameraman Paul Woolston on a crane in Lichfield Cathedral, on a Songs of Praise outside broadcast. Kevin Gill (floor manager) on the left, and John Trew (grip) on the right.

Apparently, moments later the wheel of the crane disappeared into a heating grate and the crane nearly toppled over, with Paul still on the front of it.

Paul sadly died some years ago.

Thanks to Richard Stevenson for sharing the photo.

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

Diane Reid: ‘Paul was lovely to work with and a great cameramen – it was one of my OBs – a Songs of Praise.’

Alex Johnston: ‘Paul was a truly lovely man always friendly and had a wonderful smile.’

Ian Barber: ‘He was a true gentleman, loved working with Paul and Dave Bushell.’

Tracy Cahill: ‘Very first OB I ever went on was at Lichfield cathedral, John Abbot sent me to ‘observe’ how it’s done. I only went cos Fred was the rigger.’

Sarah Beedle: ‘I remember that Songs of Praise – the grating did get broken.’

Helen Betts: ‘Christopher Betts, my son whom I am visiting in Virginia, clearly remembers playing the organ for Songs of Praise in 1990. He was the Cathedral’s organ scholar that year before going to Oxford University. He also says he cannot think of any of TV OBs that year.’

Ed Billington: ‘He was a very nice person and a professional at his job he always spoke to me when I was cleaning the studio.’

Paul Mcdonald: ‘Ah the joys of entrusting your life to the crane operator.’

Dave Ballantyne: ‘The camera is a Phillips/Pye LDK 5, Paul was a colleague and friend over many years, I still miss him, a special man.’

John Hoare: ‘I knew Paul well back in the sixties and seventies – a good friend and a true gentleman’

Tom Coyne RIP

copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Midlands Today presenters, 1977. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission














Former Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne (back row, right, in the photo), sadly died over the 2015 Easter weekend, in the Wolverhampton Nursing Home, aged 84.

Tom joined the Midlands Today team when the show started in 1964, at its Broad Street studios, before the building of Pebble Mill. He presented over 4,000 editions of the regional news magazine programme by the time he left the series in 1980. This video is of Tom’s last appearance on Midlands Today, in October 2014:

Tom Coyne also presented on Pebble Mill at One in the 1970s, as well as Songs of Praise, Come Dancing, and was even one of the founding presenters on  Top Gear, with Angela Rippon in 1977.

Tom also appeared in the Radio 4 drama series, The Archers, for three years, as a Geordie gamekeeper called Gordon Armstrong.

An obituary for Tom Coyne is on the ATV Today website:

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!’