Wilfred Pickles

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Wilfred Pickles
Actor Wilfred Pickles.jpg
Wilfred Pickles in 1950
Born(1904-10-13)13 October 1904
Halifax, Yorkshire, England
Died27 March 1978(1978-03-27) (aged 73)
Brighton, Sussex, England
Years active1931–1972
Spouse(s)Mabel Pickles (1930 – 26 March 1978) (his death) (1 child)

Wilfred Pickles, OBE (13 October 1904 – 27 March 1978) was an English actor and radio presenter.

Early life and personal life[edit]

Pickles was 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 Cecilia Myerscough (1906–1989), all of whose family had been connected with the stage.[1]

He 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 the Second World War. He was the first newsreader to speak in an accent other than Received Pronunciation, "a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for Nazis to impersonate BBC broadcasters",[2] and caused some comment by wishing his fellow northerners "Good neet".[3]

Early career[edit]

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.[4] 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[edit]

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". He appeared in the show with his wife Mabel, whom he had married at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Ainsdale, Southport on 20 September 1930.

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 took the show to television with the programme Ask Pickles which ran until 1956.[5] The show was publicized 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

In 1948, a children's board game entitled Ask Pickles was published by jigsaw puzzle manufacturer Tower Press.[6]

Other television and radio[edit]

He was the guest castaway on BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs on 2 January 1953; his chosen book was The Oxford Book of English Verse edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch, and his luxury a yellow waistcoat.

On television, among many performances, he appeared in Dr. Finlay's Casebook and For the Love of Ada, co-starring with Irene Handl.

He was in the play Come Laughing Home by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall on BBC Radio 4 in 1970. In 1971, he was the subject of This Is Your Life.


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.[7]

Later life[edit]

In 1950, Pickles was awarded the OBE for services to broadcasting.[8]

In 1955, he opened the Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics at Tixover Grange, Rutland.[9] 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 Margaret of the Sacred Heart, which still stands in the church. They recorded an edition of Have a Go from the church hall (now demolished), and later performed a version of the show in the adjacent school for the children.

He appeared, to great credit and dramatic effect, in the film Billy Liar, where he played the titular protagonist's father.

Pickles died in Brighton on 27 March 1978, aged 73, and is buried with his wife Mabel in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.


Wilfred and Mabel Pickles' grave, Southern Cemetery, Manchester

Wilfred Pickles was the uncle of judge James Pickles, actors Vivian Pickles and Christina Pickles, and great-uncle of actress Carolyn Pickles.

The now-defunct "Portman & Pickles" public house in Market Street, Halifax, was named after him and film actor Eric Portman.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Wilfred Pickles Invites You To Have Another Go, Wilfred Pickles, David and Charles, 1978, p. 30
  2. ^ "Your Voice, Accentuate the positive". BBC. March 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  3. ^ "War prompts naming and campaigning". BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ Pickles on 'The Calderdale Companion' website
  5. ^ Laurence Marcus (21 August 2005). "ASK PICKLES". .televisionheaven.co.uk. Archived from the original on 10 March 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Ask Pickles (1948)". boardgamegeek.com. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  7. ^ Pickles, Wilfred. My North Countrie. George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1955
  8. ^ "No. 38929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 1950. p. 2788.
  9. ^ Opening of Wilfred Pickles' School for Spastics British Pathe newsreel 1955

External links[edit]