A writer with a finely-tuned ear for the humorous moments of everyday life, Peter Tinniswood wrote for stage, for television, and for radio.
Radio offered him the ideal outlet for his blend of rich northern speech and social fantasy.
He went to Manchester University, hoping to get into journalism, but his first real job was as an insurance salesman in Vienna. He started in journalism on the Sheffield Star in 1958, at the same time as trying his hand at comedy. He sent gags and sketches to radio comics of the day, and, in 1962-64, formed, with David Nobbs, one of the journalistic partnerships which kept That Was the Week That Was supplied with material.
Around 1967, he took six months off to write a novel. The result, A Touch Of Daniel (1968), was a Book Society choice, and the film rights were bought by the Boulting Brothers. Tinniswood followed up its success with two further novels, deploying the same extended northern family haunted by the dreadful Uncle Mort, kept more or less in order by Carter Brandon.
The cricket-loving Brigadier, another well-known Tinniswood character, presided over Tales From The Long Room (non-cricket-lovers may not know this is at Lord's). Tinniswood was passionate about the game.
Stoker Leishman's Diaries was an excursion into serious radio drama, which increasingly attracted and rewarded him in later life. He also wrote some excellent momologues, for Maurice Denham, Stephanie Cole and Billie Whitelaw.
PETER TINNISWOOD RADIO DRAMA
1964 Hardluck Hall (6 x 30m, series of comedy plays)
1973 Sam's Wedding (aft)
1980 A Gifted Child (aft)
1981 An Occasional Day* (aft)
1981 Stoker Leishman's Diaries* (snt)
1981 The Siege
1981 The Bargeman's Comfort
1987 A Touch Of Daniel* (snt)
1987 The Village Fete* rpt. 1988 (snt)
1989 Call It A Canary* (snt)
1989 Uncle Mort's North Country* (series)
1990 A Small Union
1991 Uncle Mort's South Country *(series)
1992 Tales from the Brigadier
1992 Two into Three*
1993 The Governor's Consort* (for M.Wimbush) R3
1995 Pen Pals*
1996 Uncle Mort's Celtic Fringe* (series)
1996 The Moonhunter* (WS)
1996 The Wireless Lady*
1997 Secret life of the Shed *-feature on shed life-with P.Tinniswood
1997 Batteries not included*-feature on batteries-with P.Tinniswood
1998 The Last Obituary *(for Billie Whitelaw;m),rpt 1999
1998 Visiting Julia:6-episode comedy drama series
1998 Next time we might play better*
1998 The wireless lady, rpt
1998 On the whole it's been jolly good* (for M.Denham;m),rpt.1999
1998 Verona- a conspiracy of parrots *(for Stephanie Cole;m),rpt 1999
1998 A very rare bird indeed
1999 The House Swap
1999 The Scan
2000 Dorothy, a Manager's wife*
2000 Age Gap
2000 The Packer
2000 Admiral of the night
2000 The Monument (E. de Filippo), dram.
2001 The Duvet Lady *(Billie Whitelaw monologue)
2001 Mr. Reliable*
2001 Tales from the backbench (series 1, 4 episodes)
2001 On the train from Chemnitz*
2001 Tales from the Backbench (series 2, 4 episodes)
2002 On the whole it's been jolly good, rpt again
2002 The Air Raid*
2002 Anton in Eastbourne* (for Paul Scofield)
2003 The Goalkeeper's Boo-Boo
snt = saturday night theatre; aft = afternoon theatre,
m = monologue
SERIALS (numbers show no. of episodes)
Home Again 6 R4 2.6.1980- 7.7.1980 Robin Bailey/Doreen Mantle/Liz Goulding/David Troughton/Christopher Benjamin
Uncle Mort's North Country* 5 R4 21.7.1988 -18.8.1988 Stephen Thorne/Peter Skellern/Christian Rodska
Winston 6 R4 26.4.1989- 31.5.1989 Maurice Denham/Christian Rodska/Shirley Dixon/Liz Goulding/Bill Wallis
Winston Comes To Town 6 R4 1.1.1990- 5.2.1990 Maurice Denham/Shirley Dixon/Liz Goulding/Christian Rodska/Bill Wallis
Uncle Mort's South Country* - Series 1 5 R4 12.7.1990 9.8.1990 Stephen Thorne/Sam Kelly/Liz Goulding/Christian Rodska
Uncle Mort's South Country - Series 2 5 R4 27.10.1990 -24.11.1990 Stephen Thorne/Sam Kelly/Liz Goulding/Christopher Good/Christian Rodska
Winston In Love 6 R4 31.12.1990 -4.2.1991 Shirley Dixon/Bill Wallis/Maurice Denham/Liz Goulding/Christian Rodska
Winston In Europe 6 R4 12.3.1992 -16.4.1992 Shirley Dixon/Maurice Denham/Liz Goulding/Christian Rodska/Bill Wallis
Winston Back Home 6 R4 31.3.1994 -5.5.1994 Shirley Dixon/Maurice Denham/Liz Goulding/Christian Rodska/Bill Wallis
Uncle Mort's Celtic Fringe* 5 R4 12.2.1996 -11.3.1996 Stephen Thorne/Sam Kelly/Christian Rodska/Liz Goulding
asterisked items known to exist in VRPCC collections.
listings compiled from info. supplied by Roger Bickerton, and own collection.
Roger Bickerton of VRPCC has supplied the following:
I have just come across details (in RT) of an interesting series of
half=hour comedy plays entutled "Hardluck Hall" broadcast on the
Third ramme on Tuesdays from 14 July until 18 August, 1964. Comedy
on "The Third" was almost inevitably satirical and was not too often
aired, as it tended to arouse the wrath of the serious-minded listener.
The Radio Times on 9 July 1964 included the following article by Richard Thomas:
Some months ago, this advertisement appeared in the trade press:
"To Let- Hardluck Hall, Great Britain. Complete with owner. Suitable for
happening or serious theatrical venture". And thus was born the Third
Programme series which begins tonight. It appears that the owner, Sir
Plantagenet Pickle, has grown tired of the sneers of those who do not
believe he is fit to have charge of so honourable a pile, and has
decided to give them a chance of running it themselves. (Sir P.P. ,
incidentally, contrary to rumour, is not Dame Hilda Tablet in disguise).
Taking up his offer are Tom Ology, with his watchword: "In Poverty Was
Integrity"; Robin Robot, an automaton-afflicted, gadget-struck man of
the future, Priscilla Houseproud, prophetess of niceness, Sir Sydney
Servall, better known to millions of satisfied voters as Brand X, the
super-detergent politician; and finally, Doreen Nylon, 18, and determined
to be "with it" until she is with child. Sir P.P. assists each of them,
in turn, to play out their stories, and they all take part in each other's.
The stories, which have been written by two young writers new to
radio, David Nobbs and Peter Tinniswood, defy easy description or
definition......the cast were: Valentine Dyall as Sir P.P., Stephen Moore
as Tom Ology, Bryan Kendrick as Robin Robot, John Baddeley as Sydney
Servall, Marigold Sharman as Priscilla Houseproud and Janet Milner as
Doreen Nylon. Other parts were played by Isabel Rennie, Timothy Harley,
Haydn Jones and Rex Robinson. The series was produced by Richard
If anyone knows of a recording of this, would he/she please send
an email to the site? Hardluck Hall was
the first work for radio by Tinniswood and Nobbs, both of whom have become
THE GIFTED CHILD....1980
This is quite unlike any other Tinniswood drama. It deals with a massively intelligent boy, who can read the Daily Telegraph from cover to cover and understand all of it by the age of three; knows more about most academic subjects than his parents by the time he reaches six, and speaks with an erudite, poetic turn of phrase. The last thing he learns is how sad and dull life becomes when at an early age, you think there's nothing new to find out. Recording has not been located - please email if you have it.
STOKER LEISHMAN'S DIARIES 1981
Leishman is an elderly ex-Antarctic explorer who kept diaries
of his travels. His avaricious family realise that they might be
worth something. Will Leishman have to hand them over, or will he
be able to turn the tables? With Robin Bailey as Frederick Leishman,
Shirley Dixon as Mrs. Bentil, Barbara Marten as Dora, Martin Matthews
as Edgar, Liz Goulding as Barbara, Christian Rodska as Gordon. Directed
in Manchester by Tony Cliff. 90m, Saturday Night Theatre.
AN OCCASIONAL DAY ....1981
A man who has been thrown out by his wife still meets her once a year for 'an occasional day'. A rather touching love story. With Liz Goulding, David Trouton, Christopher Benjamin. Producer Tony Cliff, in Manchester.
THE VILLAGE FETE 1987
The play in which Winston first appears, (I think)....
with Shirley Dixon, Maurice Denham, and Bill Wallis as Winston.
A TOUCH OF DANIEL 1987
First appearance of Uncle Mort and Carter Brandon; stars
Christian Rodska and Stephanie Turner. Saturday Night Theatre;
CALL IT A CANARY 1989
Excellent sequel to the above, with Stephen Thorne as Mort and
Philip Jackson as Carter. Saturday Night Theatre; 90 min.
TALES FROM THE BRIGADIER (Tales from the Long Room) 1992-
Robin Bailey as "the eternal cricket fantasist", the Brigadier.
(Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph)
THE GOVERNOR'S CONSORT....1993
Excellent performance by Mary Wimbush.
THE WIRELESS LADY....1996
An eighty year old luvvie, the former grande dame of radio drama, lives alone thinking she is forgotten. Her only companion is an old Bakelite wireless. But a young producer contacts her, offering a part in a new play, and memories come flooding back. Billie Whitelaw as the old lady; Christian Rodska as the radio.
BBC World Service, 60m, 23 Nov 96. Peter Jeffrey, Jane Lapotaire, Kerry Shale. Producer Gordon House.
Next Time We Might Play Better....1997
(R4 1402 15 May, 1997) by Peter
Tinniswood was an excellent comedy. An excruciatingly inept
quartet of musicians - this play charts their progress in village
halls, tea rooms and providing the background music at funerals..
.......Graham Crowden & Hugh Dickson take the lead parts and the
ubiquitous Stephen Thorne occurs a little way down the cast list.
Tinniswood's plays are always worth a listen : "Pen Pals" also
went out fairly recently. Enthusiasts may remember the Uncle
Mort play "Call It A Canary", which was put on a few years ago,
with Thorne playing Uncle Mort. A 90-minute sequel to this would
be tremendous, but the powers-that-be seem to confine Mort and
Carter Brandon to 10-minute mini-series like "Celtic Fringe" -
a little disappointing for those who like a properly worked out
plot with a beginning, a middle and an end. (VRPCC newsletter Sep97)
ON THE WHOLE IT'S BEEN JOLLY GOOD 1998
A less than competent MP reminisces about his life in the House,
and his affairs, and other things ... this was written for Maurice
Denham, either for his 80th birthday or his 60 years in radio; can't
remember which; he brings the character to life admirably, as one
--Peter Tinniswood's series "Visiting Julia" (R4, 6 x 30 min.
beginning 1225 4 February) was up to his usual standard. It
was a light comedy about Roger, a writer of children's books.
. As might be
expected of a Tinniswood character, Roger is a chauvinist and
can scarcely boil an egg, let alone cook a meal. He has no idea
of how to cope with his mother-in-law and has been waited on hand
and foot by his wife for 20 years. With her laid up, his only
companion is Mr. Wheely-Bin, the hero of his books. Together,
they find solutions to life's problems. Keith Barrow and Liz
Goulding starred as Roger and Julia. Tinniswood also had some
monologues broadcast - "The Wireless Lady" featuring Bille
Whitelaw, "On The Whole, It's Been Jolly Good" featuring Maurice
Denham, to celebrate his 60 years in radio, "The Last Obit",
with Billie Whitelaw as obituarist and "Verona - A Conspiracy
of Parrots", starring Stephanie Cole. Radio 4 seems to have
commissioned a job lot of monologues - quite a few having been
broadcast recently.(VRPCC newsletter, Apr98)
A VERY RARE BIRD INDEED ....1998
16 May 98; The Saturday Play. Rpt. from WS. Avril is a woman desperate to find love, but when her husband is delayed en route to the quiet hotel in Wales where she is ensconced for their second honeymoon, she has plenty of time to observe her fellow guests and look for a fantasy lover. Avril: Judi Dench, Maynard: Peter Jeffrey, Morgan: John Moffatt, with Lou Hirsch, Jeff Shankley, Carolyn Jones and Derek Waring. Produced by Judi Dench. For more on this play, click the title link.
THE SCAN 1999
Rather sombre medical play, as the title suggests.
THE HOUSE SWAP
Stars William Hootkins and Penelope Wilton. Repeated BBC7, Jun 03.
R3; Eduardo De Filippo, dram. Peter Tinniswood. Exact date nk; produced
to celebrate the author's centenary. An unlikely group of people live in the base of a large statue of some
public figure in a big square in a big city. Originally it was Naples but
Tinniswood transferred the setting to Liverpool. Excellent performance by Anna Keaveney as Sabrina; with
Tom Georgeson as Ascanio, Michael Mears as Paganini, Chris Darwin as Arthur,
Sharon Muircroft as Rita, Ian Brooker as Roberto,
Gavin Muir as Guaranscheli, Sunny Ormonde as Teresa,
Brian Miller as Salvatore, Stanley Townsend as Agostino,
Eileen O'Brien as Maria Rosario, Ben Roberts as inspector Delledonne.
Music by Anthea Gomez, performed by Anthea Gomez, David Gregory & Nigel
Woodhouse. Producer Sue Wilson.
DOROTHY, A MANAGER'S WIFE 2000
Dorothy is the exasperated wife of a football club manager. He
can't even string a sentence together any more, after a lifetime
of cliches to the press, and he still thinks only of the next match;
now she is sick of it, and the other wives, and the pressure, and him
THE DUVET LADY 2001
A once-beautiful diva reminisces about her life and lovers.
Interesting monolgue with medical overtones, performed superbly by
ANTON IN EASTBOURNE 2002
Tinniswood's final radio play, written for Paul Scofield, in tribute
to his love for Checkhov. He plays Mr. Anton, Emma Fielding is the
young lady, and Stephen Thorne is the hotel manager; dir. Enyd Williams.
Repeated on BBC7, June 2003, as part of the Peter Tinniswood season:
"...... his haunting Chekhovian play, the last he wrote.
Two writers meet at a seaside conference; it rapidly becomes apparent
that they are from different times. Is he a ghost? Are they both?
Does it matter?" Gillian Reynolds, excerpt from Daily Telegraph
THE GOALKEEPER'S BOO-BOO....2003
Recorded after his death, this play introduces us to Raymond Lancaster, another
of Tinniswood's eccentric comic creations. Raymond's humdrum existence is salvaged
by his rich fantasy life, in which football predominates. This is a well-
crafted play; interesting but not memorable. The cast: Ian McDiarmid,
Paul McCrink, Helen Longworth, Fiona Clark, Barbara Marten, Everal Walsh,
Stephen Thorne, Alan Green, Mark Chatterton; directed by Gordon House;
original music by Nina Perry.
Tinniswood cricket monologues
Tales From A Long Room
Read by Robin Bailey
1981.08.24 e1: Our Own Dear Queen
1981.08.25 e2: Polar Games
1981.08.26 e3: The Lady Wife
1981.08.27 e4: What Do I Mean By
1981.08.28 e5: I Was There
More Tales From A Long Room
Read by Robin Bailey
1982.09.27 e1: Witney Scrotum
1982.09.28 e2: Batman
1982.09.29 e3: The Mole
1982.09.30 e4: ?
1982.10.01 e5: Blofeld Revisited
Read by Richard Wilson
1992.12.28 e1: Stumped!
1992.12.29 e2: Carry On Goering
1992.12.30 e3: The Holy Father
1992.12.31 e4: Looknow Hobson
1993.01.01 e1: The Brigadier In Season (aka "Foreigners")
(These were repeated weekly beginning 1994.03.27)
The Brigadier Down Under: A Day Out 3 March 1993
The Brigadier Down Under
Read by Richard Wilson
1993.08.19 The Explanation (aka "Travelling to Australia")
1993.08.26 First Impressions
1993.09.02 The Lady Wife Down Under (aka "Taking Stock")
1993.09.09 A Visit To Naunton (aka "Visiting the Lady Wife's Brother")
....details for this section supplied by Greg Linden
Back to top