A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1952.

Whenever there's a new broadcasting moment, it's often a good idea to look at the Radio Times for the period to compare then with right now, specifically in Scotland, which began television transmissions this year.  But instead of the first day of broadcast (which is covered in some depth in the links below), let's have a look at New Year's Eve.  Usually we avoid BBCs One and Two for BBC Scotland or most often BBC Alba's Cèilidh na Bliadhn' Ùire, broadcast in Gaelic with simple subtitles from a tiny venue on a Hebridean island filled with folk music of various vintages and a genuine Hogmanay spirit.  It's especially fun when the presenters break into English to read a correspondence from some other part of the world.  

In 1952, on the Home Service, the regional New Year's Eve programme is "By The Threshold" in which "Walter Mowat introduces New Year scene from Scotland and the Furth of Scotland.  Watch-Night Service from St George's Parish Church, Edinburgh, the Rev. James R Thomson.  The New Year is ushered in by the chimes of the Town Hall clock Lerwick, Shetland" with celebrations continuing into the night with dance music played by the legendary Jimmy Shand (pictured) and his Scottish Country Dance Band and Lou Preager and his Band.  Contrast that with the national Home service which offered Big Ben and the National anthem and closedown at five minutes past midnight.

The pages themselves are beautifully decorated with line drawings of various cathedrals and crowds ringed around the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain at Piccadilly Circus.  None of the other pages in that issue are so adorned.  The Third Programme also heralded in the New Year with the bells of Lerwick Town Hall, surrounded by Scottish Dance Music from various players and dance bands.  The Light Programme on the other hand seems to have simulcast Big Ben at midnight and then broadcast nationally the Scottish Dance Music programme on the regional Home service.  This wasn't unusual.  Programmes were frequently repeated across the various channels if they were still within remit.

The schedule for BBC Television doesn't seem include a regional opt out, but does have a Caledonian flavour.  "Bringing in the New Year" begins at ten past eleven with "Richard Dimbleby (introducing) A New Year's Eve Party at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, where Donald Peers, Janet Brown, and others entertain the doctors and nurses."  Brown would later become best known in the 1970s and 1980s as a Thatcher impersonator (frequently mistaken for Faith Brown because of their shared surname).  From the hospital, we were whisked to another OB, a Watch-Night Service from Wellington Church, Glasgow.  Then at midnight, Big Ben with the weather and NEWS (sound only) leading towards closedown.

Scottish Television Begins

"In Glasgow, people crowded round televisions in shop windows with hundreds queueing outside public halls where dealers had set up half a dozen sets for free screenings."
[The Scotsman]

"250,000 viewers pack halls and shops.  Reception good over whole area."
[Dundee Courier and Advertiser via Transdiffusion]

"Kirk o' Shotts is the site of a television transmitter near the village of Harthill in North Lanarkshire, almost midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow."
[Scotland on Air]

"The spread of television through England to Scotland, from Alexandra Palace to Kirk O'Shotts."
[BBC Rewind]

"This is a study of the BBC in the post-war period which focuses primarily on the history and development of BBC public service broadcasting in Scotland, and particularly within the period 1952-1980."
[Edinburgh Research Archive]

"Television cameras were present at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in its six year existence."
[BBC Rewind]

Watch With Mother

"The BBC began broadcasting television programmes aimed specifically at children in 1946. These were broadcast under the catch-all title of For The Children and aired around 5 o'clock each day. Among the favourites was Annette Mills with the stories of her puppet friends including Muffin the Mule."

"A look at the crew preparing the new BBC Children's Television studio in Lime Grove.  This clip is from Children's Newsreel."
[BBC Archive]

A clip of the opening titles for the strand which began in 1952.
[BBC Clips]

Some of the original puppets are in this museum's archive.
[Science + Media Museum]

"When retired headteacher Hilda Brabban died last month at the age of 88, she was hailed in obituaries as the "original creator" of The Flowerpot Men. Yet for 50 years, the true inspiration for the classic children's series has been a source of dispute between her family and that of the BBC producer who devised the programme, Freda Lingstrom."
[The Independent]


"Richard Dimbleby visits Bath where he takes in the Pump Rooms, Roman Baths, Royal Crescent, the Circus, Pulteney Street and the Parades. He also visits houses belonging to famous names from the past who have lived in Bath."
[BBC Clips]

"After her Accession on 6 February 1952, The Queen broadcast her first Christmas Message live on the radio from her study at Sandringham, Norfolk."
[The Royal Channel]


"Interview from a series of BBC radio talks in the early 1950s, including Craig's reminiscences of Ellen Terry, Isadora Duncan, the old school of acting, celebrities, and how he played Hamlet in Salford, Lancashire. Reminiscences on old theatre and approaches now outmoded, pantomime, masks, and the sense that makes great art."
[Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center][BBC Programme Index]

"Even in 1952, television viewers were tiring of the usual Saturday night recipe of variety shows, though the Guardian's critic saw a future in the format for adapted stories."
[The Guardian]


"At the end of 1951. the BBC completed its twenty-fifth year as a public corporation. Its post-war Charter expired at the same time. The expectation that the beginning of 1952 would bring a new long term Charter and an end to three years of enquiry and uncertainty was not, however, fulfilled."