It's the show that balances on a tightrope
TV Times
15 November 1969
TV Times: This Is Your Life article TV Times: This Is Your Life article
related pages...

A Life Refused

those who said 'No'

Eamonn Looks Back

first-hand recollections

Danny Blanchflower

Press coverage of the footballer's refusal to participate

Not on your life

Press coverage of Richard Gordon's 'on air' refusal of the big red book

Matt Busby

Denis Law

Eamonn Andrews' This Is Your Life, one of television's all-time successes, starts a new life on Wednesday when Thames present it for the first time on ITV. The show, as Eamonn says, will still balance on a tightrope: "I'll be terror-stricken on the night..." Bridging the years between old show and new, we present a flashback and a forecast.

FLASHBACK: You're not going on? Said Eamonn. You bet I'm not! I replied... By Danny Blanchflower

In an interview with Michael McKellar

That night – in February, 1961 – an assistant of Eamonn's invited me to the BBC in Portland Place on the pretext that I would be taking part in a discussion on footballers' wages with Matt Busby and Denis Law.

They insisted upon taking me round the back where all the guys were working over typewriters and so on; they said they didn't want people to see me, for some reason or other.

Then I was slipped into the studio with Eamonn and the first thing I noticed was that Eamonn seemed better dressed than usual. He'd got his good suit on, and I thought maybe he was going somewhere afterwards.

Then he asked me if I'd seen these cameras before – they have electronically-controlled TV cameras at Broadcasting House which they sometimes use for sport news. I thought it was a strange thing for him to say. But I said "Yes" – I'd been there a few times before. And he then said, "Come over and look at them."

I said, "What the hell do I want to go over and look at them for?" And he said "They're on, you know!" And I said "Yes, I can see the pilot light."

Then he moves over and pulls out this book and says "Danny Blanchflower, Captain of..." and instinctively, I repeat instinctively I ran.

But he ran too – and for a moment, it was like a Keystone comedy. I knew perfectly well why I was running. What I couldn't figure out was why Eamonn was running. I was running to get out of the cameras because I realised they were recording – and I didn't want to create a situation, to present them with something they couldn't use.

I remember going down cement stairs, and Eamonn right after me with the Book under his arm and the assistant all worried about me maybe breaking my leg! Oh, it was a real comedy situation.

Finally, when we all stopped running, Eamonn said: "That's the greatest start we've ever had." I said, "You must be joking!" He said, "You're not going on?" and I replied, "You bet I'm not going on."

Eamonn then objected: "But publicity's your business." To which I again replied, "No, publicity's your business – football is my business!"

I remember Eamonn then asking, "Why don't you want to go on?" and my replying, "I don't have to have a reason: you didn't ask me."

Some years later, the wife of a BBC producer met me at a party. "I know why you didn't go on," she said. "You were in Borstal, weren't you?" she said.

Of course I wasn't but that's the sort of idea some people seemed to have.

It was purely an instinctive reaction. I didn't stop to think. There are a lot of things in my life that might embarrass me to have brought up again, but I wouldn't have minded...

What I didn't like, when I learned the details later, was the kind of thing that had been "scripted" beforehand, prepared for me. I found out that they had a man there who'd known me in the past and hadn't liked me much.

Somebody had written a script for him and he had written it all down on the cuffs of his shirt so that he wouldn't forget what to say – he was very nervous and excitable in front of the cameras, it seems.

Anyhow, as I say, this fellow hadn't particularly liked me and for him to say something nice about me would have been carrying artificiality to a new level... I think I'd like people to recognise that I was sincere about the good things and the bad things I've done.

Would I ever "go on" again? No!