Firstly, let’s get out of the way the fact that there was a Children’s Hour in America. This article is about the BBC production which started on radio and transitioned to TV. I have trawled the Internet and used details – only after checking and double checking facts about contents and dates – but please forgive me if I have erred and do get in contact so I can make corrections – as I’m sure there will be mistakes! I have included these details because, just like with Blackie and Son compilation from this era it can be hard to date them!
The first annual I have found with the name of the BBC radio programme was published in 1929 – The Children’s Hour Annual: A Book of Stories and Poems for Boys and Girls contained work by E. F. Benson, Desmond MacCarthy, C. Fox Smith, L. Du Garde Peach, and others, published by Partridge, London. This earliest Children’s Hour Annual had 127 pages. There is also evidence (but I have not seen most of these books in person) of another “The Children’s Hour; Picture and Story Book” book published in London by Juvenile Productions with 61 pages and significantly its first story is “The little whiner” by Enid Blyton, as later we have evidence that Blyton was not welcome on “Children’s Hour”
I can’t find any evidence of another ‘annual’ before ‘Uncle Mac’s’ time. He joined the BBC in 1926 and Children’s Hour in 1930
THE CHILDREN’S HOUR ANNUAL
The British Library lists The Children’s Hour Annual (and we must be precise about these titles) edited by “Uncle Mac” of the B.B.C. (Derek McCulloch) as starting in 1935. I can confirm this as I have a copy dated “Copyright 1936” in which, in his “Hullo Children” preface, McCulloch says “In presenting the second Children’s Hour Annual, […]“ he couldn’t believe 12 months had passed so quickly, so the copyright date will be 1935 for the first. Although I am missing the dustjacket, research on the Internet shows this is correct – see above. And the earliest Raymond Sheppard published work I have found so far appears in the 1936 book. I also own another which ‘Uncle Mac’ says is the third one therefore must be 1937 – the first story is ‘Reminiscences’ by Commander Stephen King-Hall- which might help differentiate these books – if anyone has a cover for this I’d love to see it. To keep this article in chronological order is difficult due to the lack of publication dates and a lot of erroneous guesses on the part of booksellers 9and maybe myself!). So let’s take a break for a moment and rest in 1940.
You can listen to the 13 October 1940 broadcast of Derek McCulloch and “the 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth sends her best wishes to the children who have been evacuated from Britain to America, Canada and elsewhere. Princess Margaret joins her to wish all children goodnight. This is the earliest recording of the future Queen in the BBC archives.” Duration 4 minutes 18 seconds. This was one of ‘Uncle Mac’s’ proudest moments apparently.
The BBC states that “Children’s Hour ran on BBC Radio from 1922 to 1964, […] Derek McCulloch took charge of Children’s Hour in 1933, and as ‘Uncle Mac’ presided over the show on air, giving it its famous sign off ‘Goodnight children, everywhere’*
McCulloch’s full name was Derek Ivor Breashur [performing name Uncle Mac] (1897–1967). McCulloch lost his left eye at the Battle of the Somme and a leg as the result of an unfortunate car accident near his home. He joined the BBC in 1926 and took over Children’s Hour around 1930. It was in 1950 that he gave up the Children’s Hour role to dedicate more time to writing (and later he broadcast again on Children’s Favourites until 1964). Martin Parsons [opens a PDF] spoke at the Winchester Archaeological Rescue Group after researching Children’s Hour. His special interest is the way in which war has affected the lives of children, with special reference to the evacuation process in World War II. He found, from his research, that the “curmudgeonly old geezer” was very autocratic in his role, but felt this might be due to the constant pain he was in from his wounds. You’ll find a fascinating piece called “A Day in the life of the chief Radio “Uncle”- Radio Pictorial April 26, 1935″ here . It would be remiss of me to mention that ‘Uncle Mac’s’ name has now been besmirched. The least sensationalist article I’ve found on the matter is by Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books and makes very depressing reading. You’ve been warned!
Back to the Annuals.
UNCLE MAC’S CHILDREN’S HOUR BOOKI own the above copy (orange background and ‘red’ spine) and this has Raymond Sheppard’s signature clearly legible in the bottom right hand corner of the endpapers and more of his work inside (which I will blog at a later date). The first story is “King Arthur’s Tree” by Alison Uttley. It’s published by Sampson Low: London with no obvious date markings.
I have seen a copy of the ‘yellow version’ with the green spine but although it contains the same material inside, interestingly the artwork is noticeably different. The subtle linework has been simplified throughout and a single colour applied to ‘lift’ pictures a bit more than its black and white predecessor. Again I’ll cover this in a later blog.I think the Uncle Mac’s Children’s Hour Story Book was first published in 1947 (according to the British Library) but this where it all falls apart. The above was published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd., (c.1948?) and has a red cloth spine. The first story is “Bill Aylesbury at the Circus” and it has illustrated endpapers by Helen Jacobs. Authors are Derek McCulloch, Geoffrey Dearmer, Antonia Ridge, Peter Scott, Harry Farjeon, Bernard Newman, Jack Lester, Olive Dehn, W A Rathkey, W R Dalzell, E H Carkeet-James, Brian Vesey Fitzgerald, H Mortimer Batten, Ken Francis, Meryon Vance, Alan K Taylor & George Baker. Illustrators include Helen Jacobs, Weiss, Barbara C Freeman, Alex Jardine, Cicely Steed, Lowell, Gale & Bruce.
UNCLE MAC’S CHILDREN’S HOUR STORY BOOKThis edition, with a Chinaman and a Long John Silver lookalike, has a blue and an orange cloth spine. One bookseller says it’s 1947 (based on signed and dated illustrations). The first story is titled “The Creaky Caravan” by Ken Francis and contributors include, amongst others, a Bird Watching article by Eric Hosking, stories by Derek MacCulloch, Meryon Vance, Norah Lewis, Rosemary Tonks, Gerald Bullett & Olive Dehn. It includes: “The Green Veil” by Lieut. Commander RT Gould and ends with “The Crocodile who had Terrible Toothache” by Eileen Poynder. Artists include Norman Meredith, Helen Jacobs, Astrid, Willett, This pantomime cover version appears to be published in London: Collins. No date c.1951. It’s illustrated in colour, pictorial endpapers in colour with stories by Peter Scott, Alison Uttley, Antonia Ridge, Noel Streatfield, Barbara E. Todd and others. The dustjacket covers a red-spined hardback
The roller-coaster cover appears to me to be a bit worrying in the light of recent developments, but anyway. This one is published by Collins and has no date and the first story is ‘The British Private’ by Sheila Steen. Illustrators in this book include Jeanne Farrar, Barbara C. Freeman, A. H. Watson
UNCLE MAC’S OWN STORY BOOKThe cover of this book is signed by Mary Kendal Lee and is allegedly published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd, (or others state Purnell!) and two records I found on Abebooks showed inscriptions (God bless Grannies giving gifts!) of 1949 and also ‘Xmas 1950’. 10 stories including: Snow White, Thumbelina, The Goose Girl, Three Little Pigs, The Magic Snuff-Box, The Ugly Duckling, Princess Goldilocks and more. Illustrated by Grace Lodge, Hilda Boswell, Louis Ward, Barbara Freeman, Cyril Cowell, Helen Jacobs, Joyce L.Davies, and John H.Bruce. I’m guessing as ‘Uncle Mac’ left Children’s Hour in 1950 this might be the first story book using his name but keeping a low profile for the Children’s Hour name.
BBC CHILDREN’S HOUR ANNUAL
The British Library lists the BBC Children’s Hour Annual. (B.B.C. Children’s Annual.). as starting in 1951.The 1952 Annual is collectable especially for the Frank Bellamy illustrations. The dustjacket is by Gilbert Dunlop and the end-papers are illustrated by Derrick Harris with E.M. Hatt poem, “The Kitten on the Quay” Features and stories, some based on familiar Children’s Hour characters such as ‘Jennings’, and ‘Norman and Henry Bones’. Authors include Alison Uttley, Anthony Buckeridge, Benedict Ellis, W. R. Dalzell, Ralph Whitlock, Colin Clemak, Noel Streatfield, David Scott Danniell, James Fisher, Peter Ling, Anthony C. Wilson, Angus McVicar, Bertha Lonsdale, Aubery Feist, Olive Dehn, Patricia Lynch, L. Hugh Newman, Ken Francis, Lavinia Derwent, John Stratten, Tudur Watkins, Jean Marsh, and Modwena Sedgwick.
One bookseller lists the authors of some content for the BBC Children’s Hour Annual Published by Burke London, 1954 which features Anthony Buckeridge, Nigel Kneale (really?), George Cansdale, Gilbert Hackforth-Jones and others . BBC Children’s Hour Annual: Features from Radio & Television May E Jenkin [Elizabeth] – Editor Burke Publishing Co Ltd, London, 1954. William Stobbs, Eric Wade, Ann Rochester et al (illustrator). stories by Anthony Buckeridge, George Cansdale, Ross Salmon, Barbara Todd et al; Another seller says BBC Children’s Hour Annual Jenkin , May E. (Ed) Burke, London, 1954. Stories include ‘The Flowerpot Men and the Scarecrow’ by Maria Bird, and ‘Jennings Amazing Record’ by Anthony Buckeridge. Another states: 1954. Includes “Jenning’s amazing record” by Buckeridge, & stories by Mary Norton, Joyce Lankester Brisley, Angus MacVicar. Gilbert Hackforth-Jones and others.
Then we see a change as BBC Children’s Hour Annual is now edited by Peggy Bacon – still published by Burke. One – no date – starts with a poem “The Train to Glasgow” by Wilma Horsbrugh, then “Biffer” by Elf Lewis Clarke. Pictorial endpapers-front Miss Clara Chuff, rear montage of stills fom Children’s Hour. Strangely one seller states “owner’s inscription dated Xmas 1952”, so as you can see this has all gone into meltdown!
And finally here is a set of the later annuals from a Flickr collection (in my blog page for FB]
* Jeff Walden, ‘McCulloch, Derek Ivor Breashur [Uncle Mac] (1897–1967)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/53647, accessed 23 Feb 2014]