Dickie BIRD MBE (1933-)
THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Dickie Bird, cricket umpire, was surprised by Michael Aspel at the studios of Yorkshire Television, during a ‘mocked up’ interview.
He began his career playing club cricket in Barnsley before signing with his home county Yorkshire in 1956. He played first-class cricket as a batsman for Yorkshire and Leicestershire in the English County Championship until 1964. After his county career, he coached and played league cricket before becoming an umpire.
His time as an umpire made him a household name, an eccentric, and one of the most loved and respected characters in world cricket. His idiosyncratic style and infectious humour endeared him to millions, transcending his sport.
“Are you serious?”
Dickie recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography My Autobiography, reproduced here with kind permission of the author...
It was a great honour to be the subject of This is Your Life on television. People often wonder if the celebrities really are as surprised as they look when they are confronted with the famous red book. Well, I don’t know about the others, but as far as I was concerned I did not have the slightest inkling of what was going to happen.
I had a telephone call from Don Mosey, the well-known cricket commentator, asking me if I would go on a Yorkshire Television programme to relate some of my funny cricketing stories. We arranged to record it during a break in my trip up to Durham for a county championship match, and I emphasised that it shouldn’t take too long because I wanted to get to the north east in good time for an overnight stay before the match began.
When I arrived at the studios in Leeds I was told that they were not quite ready for me, and I said, ‘Well, just remember, I’m in a big hurry. I’ve got to get up to Durham. I can’t hang about all day.’ Eventually they got the set ready and the show began to roll. I sat and chatted to Don in front of a television audience, but what I did not realise was that it was made up of television workers and backroom staff enlisted to make me believe that the show was for real.
Everything went swimmingly until he asked me, ‘Tell me, what’s the most awkward situation you have encountered in your career?’ Now, I wasn’t expecting that. It was one question I had not been given notice of, and I felt a rising sense of panic as I cast around in my mind for something to say.
‘Well?’ probed Don.
‘Er, awkward moments eh? Well, let me see now. The most awkward moment. Er, well, ee, Don, that’s a bit er…’
It was then that Michael Aspel walked on. ‘Hello, Michael,’ I said. ‘What are you doing here? Are you on the show as well?’ He produced the famous red book and replied, ‘No, you are on the show with me. Dickie Bird, this is your life.’ Don Mosey’s question was finally answered. Here was the most awkward situation of my career.
I could not believe it. They had to take me into a dressing room to calm me down – and it took a glass or three of champagne to do that! Then I was led into a bigger studio where there were so many people I knew. Sir Garfield Sobers had even flown from the other side of the world to be there. There were filmed tributes from Dennis Lillee in Australia, Ian Botham, Vivian Richards, Graham Gooch, Michael Parkinson, Brian Johnston – and even John Major. When they got in touch with him he said that normally he would not do such a thing, but for Dickie Bird, yes.
All the Yorkshire team was there to support me, along with former players Geoffrey Boycott, Raymond Illingworth, Brian Close and Freddie Trueman, with John Hampshire representing the umpires. Alf Broadhead, the man who took me under his wing at Shaw Lane when they turned me away as a youngster, was brought on in a wheelchair, and that was a very emotional moment for me. When ‘Chunky’ Charlton, my old pit manager at Monk Bretton Colliery, walked on, I blurted out, Mr Charlton … I thought you were dead.’
As well as my family, other guests included Stan Richards, who plays Seth in Emmerdale; Ashley Jackson the painter; Kathy Mutch, the widow of my old friend and solicitor, Duncan Mutch; Barnsley Chronicle sports editor Keith Lodge, who had been a big help to me during my career; my chemist, Brian Ellison; Jack Sokell, Lord and Lady Mason, and John and Pat Perry.
Producer Malcolm Morris recalls the experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life in his book This Is My Life...
…Downing Street was being redecorated… when Prime Minister John Major agreed to film a message for This Is Your Life I had to shoot it at a very luxurious room at Admiralty House. Mr Major is a great cricket fan and was especially fond of the famous cricket umpire Dickie Bird.
I had been advised that Dickie was a very shy man indeed and would not take kindly to the programme. Others advised for it and we decided to chance it. The Prime Minister’s message would be the icing on the cake. Waiting for the Prime Minister reminded me of when I filmed Margaret Thatcher, who had insisted on filming her spot again because she thought she could do it better.
Mr Major arrived and expressed to me his admiration of Dickie Bird. I was at a loss because I know nothing of cricket and was reluctant to tell the PM of my one-game school cricket career. We therefore had very little to discuss other than how I was going to film him and where. ‘How long do you want?’ he asked me, and I said two minutes or so would be fine.
Mr Major was excellent. He delivered a moving message into the camera and I was delighted. Then he surprised me by saying exactly what Mrs Thatcher had said.
‘I think I’d like to do it again. I can do it better,’ and he did.
What is it they say about great minds?
on the guest list...