Some Seventies Memories of Blue Peter’s Avuncular Yorkshire Presenter…
John Noakes will always fondly be remembered as my fave Blue Peter presenter.
As a wee kid, long before I got hooked on Dallas (1978-91) I had another big telly obsession with the twice-weekly children’s BBC show, Blue Peter (1958-). This programme had started more than a decade before I was born and it’s still going to this day. Seventies Blue Peter was a live magazine show and the show catered for every interest.
The show included facts and filmed reports about everything from famous people to (then) faraway places. There were Blue Peter expeditions, a yearly holiday with the presenters trying out foods, cultures and experiences in exotic locations we kids had only heard about in geography lessons. And Blue Peter pets, as we learnt how to care for our own pets be it bathing a dog or helping a tortoise hibernate. And a Blue Peter garden.
The audience also got gentle instructions on fun things to make and do such as making Christmas decorations, Thunderbirds (1965-66) toy bases and fun and easy recipes. And mostly using that Blue Peter essential, making all number of exciting things with sticky back plastic (for speed).
John Noakes was one of the first presenters, memorable for his daredevil reports, his pet collie, Shep and his distinctive Yorkshire accent. Noakes joined the show in 1965 and left in 1978. So when I started to watch it way back in the mid-seventies, the three then presenters were John Noakes, Peter Purves and Lesley Judd. This trio was more like surrogate aunts and uncles. But in a cool kind of way not in a creepy kind of way like some presenters of the seventies who will remain nameless.
In its heyday in the 1970s, I collected all the Blue Peter annuals, participated in their Bring and Buy sales, collected milk bottle tops for a yearly charity cause and helped name Blue Peter‘s pets. I even tried to make their more famous creations be it snowmen with tissue paper or pancakes. And making much more mess than they did. I entered the show’s competitions winning two competition badges, received at least one letter from the show and at least three signed photos of different presenters.
I even volunteered to appear on the show as a 9-year-old living in Scotland. Along with a group of kids, I let go of a balloon with a numbered ticket attached to celebrate their 20th birthday. Both the sender and recipient of the balloon that got the furthest in the world won some goodies. As I stood with the other kids and
token Scottish BBC celebrity, Isla St Clair I inwardly panicked noticing my balloon had tangled up with another kids balloon and on live telly too!
I could do an impersonation of one-time presenter Sarah Greene and gave a talk about it for an English presentation. And of course, I had a wee bit of an
inevitable crush on one of the presenters, Chris Wenner. Obsessed? Not much…
In time as I grew older, Blue Peter had younger and younger replacement hosts, almost regenerating as often as Doctor Who (1963-89). I stopped watching the show in the mid-eighties when I grew too old for Kid’s TV. By this time the presenters were more obviously younger than I was and I didn’t even recognise their more famous guests.
I still tuned into the Blue Peter birthday shows as often or not previous presenters would join in the fun for sharing their memories and making a rare TV appearance. So I still kind of felt a connection with my childhood as these older yet familiar faces were trundled into the studio. So it was with much sadness, I learnt of my favourite of these presenters, John Noakes passing away. Here are a few of those John Noakes moments I remember from some of those Blue Peter shows he did earlier…
The elephant in the Studio
Blue Peter – Lulu the Elephant 1969, Tony Thompson
An essential part of the Blue Peter birthday celebrations was a showing of a 1969 black and white clip of Noakes and his then fellow presenters meeting an elephant called Lulu. However, Noakes was upstaged by the animal with it both peeing and pooing in the studio.
Noakes continued to present the show as professionally as ever, even when the elephant stood on his foot. As the animal’s handler slipped in the pee, it was a fun sight as Noakes tried to keep his straight face and balance until the credits finished.
Go With Noakes Mills and Dales intro, VHS Ephemera
One of the most famous of the Blue Peter animals, however, was Noakes’ pet on the show, a border collie named Shep. Shep was a faithful and constant sidekick to Noakes. The pair were inseparable, from Shep’s puppy days to the dog’s death almost 16 years later. The pair even left the show together with Shep living with Noakes afterwards.
This was a lovely gesture from the Beeb as you couldn’t really envisage a Noakes successor, sharing the same friendship and rapport with Shep. But in one of my more well-remembered moments of 1980s telly I recall Noakes being interviewed and being asked about their days after they left Blue Peter. Noakes sobbed talking about Shep’s death three days previously. And it was heartbreaking TV, I inwardly cursed the BBC for intruding on his obviously grieving man.
Action Man and more
The Late John Noakes On Blue Peter 1977, Scott Awcock
As the shows longest-serving presenter for 12 and a half years, Noakes was often seen as the action man of the show with Val Singleton and Peter Purves remaining in the studio. Noakes meanwhile was trying out anything daring be it cleaning Nelson’s column or parachuting with the Royal Air Force.
Noakes was game for anything and everything as he and co-presenter Peter Purves even donned dresses for the Blue Peter panto Cinderella as the Ugly sisters. His friendship with Purves he compared to Laurel and Hardy. And the pair apparently had a good relationship offset too.
Get Down Shep!
Get Down Shep, The Barron Knights – Topic
The Barron Knights were a kinda fun pop group from way back singing on as random subjects as Who Shot JR? with the song We Know Who Did it and a Smurfs song. This band – who were to my surprise musical support to both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in concerts – even released a song about John Noakes and Shep named after Noakes’ famous catchphrase, Get Down Shep. It was then a fun song, but now a warm tribute to this one man and his dog.