BBC Uncle Mac and Children’s Hour in books

Children's Hour Annual 1929

Children’s Hour Annual 1929

UPDATED MAY 2021

Firstly, let’s get out of the way the fact that there was a Children’s Hour in America and in Australia – both saw Annuals published (the Americans had Uncle Arthur); the latter saw three annuals that I can find for the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programme – 1956-1958.

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 story books 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, Madeleine Nightingale J. C. Stobart, Christine Chaundler, Hugh Chesterman, Eric Parker, C. E. Hodges, C. A. Dawson Scott, Ralph De Rohan, Antonia White, Philip Carmichael and others, published by Partridge, London. This earliest Children’s Hour Annual had 127 pages and the artists include C. T. Nightingale, A. H. Watson,  Ernest Aris, H. J. Ford, Marian Allen, Hugh Chesterman, Joyce Dennys, John Dixon, Eleanor Lambert, A. E. Horn and simply “Johns”.  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”. There are many older books with “Children’s Hour” in the title, after all it comes from Longfellow.

Pre-1930?

Pre-1930, Anything to do with the BBC?

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

1935

1935

1936

1936

Children's Hour Annual 1937

Children’s Hour Annual 1937 (Thanks to Tim Ahern)

Children'sHourAnnual-1937-1a

Children’s Hour Annual 1937 – #3 – see dustjacket flap. Thanks to Tim for the scan

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 of the 2nd annual, 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 and Tim Ahern has provided the dustjacket which shows we have the correct jacket. The first story is ‘Reminiscences’ by Commander Stephen King-Hall- which might help differentiate these books.

Children’s Hour Annual 1936, Title Page

Children's Hour Annual 1936, Contents Page

Children’s Hour Annual 1936, Contents Page

Children's Hour Annual 1937, Title Page

Children’s Hour Annual 1937, Title Page

Children's Hour Annual 1937, Contents Page

Children’s Hour Annual 1937, Contents Page

Children's Hour1944_crop

The Children’s Hour (dated 1944 by an Etsy seller)

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 (and 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.

A now-defunct BBC page (see end of article) stated 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’

Derek McCulloch / "Uncle Mac"

Derek McCulloch / “Uncle Mac”

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 wrote Nonsericks for Methuen, as “Uncle Mac” in 1928) and was second-in-command (1931) and took over Children’s Hour 1933. 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 (on a now defunct website) 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. The significance to children scattered far and wide during the war, of his sign-off (“Goodnight children…everywhere”) with those most important pause cannot be exaggerated. You’ll find a fascinating piece called “A Day in the life of the chief Radio “Uncle”- Radio Pictorial April 26, 1935″ here  (Archived page). 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 BOOK

[1947?]

Uncle Mac’s Children’s Hour Book [1948?]

I 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 (read more here ).  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 read more at the above link.

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.

[1948?]

[1948 2nd version?]


[1948? 'Flattened linework inside]

[1948? dustjacket]

One bookseller states VERY certainly Purnell & Sons Ltd [1950], London, 1950. First Edition

[1948?]

[1950]

The above was published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd., (1949) 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 BOOK

Unclemac4b

[1947?]


Unclemac4

[1947 with dustjacket?]

This 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

UncleMacs-1947-p2

Uncle Mac’s Children’s Hour Story Book 1947?

[1952?]

[1951? Price £7/6d Collins]

This pantomime cover version appears to be published in London: Collins. No date c.1951. It’s illustrated in colour, pictorial endpapers in colour (by D. L. Mays) with stories by Peter Scott, Alison Uttley, Antonia Ridge, Noel Streatfield, Barbara E. Todd and others. The dustjacket covers a red-spined hardback. The back flap of the dust jacket advertises 3 Collins books but all are in series so none gives a specific clue to this book’s date. [They are Collins Children’s Annual, Collins Film Book and Collins Magazine Annual for Boys and Girls]

Unclemacx

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 BOOK

UncleMacsOwn

[1950?]

The cover of this book is signed by Mary Kendal Lee and is published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd,  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 Nightingale, The Goose Girl, Princess Goldilocks, The Shepherdess and the Sweep, Three Little Pigs, The Magic Snuff-Box, The Ugly Duckling,  and The Enchanted Locket. 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 brand. Interestingly there is also an “Uncle Mac’s Fairy Tale Book” which I would guess might mirror the contents above!

BBC CHILDREN’S HOUR ANNUAL + BBC CHILDRENS ANNUAL

The British Library lists the BBC Children’s Hour Annual. (B.B.C. Children’s Annual.). as starting in 1951.

[1952]

[1952]

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

1954

Edited by May  E. Jenkin 1954

1955

1955

1956

1956

1957

1957

1959

Edited by Ursula Eason – 1959

1960

1960

* 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]. The defunct BBC page mentioned above is not archived at Archive.org but for the record was http://www.bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc/collections/bbc_collection/collection_archive_progs.shtml

16 comments on “BBC Uncle Mac and Children’s Hour in books

  1. Bill says:

    you know there’s something familiar about the cover artists for the Childrens Hour annuals 1955 – 1957. I don’t think it’s Caswell as the illo’s look a bit too simplistic for his style – early Noble perhaps? The poses of some of the characters are of that ilk I feel – maybe even Howarth? Cheers – and keep up the good work mate!! Bill Storie.

    • standby4action says:

      Whenever I get to see them in ‘person’ I’ll search for credits and publish them here but i wouldn’t say they’re Mike Noble or Leslie Caswell. Watch this space

  2. My mother used to relate poems given by “Uncle Mac” on the radio to me and my brother and sister, I was born in 1929. I can remember one ditty which began, “A week or two ago by accident you know, I tore my Sunday breeches right behind, I know the rest, also “A little boyu was talking to another boy next door, who had lots of pretty toys upon the floor, etc” I would like to know if these poems and more are in print. Thank you

  3. Norman Sells says:

    We have a set of 78rpm gramophone records of “Uncle Mac’s” stories, remember listening to them in the 50”s are there any tapes etc of them

  4. shirley says:

    hI I am searching for info on Allan K Taylor who was uncle jock of the BBC childrens hour .I have some of his books .I would love any info on him if anyone can tell me .he was born 1890 and passed away 1951 .he was n author of dauntless jock ,from a glasgow slum to Fleet Street .he is my husbands grandfather .

  5. Peter Godfrey says:

    I have some of these but they are in storage in England so I can’t get at them right now. Is it possible for you to tell me who illustrated the Ralph Whitlock stories? After 60 years I have two things stuck in my head from these books – the Creaky Caravan (fabulous story!) and the children walking in the rain to Cowleaze Farm.

    • standby4action says:

      Hi Peter
      Thanks for writing. It took me a while to get to all the copies I had. If I’d read my own blog I would have known you meant the BBC Children’s Hour Annual! “Christmas at Cowleaze Farm” is illustrated by Gilbert Dunlop. Sorry to have taken so long,
      Best wishes
      Norman

  6. Martin Page says:

    Hi there. I stumbled upon this site. I have the blue and green covered books (1948 and 1947). I also have the yellow ‘Own Story Book’. I have another that you don’t show a picture of, which is ‘Uncle Mac’s Fairy Tale Book’. I can send a photo if needed. Regards, Martin.

    • standby4action says:

      Yes please Martin. My email is under “About the author” at the top of the page. Thanks in advance

  7. Chris Wotton says:

    Hi the ‘Uncle Mac’s Children’s Hour Book’ with the ‘seal’ cover you show as [1948?] would I guess be called the 1950 annual. I have a copy with an insciption dated “Xmas 1949” and i see on google there’s another one with the same date. I can send a photo if needed.

    • standby4action says:

      That’s fantastic Chris. Thanks for getting in contact – I have amended the article to show this

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