Memoirs ..... up to 1979 .......

I thought I'd write down as many things as I could remember about the various TV, film, radio, theatre, and music I've done - before I forget!

My first recollection of acting was during a school production of "Macbeth." I was playing the porter, a rather coarse character, and when I realized I could actually belch as loudly as I wanted in front of the headmaster and other teachers - I did! About that same time I got interested in folk clubs. Initially, it was because of the close proximity of the performer. Where else can you ask about chords and finger styles when the performer is right in front of you? A schoolfriend, Dave Brooks, and I learnt guitar together, more or less teaching each other. We became resident at Bury folk club but had to stop in...


CROMPTON'S MULE - Robin Pemberton-Billing asked us to supply and perform the musical content in this, the Octagon Theatre's first documentary. Here's a sample of Dave, me and Jane Wood from the cast singing "3 Apprentice Weavers":

3 Apprentice Weavers

NICE TIME - This was our first TV appearance. It was on Granada and hosted by Kenny Everett and Germaine Greer. They advertised for anyone who could play tunes on their teeth. Dave and I, along with eight others, played "Sailor's Hornpipe" on teeth and head.

DAVE & BERNARD at the railroad track: 1966


BOLTON MASSACRE - Dave and I had returned to the Octagon and turned professional to do this, the theatre's second documentary, all about the civil war in Lancashire.

Dave & Bernard on the roof of the Octagon during "Bolton Massacre" run

HOME RECORDINGS - We loved doing recordings! The equipment was usually ropey, but by the time we did this one I'd got a B&O 2000 tape recorder. Reels at 7 ½ IPS!
Here we are singing "Gower Wassail"

Dave & Bernard sing "Gower Wassail"

GRANADA ROADSHOW - This was the first incarnation of a programme with this name. We sang in two episodes. One was filmed on a pier at Blackpool when we sang a sea song, and I had a stuffed parrot on my shoulder. The second episode was filmed in Kirby Lonsdale where we were dressed as country yokels to sing a version of "Bridgwater Fair". I also remember the Liverpool Scene doing a blues, with Adrian Henri singing "You make me feel like a wellington filled with blood."

FAITH AND HENRY - Whilst at the Octagon we were asked to write and play the music for a TV play set in Bolton. Produced by Kenith Trodd and directed by Jack Gold. As a twenty-one year old it was exciting going to London to play in sync with the film footage. Here'a sample of one of the demos we did for it, showing the music speeding up and down with the action on screen:

Music from "FAITH & HENRY"

YTV - The same year we were approached to write and sing Christmas jingles for Yorkshire TV. We were pleased with the end result, but the rostrum camera operators went on strike, and our jingles were broadcast the next Christmas.
Click to hear one of them:

Dave & Bernard sing "Lay The Table"

The instrumental passage after the first verse was the bed for the programme information voiceover.

FOLK CLUBS - Dave & Bernard had a good reputation for the live gigs. Here we are in action at the "Bull & Stirrup" folk club in Chester around 1969. Sounds a little rough but the atmosphere is great. Thanks to Tony Ballard for keeping the tape over the years:

Dave & Bernard sing "Roll Alabama Roll"

We stayed on at the Octagon to do "Charlie Came To Our Town" (by Alan Plater), "The Hollow Crown," "Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Classes" and finally a show we wrote ourselves - "It Brings Good Cheer." Then we went our separate ways.


KEN CAMPBELL ROADSHOW - I joined the "Octagon Roadshow" which, after four weeks, became the "Ken Campbell Roadshow." With Ken, Dave Hill, Jane Wood, and Bob Hoskins, we performed playlets and songs in in pubs and clubs around the North, including a two week run at the Cockpit theatre in London.

CALENDAR - The first tv programme I did in a solo capacity was to sing my first song ("Our Bill and the Concrete Mixer," which I had just written) as part of an item on the Ken Campbell Roadshow.

BOLTON WANDERERS - I left the Roadshow after a few months to write the songs for and to perform in another Octagon documentary - "Bolton Wanderers," which charted the origins of the team and had an interactive second half!
Here's a sample of the cast in action from a BBC R4 review of the play:

The last verse mentions Teddy Vizard, one of the great names from the early days of the team. During the run of the play we tried to get similar legends, whom we knew were still with us, to come and see the production. One night Teddy Vizard came along and was duly pointed out during the action. He stood up and got a rousing ovation.

SPRING & PORT WINE - Then I was asked to write a song for the production of "Spring and Port Wine", which resulted in "The One Place For Me". I recorded it with Ted Richards (who was then a member of the Octagon company) on drums. The theatre sound system then was so bad that on the opening night I took my B&O tape recorder down and dangled the lid speakers out of the booth - it was a better sound! The song, along with views of Bolton, was the opening scene.
Here's a snatch of that home recording:

They used our cat in that production (deaf, white Persian). She was ideal, not being able to hear extraneous noises on stage. Had to take her there every night! I hasten to add that the sound at the Octagon is excellent now, and in 2008 Noreen Kershaw directed a new production of S&PW. She kindly used my song (the Buggerlugs version from 1993) at the very end.

THE ABOMINABLE SHOWMAN - I stayed on to write and perform the music for this show by Tim Shields, about the life of Phileas Barnum. Here's a rehearsal demo of one of the songs, from when Barnum becomes a "gent" (the drummer is John Kelly):

"Song For A Gent"

MUSIC HALL - In the first of the "Music Hall" productions there I remember singing "Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's Forty" dressed in clogs and a tutu. Some things never change, for here I am dressed similarly in 1999, repeating that earth shattering performance on the Houghton Weavers' Xmas Tour:

ROLL ON FOUR O'CLOCK - I was still working at the Octagon theatre when Colin Welland (writer) and Kenith Trodd (producer) asked me if I'd sing a traditional Scottish song (Jute Mill Song) as the theme for their tv play. I played a guitar accompaniment and tracked a concertina over it. I can't find the end credits where I'm singing the song, but here's the opening sequence where I'm playing the tune as the action unfolds:

By now the songwriting bug had bitten and instead of finding traditional songs to perform in folk clubs and concerts, as we had always done, I began to write my own. Some of them appeared on the first two Topic albums, and by the time the Transatlantic lps were released virtually all of the material was self-composed


SAID THE PREACHER (BBC2) - This was my first acting role on tv. I played a lout whose pilfering habit the local vicar was trying to cure. It also included Victor Henry and Madge Hindle - directed by Michael Apted.

HOME AND AWAY - This title predated the Australian soap by quite a few years. It was a six part Granada series written by Julia Jones and starring Gillian Raines (Mrs Leonard Rossiter). I was cast as an office clerk for three of the episodes.


THE FRIDAY BROWN SHOW - I remember singing two songs on this local BBC show, wearing some awful trousers from BBC wardrobe, and looking quite out of place playing my bass concertina.

DAY OUT - It was May of '72 and I was asked to play daft Ernest in Alan Bennett's first tv film, directed by Stephen Frears. It took about a month to shoot, in and around Halifax and Ripon. It was originally planned to be filmed in sepia, but ended up in black and white. I still shudder at the scene where we fall off the bikes - because it actually happened, and we ended up in the casualty ward. The nurse thought we'd broken out of an asylum when we turned up bruised and battered in 1912 costumes!

Here are some of Ernest's scenes:


BALLAD OF THE NORTH WEST - I acted and sang in this local BBC TV documentary series which showed how the events of the past two hundred years in the area have been reflected in song. Narrated by Harry Boardman and directed by Douglas Boyd.
Here's a demo from it with Wilf on the fiddle and me on the concertina:

"Foster’s Mill"


SUNSET ACROSS THE BAY - Alan Bennett's second tv film was about a couple retiring to Morecambe - the place where they'd always gone on holiday. I played a milkman delivering to their house and engaging in conversation with them. I remember that after take 5 I'd knackered the electric milk float.

Here's that clip:

FAIRPORT CONVENTION - I bought a ticket to see Fairport (the Jerry Donahue era) at the Albert Halls in Bolton. As I'm sat there, one of the organizers came up and said "Are you Bernard?" I thought it best to own up, and he went on to tell me that the support band hadn't turned up and would I do the spot before Fairports? I replied that I'd bought a ticket to see them and of course hadn't got any instruments with me - to which he offered to refund the ticket, pay me to do the support, and could I nip home and get my guitar etc? Of course I did, so I saw the band (great) for free, did a spot and got paid.

Throughout the seventies I sang in folk clubs, festivals and concerts all over the country, including a couple of trips abroad - France and Cyprus. I remember Christmas Day '74, twiddling the radio dial and hearing me singing "Nelly the Elephant." I presumed it was a local radio recording I'd done until I realized it was Radio Paris broadcasting a recording made a few months earlier during the French trip!
Here I am performing "Knackered" at a student gig at Boot Hall in Nottingham, mid seventies:

And here's a live recording from BBC R2's "Folk On Two" when Peter Pilbeam was producer. It's from the Black Diamonds' club in Chester - Tony Capstick introduces me:

"Blow Away The Morning Dew”


THAT'S LIFE - I broke down on the M62 going to Leeds to play on the "Les Dawson Show" for YTV. It was six hours before I finally met the AA patrol, and I was telling the story to a wordsmith I know called Henry Boot (not McAlpine's competitor). He wrote this tale into a parody of "Riders in the Sky". I sent a tape of this to "That's Life" and Glyn Worsnip liked it and sent a film crew to record me singing the song on the motorway bridge at Birch Services. So, I missed the ITV show but ended up doing a BBC one instead!
Here's a recording of the song a few years later from a BBC concert:

"The AA Song"

GRANADA REPORTS - I was asked to write and sing a song each week for the programme's "Consumer Desk" each Monday. Some weeks there was only a day's notice, and I remember the sixth one being axed due to an industrial dispute.

THE WHY FRONTS - A short lived supergroup! It started with Bob Williamson, Roger Woodcock and me, and then Roger wasn't there. Bob and I used to raid the Benny Hill vaults for material, then eventually we were too busy doing solo stuff to keep the Whys going. Roger's living in the Isle of Man, and Bob, one of that great breed of comedy folksingers, is lying low in Bolton, daft as ever, and still writing comedy. Here's a clip of the 3 of us doing a Scaffold piece at Bury folk club that year. Thanks to Pete Lewis for the tape:

"Permissive Society"

IN THE HEEL OF THE HUNT - I played concertina for a scene in this Granada tv film in which the Irish construction workers were having a knees up whilst in the process of building the M62. Directed by Leslie Woodhead.


THE FESTIVE POACHER - (by Ian Taylor) This was one of the "Second City Firsts" series produced by Tara Prem (Mrs Brian Glover). My character was a young bloke who lived with his grandma (played by Liz Smith). He'd spent all his money on the upkeep of his racing greyhound and had to steal a turkey for Christmas. I recorded two songs for this. One was a theme song I wrote for the beginning and end: the other was a carol which was played as if on the radio in the kitchen during the first scene. As it finished, John Dunn's voice said "That was Bernard Wrigley singing "The Holly and the Ivy". In their infinite wisdom the BBC accountants decided to eventually wipe the whole series.

THE FOSDYKE SAGA - This production, for which I wrote the music, was initially performed at the ICA in London. It was scripted by Alan Plater from the characters created by Bill Tidy. BBC2 also recorded a performance at the Haymarket theatre in Leicester. This was broadcast as a play and produced by David Rose. I put the theme song "Fosdykes Arise" on my "Ten Ton Special" LP the year after. The Scaffold recorded the song as well, and I remember playing as one of the band on a gig in Worcester not long after. Still waiting for the dosh.
Here are a couple more songs - these are from the rehearsal demos I recorded:

FOSDYKE TWO - A year or so after I did the same for the sequel - two of those demo songs are here:

"The Fosdykes Will Rise Again" "The Tripe Step"

THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT- These were five minute clips shown every weekday before the network shut down at night. They were recorded as 40 minute concerts before an invited audience in the studio and edited from that. Mine was recorded on the same night that John Laurie (Dad's Army) gave his renditions of the poetry of William McGonigle. Guests on other weeks included Spike Milligan, Wilfred Makepeace-Lunn (the inventor) and the Oldham Tinkers.. Directed by Arthur Taylor, who later published an authoritative book on pub games.


AFTERNOON OFF - Another Alan Bennett film. This was about a Chinese lad asking everyone in town if they'd seen his girlfriend called Iris. I played a foundry worker. "Bite his ankles, Dougie" will always be a favourite line. Filmed in Hartlepool, dubbed in London. The editor is now a director, and remembering this film he asked me to play a part in "My Son the Fanatic" in 1996.

1977 was the Queen's Jubilee year and two extra Royal Command performances were scheduled. I was asked to be in the Manchester one at the Palace Theatre, along with Stuart Hall, the Oldham Tinkers, and the entire cast of Coronation Street. I read out a rather fitting Marriott Edgar monologue - "Jubilee Sovereign," played "Tea for Two" on the guitar, and sang "September In The Rain" in falsetto. Coupled with meeting the Queen and Prince Philip afterwards, it was a very memorable evening.

CORONATION STREET - I played a compere/comedian for two episodes in the Gatsby Night Club where Rita sang and Ernie Bishop played the piano. At the end of the first episode, just as a stripper was in full flight, the police raided - much to the dismay of councillor Alf Roberts. I had to tell some dodgy gags, hoping that people wouldn't think it representative of my normal stage performance! In those days everyone turned up every day to rehearse all the scenes, as in a theatre production. The same happened in EMMERDALE - a far cry from the rehearse/record syndrome of today. Link to: Who's who in Coronation Street


GRANADA ROADSHOW - Another series using this name. This time it was a series of four concerts produced by Trevor Hyett. My episode was recorded at Haigh Hall, an ex-stately home near Wigan. Other guests were Steeleye Span and the stunning American guitarist Leo Kottke. I can't remember what I sang, but I'd just returned from some gigs in Cyprus wearing a tan and an Eagles t-shirt. After this I wrote a Kottke-inspired tune "Raggetty" which ended up on my 'Instrumental Album".

YANKS GO HOME - Drama series shot at Granada. My job was to play an entertainer doing a rather poor imitation of Al Jolson. I remember being glad they didn't want a good impersonation, and that Bruce Boa starred in it.

VILLAGE HALL - A Granada drama series about six completely different village halls and the characters involved. My episode was called "Miss Health and Beauty" from which I remember Elizabeth Spriggs and Sue Nichols (just before she became Audrey in Coronation Street). I played a singer dressed in a gorilla suit singing "Girl from Ipanema" in falsetto! I remember rehearsing this in Camden, London and in the next room the group "Guys and Dolls " (very popular then) were practising routines.

ME, I'M AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF - An LWT production writted by Alan Bennett and directed by Innes Lloyd. I played a teacher in a night school - a very cynical character and a joy to perform. When recording was over I remember walking to Euston along the Thames Embankment at night and visiting the Houses of Parliament to watch a debate.

View a scene from the play:

I was also asked to write a song for the play, which I did. I called it "Our Trevor". It never got used, but it's always flattering to be asked. Here's my demo of it:

"Our Trevor"


MERSEY PIRATE - A most innovative children's programme broadcast live every Saturday morning from the Royal Iris ferry boat, which was actually sailing up and down the river during transmission. Duggie Brown played the captain - I was the French chef (Pierre le Oui Oui). It included mainly live items with some prerecorded sketches and songs. I used to demonstrate recipes musically as parodies of well known songs eg: "September In the Rain" was used for Quiche Lorraine. I bought our first video recorder so I could watch the programme when I got home later on Saturday. Unfortunately, half of the series was lost due to industrial action over use of steadicams. Here I am with a musical recipe recorded on that very machine:

And here is Pierre le Oui Oui making a mess of the Captain's dinner:

CORONATION STREET - I played a chauffeur who took Hilda and Stan on their second honeymoon. This was the original 3/4 scale set next to Water Street, and I can remember turning the Daimler under the bridge and stopping dead - there was a brick wall in the way. Link to: Who's who in Coronation Street

WOOD AND WALTERS - Vic and Julie's series for Granada was directed by Stuart Orme, who also did "Mersey Pirate." I sang and played on Victoria's "Northern Song," doing a spoof clog dance in the middle. Later I remember being a dead body in a sketch with the girls and Michael Angelis.

FIVEPENNY PIECE SHOW - Did the guest spot on one of their BBC2 shows recorded at the Poco a Poco in Stockport. I sang "Buggerlugs Loves Sugar Butty" (freshly written) "Nelly the Elephant" "Girl From Ipanema" and then sang with them on "Big Jim," little knowing I would join the band in 1995.

Here I am doing "Buggerlugs Loves Sugar Butty"

and here's "Nelly the Elephant" on the bass concertina:

Apart from my own lps, we did one called "Lanky Spoken Here!" in 1979. It was adapted from Dave Dutton's book of the same name and Dave and I wrote the songs. It was recorded live and also included Fivepenny Piece, Bob Williamson, Gary and Vera, and Tony Melody. The subject was the humour contained in the Lancashire dialect, and the posh translations were read by Robert Dougall and Shiela Tracy. A very funny album which EMI later deleted in their wisdom, only to reissue on CD in 2003.

Click on MEMOIRS 80s/90s for the next thrilling instalment!


Whereas I handle the singing side myself, all enquiries regarding the world of professional acting should be directed to Emma Ashcroft at:

Sharron Ashcroft Management (click to see the website)

Tel 01422 883090