25th November 1937. Have a Go!

Quizzes have been part of radio output going back to the 1930.s with the first being an inter-regional spelling competition, as part of Childrens’ Hour, broadcast Today in 1937 on The BBC Regional Home Service. (1)

The programme gave rise to ‘Regional Round’ which ran to 1962 with the first Question Master Derek McCulloch known as ‘Uncle Mac’; in those day the BBC was fond of ‘aunties and uncles’, and is still known as ‘Auntie’.

Post-war BBC quizzes became part of radio output with the just for fun, cerebral, Round Britain Quiz.

For the masses in 1947, 20 million on the Light Programme, were listening to the roving quiz programme, with public participation, ‘Have-a-Go’, hosted by Yorkshireman, Wilfred Pickles, aided by his piano-playing wife Mabel.

However now money was being exchanged with the lucky contestants receiving 2/-6d or 5/- (five shillings), with the catchphrase, ‘Give him the money Barney’.(2)

Wilfred in his home-spun way would archly ask younger contestants,’Are yer courtin?'(sic), which elicited uproarious merriment, all very homespun and unsophisticated.

In  the money-strapped, rationed and generally drab post-war 1940.s, the old BBC Light Programme the successor to the the war-time Forces Programme, found it had many hours to fill ideally with cheap programmes such as ‘Twenty Questions’ which attracted 15 million listeners.

But no money passed hands as the cast was professional, including Richard Dimbleby (‘money for old rope’, he described it), Anona Winn, Jack Train and Joy Adamson chaired by Canadian Stewart MacPherson, with Norman Hackforth as the mystery voice.

Even in the 1950.s the shadow of the first Director-General, the dour and joyless, Presbyterian, Lord Reith hung over the BBC, but the penurious and academic parlour game, radio format gave way to a more flamboyant and mercenary style with the accession in 1955 of Independent TV.


Though the format of ‘Have-a-Go’ would appear puerile to modern ears, it broke new ground in being an audience, cash-rewarded, participation in quiz programmes, and soon to be succeeded on TV, with the likes of ‘Take Your Pick’, with Michael Miles and others of the genre.

(1) Television broadcast a Spelling Bee at 10.pm on 31st May 1938 from Alexandra Palace.

(2) Barney Colehan being the producer. Weekly Pay would be c £5, with 20 shillings to the pound.


uk.pinterest.com/Pic of Family.

radiorewind.co.uk.radio-2-light-programme/Pic of Have-a-Go.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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