Schoolboy memories of that legendary spaghetti tree man

From Alun Evans, Whitehall Park Road, Chiswick

Your article (December 19) (Apprentice Richard Dimbleby was full of fun) brought me up with a start.

What you said about Richard Dimbleby being far from pompous certainly accorded with what my father told me about him when both were near contemporaries at Mill Hill School in north London.

You wrote that while training at the Richmond and Twickenham Times, Richard told his manager that he had permission to play the organ at the local church and, despite the manager’s protestations, went there nonetheless during work.

This brought to mind a passage in my late father’s life story which he completed just over a year ago.

My father, Howard R O Evans, wrote: “I became a school prefect [at Mill Hill] ending up as a monitor in my last year. There were some twenty monitors, two or three per house.

On Sundays and on special occasions monitors had to wear a morning suit, complete with top hat and a silver topped cane.

They also took it in turn to read the lesson in chapel.

The chapel had a pretty good organ, normally played by the music master, except on Thursdays, when one of the boys took over.

During my last two years that boy was Richard Dimbleby.

At the end of the service, Dimbleby would be playing a normal organ voluntary until most of the school and masters had left, leaving just the monitors and Maurice Jacks, the headmaster, who was known to be tone deaf.

At this point the voluntary would be slightly jazzed up until, after the head’s departure, we were treated to one of the latest hits. I seem to remember Tiger Rag coming across rather well.”.

That says much about Richard’s ebullience, which my father admired.

I am old enough to recall Panorama in the 1950s. Then it was the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme with its editorial integrity taken for granted around the world.

It needed the purposeful authority of a respected anchorman.

Richard was just the person for the time. If he appeared pompous then it was just that broadcasting presentation in those days required it.

Panorama was projected as a serious programme covering serious subjects in serious post war times. That is until the memorable April 1 ‘spaghetti tree harvest’ spoof in, I believe, 1958. Again, Richard was tongue in cheek and trying not to laugh, sending things up!

Thank you for an excellent article which gave a valuable insight into the part of Richard Dimbleby’s life which preceded his fame in broadcasting.

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