John Noakes

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For the pseudonym, see John Noakes (pseudonym).
John Noakes
Born (1934-03-06) 6 March 1934 (age 82)
Shelf, Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Residence Andratx, Majorca, Spain
Occupation Actor, presenter, television personality
Years active 1965–2013
Spouse(s) Vicky (1965–present)

John Noakes (born 6 March 1934) is an English television presenter and personality, best known for co-presenting the BBC children's magazine programme Blue Peter in the 1960s and 1970s. He remains the show's longest-serving presenter, with a tenure that lasted 12 years and 6 months.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, he was educated at Rishworth School, where he excelled in cross-country running and gymnastics.[1]

Early career[edit]

Noakes trained as an aircraft engine fitter for the RAF and BOAC,[2] before deciding to become an actor. He trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and made his stage debut as a dog and a clown in a pantomime. He appeared on television in programmes such as the military police drama series Redcap and worked with the comedian Cyril Fletcher.

Blue Peter[edit]

Noakes joined Blue Peter as a presenter on 30 December 1965;[3] his colleagues at the time were Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton. Trace left the programme in 1967, and was replaced by Peter Purves, creating the 'Val, John and Pete' line-up which lasted until 1972. When Singleton began to diversify her television career, former Young Generation dancer Lesley Judd joined the team. At a time when most BBC presenters spoke with received pronunciation (RP), Noakes's broad Yorkshire accent was a novelty.

Noakes usually fulfilled the role of action man in the series. Highlights included free-fall parachuting with the RAF's Flying Falcons display team and bobsleighing (his sled hit a hole in the ice and turned over, injuring him). After his five-mile-high free-fall with the RAF in 1973,[4] he held the record for the longest free-fall parachute jump by a British civilian for a few years, although it has since been broken.[citation needed]

Like most presenters, Noakes was encouraged to take special responsibility for one of the show's pets. His original dog was Patch, the son of Petra, the first Blue Peter dog. After Patch's sudden death in 1971 (from a rare disease) he was given another pet dog, a Border Collie puppy, christened Shep by viewers. Noakes's attempts to control the excitable Shep led to his memorable catchphrase "Get down, Shep!".

Other television work[edit]

Overlapping with his period on Blue Peter, Noakes and Shep appeared in another factual series, Go With Noakes, in which they travelled around the country getting involved in diverse activities like motor racing, rowing, aerobatics and painting. In each series Noakes was featured travelling around Britain in a particular mode, e.g. sailing, narrow boat, walking, open top car. Go With Noakes began on 28 March 1976, and would run for six series and 31 episodes, finishing its original run on 21 December 1980.[5]

Noakes left Blue Peter on 26 June 1978.[6] It is generally thought that Noakes was not allowed to keep Shep. Although the dog was legally owned by the BBC, Noakes was offered the option of keeping him. According to the behind-the-scenes book Blue Peter The Inside Story by Biddy Baxter, the show's longest-serving editor, this was conditional on Noakes' not using Shep for advertising or commercial purposes. Noakes appeared in a series of television advertisements for Spillers "Choice Cuts" dog food, using a dog that was indistinguishable from Shep but named Skip.[7] The subterfuge led to a deeper rift between him and Baxter.[8] Noakes called her a "stupid woman" in a televised 2008 documentary celebrating the show's 50th anniversary.[9][10] Because of his poor relationship with Baxter, Noakes refused to appear on an edition of Blue Peter to celebrate its twentieth birthday in October 1978[11] and had to be persuaded to pre-film a message for the programme by Lewis Bronze. The filmed message was taped whilst Noakes was on location filming the Go With Noakes episode Around The Cheshire Ring. This minor subterfuge also allowed the show to explain his absence in a positive manner for the viewers. He did not appear at all for the silver anniversary programme in 1983.[12]

After Blue Peter[edit]

In 1979, Noakes wrote a children's book, The Flight of the Magic Clog, published by Lion with illustrations by Toni Goffe. In the book, Mr. Brooks takes John, Mickey the brainy one, June the talkative one, Barbara the pretty one and Eric the clumsy one on an adventure against the international villain Baron Wilhelm Doppleganger and his secret arms factory, using a giant magic flying clog.

In 1982, Noakes and his wife made an unsuccessful attempt to sail around the world. A second attempt in 1984 got no further than Majorca, Spain, where they settled down to run a boat rental business. In 1983 Noakes presented The Dinosaur Trail, a 7-part documentary for Children's ITV.

Between 1986 and 1988 the BBC's programme Fax! answered questions posed by viewers. On 20 January 1987 the question "Whatever happened to John Noakes and Shep?" was posed. Noakes appeared on the show with his wife and revealed what he had been doing since retiring from television, During the course of the interview, Noakes tearfully revealed that Shep had died just three days before.[13]

Notwithstanding his status as an icon for a whole generation, Noakes has become publicly bitter about his Blue Peter experiences.[14] Despite having come across as a natural presenter, he claimed his television personality was a fake, and he was merely acting a role. He also complained about his perceived low salary during his time on Blue Peter, and expressed disgust that he had apparently never been insured for any of the stunts he had undertaken, claiming that he would never have gone through with them had he been aware of this at the time. Programme editor "Biddy Baxter was an awful woman," he said in 1999. "I don't want to talk about her."[14] Baxter, for her part, has denied Noakes's claims about the lack of insurance for his stunts.[15] The Singleton/Noakes/Purves team was reunited in October 1998 for a programme celebrating 40 years of Blue Peter and again in January 2000 for the disinterment of the time capsule that they had buried in 1971.

In 2000s, Noakes trained in the Michel Thomas method of language tuition, and then became a language tutor, specialising in Romance languages. In 2003, Noakes co-hosted an ITV series entitled Mad About Pets and in 2004, he took part in the Living TV reality TV show I'm Famous and Frightened!. A year later, he appeared in the Channel 5 programme Britain's Worst Celebrity Driver. On 14 June 2008, he appeared in a Blue Peter-themed edition of the Weakest Link, being voted off second. It was noted that when the presenter Anne Robinson spoke about Shep he became visibly upset and could not hold back the tears trying to answer the question. On 7 September 2013, he appeared with Peter Purves in Pointless Celebrities (episode 6 of series 4).

Personal life[edit]

On 30 June 2015 Noakes was reported missing from his home in Andratx, Majorca. His wife alerted local police, who confirmed that Noakes had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and had been living with the condition for some years.[16] He was found the same day, close to his home, and taken to hospital, having fallen into some long grass "in the bottom of a storm drain".[17]


  1. ^ a b "BBC — I Love Blue Peter — John Noakes presenter biography". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "John Noakes is found after going missing in Majorca". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  3. ^ "I Love Blue Peter - John Noakes presenter biography". BBC. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  4. ^ "John Noakes". 1973-05-15. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  5. ^ "BBC programme catalogue entry for Go With Noakes". Retrieved 30 January 2007. [dead link]
  6. ^ "BBC programme catalogue entry for Blue Peter, transmission date 26.6.78". Retrieved 30 January 2007. [dead link]
  7. ^ IL004 002 Spillers Choice Cuts Dog Food John Noakes Blue Peter on YouTube
  8. ^ Baxter, Biddy (1989), Blue Peter The Inside Story, Interpet Ringpull BBC Books, ISBN 978-0948955501
  9. ^ "Blue Peter at 50 - BBC Two England - 11 October 2008 - BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  10. ^ "Blue peter appeals". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Baxter, Biddy. 'Blue Peter: The Inside Story'. Interpret Ringpull Books/BBC 1989.ISBN 978-0948955501
  13. ^ "BBC programme catalogue entry for Fax!, transmission date 20.1.87". Retrieved 30 January 2007. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b Gary Finn (1999-06-21). "Noakes: I hated `Blue Peter' | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  15. ^ Moreton, Cole (2009-02-15). "Blue Peter: A sinking ship | TV & Radio | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  16. ^ "Blue Peter's John Noakes Missing In Majorca". Sky News. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "John Noakes is found after going missing in Majorca". BBC. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Christopher Trace
Blue Peter Presenter No. 5
Succeeded by
Christopher Wenner