Born in Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he moved to Southport, Lancashire, with his family in 1929 and worked with his father as a builder. He joined an amateur dramatic society and in a local production there, met Mabel Celilia Myerscough, all of whose family had been connected with the stage. Pickles remained a proud Yorkshireman, and having been selected by the BBC as an announcer for its North Regional radio service, he went on to be an occasional newsreader on the BBC Home Service during World War II. He was the first newsreader to speak in a regional accent rather than Received Pronunciation, "a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for Nazis to impersonate BBC broadcasters", and caused some comment with his farewell catchphrase "... and to all in the North, good neet". His first professional appearance was as an extra in Henry Baynton's production of Julius Caesar at the Theatre Royal in Halifax in the 1920s.
Pickles soon became a radio celebrity, and pursued an acting career in London's West End theatre, on television and on film.
Have A Go and Ask Pickles
His most significant work was as host of the BBC Radio show Have A Go, which ran from 1946 to 1967 and launched such catchphrases as "How do, how are yer?", "Are yer courting?", "What's on the table, Mabel?" and "Give him the money, Barney", delivered in Pickles's inimitable style. He appeared in the show with his wife Mabel (née Myerscough, 1906–1989), whom he had married on 20 September 1930, at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Ainsdale, Southport.
The series attracted a weekly audience of over 20 million and a mailbag of around 5,000 letters. Contestants could earn £1/19s/11d by sharing "their intimate secrets." In May 1954 he brought the show to television with the programme Ask Pickles which ran until 1956. The show was publicised enthusiastically by the BBC:
|“||It doesn't matter how old you are, you can still make your own special dream come true if you get in touch with Wilfred Pickles. Maybe you want to feed a lion or pat a giraffe on the tiny top of his head; or perhaps you'd rather see the lovely lights of London reflected on the Thames, or ride pillion on a motorbike. Maybe you want to meet a film star or you might even want to have a fight-all right! Just ask Wilfred Pickles. He'll try to fix it for you.||”|
—BBC publicity for Ask Pickles
Other television and radio
In 1955 Wilfred Pickles published an anthology of poetry and prose of the 'north counties' of England. The book, My North Countrie, featured verses from a range of poets and writers including two Lancashire dialect verses, 'A Bird Song Away' and 'Th' Art Lookin' Sackless', from the award winning weaver-poet Nicholas Freeston.
On 1955 he opened the Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics at Tixover Grange, Rutland. Also in 1955, he and wife Mabel celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary by returning to the Sacred Heart Church in Southport, when they gave money for a statue of Saint Teresa, which still stands in the church. They recorded an edition of the radio show Have a Go from the church hall (now demolished) and later did a version of the show, in the adjacent school for the children.
- Billy Liar (1963), directed by John Schlesinger
- The Family Way (1966), directed by Roy Boulting
- For the Love of Ada (1972)
- "Your Voice, Accentuate the positive". BBC. March 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Pickles on 'The Calderdale Companion' website
- Laurence Marcus (21 August 2005). "ASK PICKLES". .televisionheaven.co.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- "Ask Pickles (1948)". boardgamegeek.com. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- Pickles, Wilfred. My North Countrie. George, Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1955
- Opening of Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics British Pathe newsreel 1955
- The London Gazette: . 8 June 1950. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Wilfred Pickles at the Internet Movie Database
- Newsreel of Wilfred Pickles at home in 1947
- Silent footage of Pickles at a book signing, Colne 1950 Produced by Sam Hanna, Burnley (Vimeo - North West Film Archive)
- Wilfred Pickles at Find a Grave
- Video of Wilfred Pickles presenting a Christmas Show
- Wilfred Pickles appearance on This Is Your Life