Derek McCulloch

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Derek McCulloch
Derek Ivor Breashur McCulloch

(1897-11-18)18 November 1897
Plymouth, Devon, England
Died1 June 1967(1967-06-01) (aged 69)
Haywards Heath, West Sussex, England
OccupationBBC Radio producer and presenter
Head of children's broadcasting for the BBC
Spouse(s)Eileen Barry (1931–1967, his death)
AwardsOBE, 1964

Derek Ivor Breashur McCulloch OBE (18 November 1897 – 1 June 1967) was a BBC Radio producer and presenter. He became known as "Uncle Mac" on Children's Hour and Children's Favourites and provided the voice of "Larry the Lamb" in Toytown. He was the head of children's broadcasting for the BBC from 1933 until 1951.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

McCulloch was born in Plymouth, Devon, the youngest child of (William) Lionel Breashur McCulloch and his wife, Bertha Russell. The First World War interrupted his education at Croydon High School, and he enlisted in 1915 in the Public Schools Battalion of the 16th Middlesex Regiment at the age of 17. He was wounded at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 within 20 yards of the German front line. He was then shot by an enemy stretcher party and lost his right eye. During three days and nights in a shell hole, he incurred further injuries from shrapnel. He crawled back to his own lines. He served until 1921 with the infantry, where he was commissioned into the Green Howards, and in the Royal Flying Corps as an equipment officer, including a spell on HMS Valiant.

After the war he travelled in Europe and South America. He was working for Central Argentine Railway when his health deteriorated, and he returned to England where a bullet was extracted from his lung.[3]



He joined the BBC in 1926 as an announcer. He was the commentator on the first radio broadcast of the FA Cup Final in 1927.[4] His health worsened while working for the Belfast station in 1929 but a job was found for him in Children's Hour. By 1931, he became second-in-command of the programme and took charge of it in 1933.[2]

The programme included talks, plays, music and drama serials. He was appointed head of children's broadcasting in 1933, serving in that position until 1951.[1] He regarded the department as a microcosm of all broadcasting, stating: "Nothing but the best is good enough for children ... our wish is to stimulate their imaginations, direct their reading, encourage their various interests, widen their outlook and inculcate the Christian virtues of love of God and their neighbours."[5][2] In 1938 he lost a leg as the result of a road accident, and thereafter remained in constant pain.[3]

One of Children's Hour favourites were Sydney George Hulme Beaman's Toytown playlets. McCulloch played the central role of Larry the Lamb. In 1939, the audience for Children's Hour reached four million. His sign-off line, "Goodnight children, everywhere," became more poignant after the evacuation of many children from their homes at the start of the Second World War. He resigned from the BBC in 1950 due to ill health[4] but continued to chair Nature Parliament which ran roughly every month on Children's Hour.[6] By 1964, the audience for the daily Children's Hour had decreased to 24,000 in favour of television. Despite questions in Parliament, the programme was dropped.[2]

Children's Favourites[edit]

He became the children's editor for the News Chronicle. In 1954, he returned to the BBC, to present a BBC music request programme for children, Children's Favourites, on Saturday mornings.[1] After his retirement, it was hosted by Leslie Crowther and it became Junior Choice, hosted by Ed Stewart, when the BBC Light Programme was replaced by Radio 1 and Radio 2 in 1967.[7]


He wrote the book Every Child's Pilgrim's Progress in 1956, which is a simplified version of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress which in McCulloch's words is one of the "greatest stories ever written". He also wrote two children's stories, Cornish Adventure (1941) and Cornish Mystery (1950), and gave his name to a series of Ladybird children's books in the 1950s.[3]

Personal life[edit]

McCulloch married Eileen Hilda Barry (b. 1907/8), a BBC secretary, on 13 June 1931. They had two daughters. He was awarded an OBE in 1964. He died at St Francis Hospital, Haywards Heath on 1 June 1967. He was cremated at Bramley, Surrey..

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in February 1964 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in central London.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Strinati, D. Come on Down?: The Politics of Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain, Psychology Press, 1992, pp. 153, 157.
  2. ^ a b c d Walden, Jeff (23 September 2004). "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, McCulloch, Derek Ivor Breashur [performing name Uncle Mac]". Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Mckenzie, Jim. Biography by Jim Mackenzie at The Wee Web Archived 15 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 30 October 2012
  4. ^ a b The Radio Academy: Derek McCulloch Archived 19 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 30 October 2012
  5. ^ BBC Quarterly 1948.
  6. ^ "BBC Genome". Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  7. ^ "Richard Havers". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  8. ^ This Is Your Life: Season 9, Episode 19 Derek McCulloch: Uncle Mac (13 Feb. 1964) IMDb. Retrieved 25 March 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Children's Hour
  • Cahalan, Paul; Jonathan Owen (28 October 2012). "Bitter infighting sweeps the BBC". The Independent. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  • Hartley, Ian. Goodnight Children Everywhere: History of Children's Broadcasting. Midas Books, 1983. ISBN 0-85936-201-9
  • Walden, Jeff. "Derek McCulloch", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 2004.