The Clitheroe Kid
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Written by||James Casey, Frank Roscoe|
|Produced by||James Casey|
|Original release||April 1957 – 13 August 1972|
|No. of episodes||290|
The Clitheroe Kid was a BBC radio comedy show featuring diminutive Northern comedian Jimmy Clitheroe in the role of a cheeky schoolboy, who lived with his family at 33 Lilac Avenue in an unnamed town in the North of England. The pilot show, pilot series, and 16 subsequent series totalled 290 episodes in all, broadcast between April 1957 and 13 August 1972.
Apart from Clitheroe, the show's stars included Peter Sinclair playing his Scottish granddad, Patricia Burke as his mother (in some early shows the part was played by Renée Houston), and Diana Day as his long-suffering sister Susan (the part of the sister had been originally played by Judith Chalmers, when the character was called Judith Clitheroe).
Oldham comedian Danny Ross played Alfie Hall, Susan's daft, tongue-tied boyfriend, who was often drawn into Jimmy's reckless schemes and never learned to steer clear of him. And Tony Melody played Mr (Horatio) Higginbottom (his first name was rarely used), a 6'4" taxi driver, Granddad's drinking buddy, and father of Jimmy's pal Ozzie; Higginbottom was always threatening to give Jimmy a good hiding for things he had done to Ozzie. Ozzie himself was rarely heard, save as a muffled, indistinct background voice (for instance, as featured in the episode "The Trouble with Higginbottom" when he is ejected from a bus by the conductor).
In the pilot series, other actors who appeared in guest roles included John Broadbent, Violet Carson, Fred Fairclough, Fred Ferris, Tom Harrison, Jack Howarth, Shirley King, Eddie Leslie, Bob Monkhouse, Herbert Smith, Brian Trueman, Jack Watson, Patrick Wells, Leonard Williams and Rosalie Williams.
Jimmy Clitheroe was 35 when he started playing the part on radio, in 1956, but (in the variety theatres and, later, on television) he could pass as an 11-year-old boy because he had never grown physically beyond that age, although in later years his face gave his real age away. The radio show was made with a studio audience, and there were frequent gales of laughter at Jimmy's schoolboy humour, as well as at Alfie Hall's physical comedy and his mangling of the English language as he tried to explain something and made it worse.
Jimmy wore a schoolboy's blazer and cap even for radio recordings, to maintain the illusion that he was 11 years old. Real children never appeared in the show, as this would have given away the fact that Jimmy was an adult acting a part; so he talked of his pal Ozzie and his friends in the "Black Hand Gang" (who would punish any member caught in the company of a girl), but they never actually spoke.
The show (apart from the pilot series) was written by James Casey and Frank Roscoe, and produced by James Casey.
The BBC has mainly preserved the series as 154 recordings held on vinyl discs, made for overseas sale by their commercial arm, BBC Enterprises (now known as BBC Worldwide), sold mainly to Commonwealth radio stations overseas. But altogether, the BBC hold 175 episodes of the show, as a mixture of complete recordings on magnetic tape and 25 minute edits on vinyl disc.
Misunderstandings were the essence of the character-driven plots. Jimmy's character frequently listened at keyholes, where he misheard or misunderstood the situation. Even when he tried to do good, as when he thought grandad had stolen money from a local shop (which grandad had actually been given to look after), he usually messed things up with the help of Alfie Hall. After the end credits, Jimmy usually spoke a short piece to the audience, tying up loose ends in the plot and (frequently) reporting that grandad had spanked him for the trouble he had caused.
Jimmy's comedy technique involved much use of a popular style known (then as now) as insult humour. He refers to his teachers by nicknames, such as "Umm-ya Pete" and "Tick-Tock Tillie". Granddad's Scottish ancestry is endlessly mocked, with much talk of haggis and bagpipes, and he's portrayed as someone who only lives for his beer. Jimmy's sister Susan is typically referred to as "Scraggy-neck", "Sparrow-legs", or occasionally "the Octopus" (for her clinches with boyfriend Alfie), though she often has a go at her "little brother" (Jimmy was only 4'3" tall) in return. In the episode Enough to Make a Kitten Laugh, Susan tricks Jimmy into buying back a lost kitten that he has sold to Ozzie, by offering a reward in the local newspaper for its return (using an assumed name). She warns Mr Higginbottom that Jimmy wants it back, so Jimmy has to pay double what Ozzie paid him for it. When Jimmy discovers the trick, he turns the tables on her by selling the kitten (at a profit) to a man at the newspaper, who then turns up at home to demand the reward she has offered.
Alfie is endlessly mocked also; he often counters with "I'll thump you!" It is Alfie to whom Jimmy refers in his trademark catchphrase, "Don't some mothers have 'em!?" Mr Higginbottomis also mocked, whenever he appears: among other things, his house is said to be a rat-infested dump. But Jimmy is careful about this, because Higginbottom has a hair-trigger temper. Higginbottom's son, the much-maligned Ozzie, is a fat kid who Jimmy calls his best friend... whilst frequently thrashing him, mocking him, and involving him in his wild schemes.
The one person who escapes Jimmy's quick wit is his mother. In real life his father had died and he was devoted to his widowed mother, so wouldn't stand for either his real or his fictional radio mother being mocked.