GIVE ‘IM THE MONEY, MABEL! If you remember Wilfred Pickles you’ll warm to butter on your bread

'Give 'I'm the money, Mabel!' Wilfred Pickles rewards another octogenarian with a basket of goodies!

ANYONE remember Wilfred Pickles, his redoubtable wife Mabel and their enormously popular radio show Have A Go which played to tens of millions through the late Forties into the late Sixties

At its height, their radio quiz show reached twenty million listeners and was broadcast in front of a live audience from church halls across the country. An eccentric show by modern standards, the audience often brought ‘offerings’ for the prize table: things like garden produce, eggs and the like, influenced in the 40s and 50s by the spectre of rationing which made such gifts extremely welcome.

For me, the highlight of the programme was the final interview, often an octogenarian or, even better, even better, a nonagenarian. The resulting conversations created a battery of much-repeated catchphrases delivered in Wilfred’s broad northern brogue: ‘How do, how are yer?’ he would ask, then ‘Are yer courting?’.

Wilfred Pickles: 20m listeners at the height of his fame

Then Pickles would turn to his wife and ask, “Mabel, what’s on the table?” and she would reel off the list of highly desirable comestibles, whereupon Wilfred would inevitably ask his guest, “What is the secret of your long life?”

The response was almost always the same: longevity was put down to a daily diet of bacon sandwiches, lashings of fresh butter, a good tipple every night and a few fags thrown in for good luck.

At that point, the guest would be escorted off the platform, clutching a further supply of what today would be considered highly un-desirable items!

I’m at an age now when I find myself reminiscing over my early years; I certainly don’t remember following the constant dietary guidelines we receive today, or the exercise recommendations. And the changes!Every few years (sometimes months!) we find that ‘what is good for us’ is now bad, and vice versa.

Butter out, margarine in! And then a reverse directive: margarine is bad, butter is back. Alcohol is bad. . . or maybe not? Actually, alcohol, in moderation, is good and a modicum of red wine is now deemed excellent for the heart.

Difficult, isn’t it, to keep up to date with it all? My copy of today’s Times cited badminton as an exercise to dramatically extend one’s life; I rather feel that if I took up this energetic sport, I’d probably conk out even quicker, especially when my current idea of exercise is walking to the bus stop.

And as for child rearing: it’s a miracle my children ever grew to adulthood, though I do wonder whether or not their casual upbringing has caused inexorable damage.

My children all slept on the stomachs, taboo today! Weaned at six weeks or so after the health visitor advised that they were ‘hungry babies’ and needed to be ‘topped up’, they enjoyed their baby rice and cereal which we now know was very bad for them. But they survived.

They always wore three layers of clothing — vest, rompers or dress, and cardigan — and we kept the house warm. I have lost count of the number of homes I’ve visited to see a new baby yet where the temperature was so low I kept my coat on.

“Better for baby,” I am constantly told, with no thought for we poor grannies shivering in the nursery, trying to convince the new parents we are overcome with emotion rather than frostbite.

Of course, we conform. We follow the advice given by the health care professionals and we moderate our eating habits, make sure that babies are cared for in the acceptable way for the 21st century. But a bit of me — quite a lot of me, in fact — hankers back to the old days, when ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’ and when Mum really did know best. What do you think?

Answers on a postcard, please. Oh, sorry. I forgot. We’re in the year 2017.

Answers by email (or, better still, below)!


  1. The phrase was actually “Give him the money Barney”, not Mabel.
    Wilfred’s instruction to Have a Go’s BBC Radio producer Barney Colehan.

  2. I was born in 1945 so grew up as one of the millions who listened to “Have A Go”but I missed the answer to a question that ran for weeks, least I assume it was answered. I have wondered ever since, probably 60+years , what was the answer. The question was,” what is the last thing you do before getting into bed?” I recall answers such as lift your feet off of the floor but even that was not responded to as “give ’em the money Barney”. Do you happen to know what the answer was? I would love to solve this 60+ year old question.

  3. I, too, have worried about this particular question for over sixty years. All the ideas I could think of were offered by contestants, and rejected. I do not want to die wondering. I am 86.


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