No 100 – Sir Richard Stilgoe

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WELCOME TO OUR COUNTDOWN OF a hundred actors, broadcasters, comedians and sundries who loosely shelter under the tarpaulin we’re calling The One Hundred Greatest Cream-Related People Of All Time.

We’re saluting those who we think have done a body of work during the official TV Cream era of 1967-97 (from the birth of Radio 1 to the death of Diana) that particularly merits acclaim. These placings have been decided by TV Cream alone and there’s absolutely nothing scientific about this. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Readers of TV Cream’s weekly mailout Creamguide will notice something familiar about this feature. Yup, we’re stealing the content outright and reproducing it here, tarted up with a few gestures towards multimedia and one or two gigantic colour snaps. But don’t worry, you’ll still get to read the latest chart placings in the mailout first. No “web-only exclusives” here.

Anyway, let’s clear our throat with…

LThe man who voted "don't know" in the election

This is going to be some ride, as you can tell. We start with the erstwhile High Sheriff of Surrey whose way with a witty lyric shuttled him to stardom in the seventies.

Footlights, cabaret and writing A Class By Himself starring John le Mesurier, surely the only sitcom ever made by HTV West, led RICHARD STILGOE to surely his most famous gig, joining the team of Nationwide. Stilgoe’s main role was to helm the Consumer Unit, where he’d fill us in on how much stamps had gone up (“Now someone may no longer be able to afford to send a letter to a loved one”), get people with six people on one hand a free calculator and basically document the collapse of the British economy through song.

His most notable ditty was A Statuary Right Of Entry To Your Home where a gaggle of Stilgoes, via the magic of CSO, explained exactly who you were obliged to let through your front door (“I am a police-maaan!”), though there was also I’ve Got To Stop You There, which featured contributions from all the regional pre senters (“But Stuart Hall in Manchester, he gets the whole thing wrong/He just says Shut up Minister, you’ve gone on far too long”). And Bowie and Jagger couldn’t get it together on Live Aid.

His ‘wide role saw him get gigs on a number of other shows, including an appearance on Swap Shop where he was challenged to write a song about that day’s show before it finished, and his memorable Election 79 appearance singing the results:

Next came his own teatime miscellany And Now The Good News which mixed gags and songs about only the nice bits of the week’s news, which must have been a tough job during the Winter of Discontent.

His whimsical approach was highly popular, though sending up the devolution campaign apparently attracted the ire of Scottish viewers. Sadly the revamped serious Nationwide had no space for a minstrel, though he came back for the last one, but Stilgoe still had plenty of gigs, especially on kids TV where he chaired (and performed the theme tune to, live) quiz game Finders Keepers and hobby miscellany Stilgoe’s On (a great name) including instructing the nation’s children how to tie a tie.

He also moonlighted with occasional stints as one of Esther’s nancies on That’s Life and as a particularly anagrammatic guardian of the dictionary on Countdown:

Life Stilgoe's on Giscard O'Hitler and chums

Later when the telly work dried up still further he went off on tour with another supplier of musical whimsy in Peter Skellern, and he’s still doing that today. He still pops up on radio from time to time, such as this memorable contribution to an edition of The Now Show in 2007, and he also gives half his earnings to charity, so hooray for him.

THE DEFINING ROLE: It’s got to be his role as guardian of the Nationwide postbag, including his role in solving the mystery of letters postmarked 1861. It was, er, just 1981 upside down.

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3 responses to “No 100 – Sir Richard Stilgoe”

  1. Richard Davies says:

    He also co-wrote the songs to Starlight Express, & possibly some other material with Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

  2. Wes Sexwater says:

    ‘Statuary Right of Entry’ – is that his pun (cue caryatids knocking on the door at God knows what time), or your ‘statutory’ not coming out right?

  3. Wes Sexwater says:

    _His_ anagram is Grade H clitoris, although I emphatically don’t think he is one.

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