Bob PAISLEY OBE (1919-1996)

Bob Paisley This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 473
  • Subject No: 469
  • Broadcast date: Wed 28 Dec 1977
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Sat 12 Nov 1977
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 18
  • Edition: 6
  • Code name: Pattern

on the guest list...

  • Kenny Dalglish
  • Tommy Smith
  • Jessie - wife
  • Robert - son
  • Irene - daughter-in-law
  • Graham - son
  • Sandy - daughter-in-law
  • Christine - daughter
  • Simon - son-in-law
  • Hughie - brother
  • Mary - sister-in-law
  • Tom Hope
  • Ned Blenkinsop
  • Alwyn Wade
  • George Walker
  • Billy Liddell
  • Bill Shankly
  • Norman Whitehouse
  • Joe Bate
  • Jack Moffat
  • Reg Stretton
  • Frank Carr
  • Carl Straughan
  • Harry Young
  • Ken Twigg
  • Joe Hughes
  • Teddy Wanless
  • Bob Hardisty
  • Ken Humble
  • Laurie Wensley
  • Emlyn Hughes
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Kevin Keegan
  • residents of Liverpool
  • Matt Busby

production team...

  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Christine McMahon for her contribution to this page
related pages...

Match of the Day

tackling football's top names

Maurice Leonard

the researcher's story

Matt Busby

Emlyn Hughes

Kevin Keegan

Bill Shankly


Christine McMahon, daughter of Bob Paisley, recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in April 2013

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Photographs and screenshots of Bob Paisley This Is Your Life - and a photograph of Bob Paisley's big red book

Bob Paisley's biography

Ian Herbert recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Quiet Genius...

Far from the churn and team-building, it was a more gentle exterior the world saw during a rare venture into Paisley's private world that season when, a mere three years after taking the job he had said he didn't want, he found himself being presented with the big red book which was a measure of success in public life. The series of This Is Your Life in which Paisley featured also saw Eamonn Andrews springing surprises on Peter Ustinov, Virginia Wade, Terry Wogan, Arthur English and Barry Sheene. The complex preparations provided an insight into the people and places which mattered in life. Guests were still being contacted when Paisley made a trip back to Hetton-le-Hole with the European Cup. Old friends of his who had been invited to the Thames studios were asked not to meet him, just in case word got out and the surprise was spoiled.

He was deflated when the faces he cherished as much as any were not in Hetton, though that didn't prevent the trip providing one of the images of Paisley which perhaps best captures the quiet man among his own. He was sitting on a bench in the centre of the village flanked by three old friends. With the formality that those of his time knew, all four were wearing jackets and three sported ties. Paisley wore the beaming smile of a man in his natural milieu.

Liverpool's fixture list got in the way of the programme. It was arranged around a Tuesday evening game against Queens Park Rangers, the idea being that he and the players would be accommodated in London overnight, with filming on the Wednesday morning. But adverse weather caused the game to be postponed, so the programme was filmed on a Saturday evening, after the rearranged match at Loftus Road, and broadcast over Christmas. Paisley was peering out into the London rain, from his seat next to chairman John Smith on the team coach, when Andrews emerged from his hiding place near the emergency exit and stepped down the aisle past the players, with his red book.

The manager was lost for words and briefly covered his face with his hands as the grinning Andrews delivered his introduction. 'I thought it was the QPR centre-forward' he said eventually: a typically gentle piece of Paisley humour which elicited roars of laughter from the players and the broadcaster.

Peter Robinson had convinced Paisley that the camera crew on the bus were working on a documentary for German television and he was under the misapprehension that the team coach's destination was Euston station, for the train north after a 2-0 defeat - only to find himself disembarking at the Thames studios on Euston Road instead.

'It's all your fault, this!' he whispered to Christine when the children walked onto the stage, to be greeted by him and Jessie. By prior agreement the family had spent the day holed up inside with other guests lest word somehow get out. They felt the recognition delighted him, though the recipient of it said considerably less than the surprise guests who stepped out from backstage to shake his hand that night. They included school friend Tom Hope, whom a teacher had feared was seriously injured when the young Paisley used a toy knife with a blade which retracted into the handle on impact - on him. Hope had played his part in the ruse by falling dramatically to the ground.

Paisley's younger brother Hughie told a story of how they awoke their father Samuel by boxing each other one afternoon when he was steeping late, after his shift. Hughie's Durham accent was fairly impenetrable - just as the players sometimes found their manager's to be. Yet though the camera spotlight was also vastly less familiar to him, Hughie seemed the more confident and gregarious of the two brothers as he recounted the story of Samuel arriving in the room and throwing his alarm clock at the pair of them.

An old friend, Alwyn Wade, was filmed in front of a brick toilet block the Liverpool manager had once built in Hetton and George Walker, who had laboured for bricklayer Paisley, stepped out from inside it, to fine comic effect. And then, in what to the Liverpool Football Club contingent must have been a moment of some drama, Bill Shankly stepped onto the stage to acknowledge the successor who, so soon after succeeding him, was basking in the kind of celebrity recognition that the Scot still yearned for.

In elegant grey suit, cherry shirt and striped red tie, Shankly overshadowed Paisley, whose own suit was brown and unflattering. Shankly looked the younger man, though he was six years Paisley's senior. He took a seat on one of the guests' back rows when he had offered a brief tribute to his former assistant - 'a dedicated, loyal man; he was efficient as well and like me he wanted to win' - yet appeared immediately at Paisley's shoulder centre stage, when the credits rolled. The spotlight drew Shankly like a moth to the flame.

The TV people had suggested that the contingent might retire after the programme to the bar at The Churchill hotel, where many were staying overnight, though the family found a pub around the corner instead. They knew Paisley would want to buy drinks and thought it would be more affordable there, in an environment more modest and to his taste. Frankie Carr, who had flown in from his new base in Hong Kong, was the guest Paisley seemed most pleased to see. 'He's not sent me money back' Paisley joked, implying he was owed some.

The programme ended with some words from Matt Busby, seemingly delivered from his back garden. 'One might get the impression that Bob is a very quiet person,' Busby said. 'Yes, I would agree with that. But he has this inner steel to motivate his players to great heights and this is a great thing in his favour. He is prepared to give anyone else the limelight, rather than himself. This is a very rare thing these days.'

The Liverpool Echo article: Bob Paisley This Is Your Life

The Liverpool Echo 29 December 1977




Cloak and dagger is the name of the game when ITV organise their This Is Your Life programme, leading up to that awesome moment when smiling Eamonn Andrews thrusts a microphone into the face of a startled soul and chants the ritual "Joe Dokes, this..."

As no doubt many of you saw on the box last night, Liverpool manager Bob Paisley was that startled soul recently. I was sitting five feet from the Liverpool boss when Eamonn loomed on the scene with his mike and his patter.

And I can assure you that the celebrity, the culprit, the fall-guy, whatever you wish to call him, is genuinely unaware of what is about to happen to him.

The TV people are masters at keeping it under wraps; they've had a lot of practice at it.

How the secret was kept from Bob Paisley has the hallmarks of bizarre fiction. Not only his family were involved in the preparations for the programme, but dozens of people on the Anfield staff, including the players, had to be told.

It developed into a major spy production with whispered chats in the Anfield corridors, glances over the shoulder to see if the man himself was in sight, and shouts of "For God's sake, don't let him know". It went on for three months.

The key figures in all this were Bob's wife, Jessie, Liverpool's general secretary Peter Robinson, who had this additional chore loaded on to his already heavily burdened shoulders, and a TV official called Maurice Leonard, who took up station in Liverpool three months in advance to keep all the characters in the charade in good form.

And the whole involved set-up nearly went for a costly burton the very week it was due to be recorded. It was planned to 'do' the show the morning after Liverpool played QPR in London, when the principals were on hand to record it at the ITV studios near Euston Station.

The match was scheduled for a Tuesday night and Wednesday was going to be THE day. Then the fixture was switched to the Saturday and all the hundreds of detailed arrangements had to be hurriedly put back four days.

The show was recorded in November and Mrs Paisley was first told on August 1. From that moment, she had the seemingly impossible task of making sure the Paisley home life ran smoothly, despite the fact that she and the family were involved with Mr Leonard in working out all the long-forgotten little details which confront the embarrassed celebrity.

Bob told me: "I had no idea that anything was going on. There was one or two little things which I realised later were out of the usual, but these were at the club, not at home. Jessie kept it the complete secret. I didn't have a clue."

The remainder of the family, sons Robert and Graham, with wives Irene and Sandie respectively, daughter Chris and her husband Simon, were all involved and equally tight-lipped.

Over at Anfield, the big secret got under way. Peter Robinson had to organise the trip to London in exactly the same way as usual – routine train times, itineraries prepared as though they were returning after the match by the normal train, normal meal times and the rest of it.

The players were let into the secret because they had to appear on the programme and also stay in London an extra night. Coaches Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran were key figures in the big cover-up as the men working more closely to Mr Paisley than any other.

They never let a single word slip which might have given Bob a hint that something different was about to happen.

The major keep-it-secret manoeuvres happened on the day of the match. ITV needed a film crew on the team bus and their excuse was that they were from German TV, recording Liverpool before their Super Cup games against Hamburg.

Director Royston Mayoh, speaking broken English with an impressive German accent, called himself Herr Dortmunder and got away with it until he lapsed into Irish-English for a moment in all the excitement. But Bob didn't hear it.

While the match was on, the bus parked away from the ground and Eamonn Andrews was smuggled on board dressed in the casual gear of a TV technician. After the game, players and officials piled onto the coach on the way back to Euston, chairman John Smith directed Bob to sit next to him in a seat nominated as the best for the cameras and the blazing TV lights were switched on.

Bob chatted normally as the camera operator moved up the coach, apparently filming the players. But something stirred at the back of the coach, hidden from view before this by the TV crew.

It was the bold Eamonn, stealthily making his way forward to appear before Bob Paisley, timed to the second as the bus stopped near the TV studio. The rest you know... if you saw the programme last night.

ITV throw money away on this show as though there's no tomorrow. It cost them £1,000 for the air fare alone to fly Bob's pal Frank Carr from Hong Kong to appear on the show. Their London hotel bill for that weekend ran into thousands. It was £50 a night for two – without meals.

Jessie Paisley and her family had a hectic, but totally memorable weekend in London. And it was Jessie who told me the real punch-line in the whole show, an incident which almost sank it without trace before a camera rolled.

Two months before the programme, Bob went to his old home in County Durham to show his friends the League Championship trophy and the European Cup. He had a great day, feted by the village dignitaries. But he told Jessie afterwards that many of his old pals hadn't turned up and he wondered why. She knew the answer, but could say nothing.

What he knows now is that the TV people had a near fit when they heard of his trip because he was going to meet people they had ear-marked for the show, with Eamonn chanting... "And here's your old pal, Charlie what's-it, whom you haven't seen for 40 years."

Bob was going to see Charlie and others a few weeks earlier until the TV men got busy and made sure they were "missing" when the cups came in.

The Guardian 11 December 2016

Bob Paisley on This Is Your Life is fascinating look at a bygone time

Barry Glendenning

With Liverpool in their 1970s pomp, their manager was ambushed by Eamonn Andrews on the team bus after a game at QPR.

With the original tape long destroyed in some needless ITV purge, such was the hubbub of excitement when a recording of Bob Paisley's 1977 appearance on This Is Your Life surfaced unexpectedly last week that one could have been forgiven for assuming intrepid relic hunters had actually been searching for it in the first place. Indiana Jones and the Quest For A Complete Recording Of The Appearance Of A Former Liverpool Manager On A Once Ridiculously Popular Midweek Light Entertainment Show Presented By Eamonn Andrews might not have much of a ring to it, but would almost certainly have made for far more entertaining viewing than the intrepid archaeologist's critically panned search for the legendary crystal skull of Akator.

The truth seems more mundane. A bloke called Pete Day seems to have chanced upon a complete recording of the Paisley tribute on VHS (teenagers, ask your parents) and uploaded it to YouTube (parents, ask your teenagers) for anyone who might like to watch it. Indeed, perhaps the most surprising thing about Day's exotic find is that, in the fine tradition of hidden video treasure in that dusty cupboard under grandad's telly, the crucial moment when Andrews surprised Paisley with the iconic Big Red Book did not segue abruptly into a recording of a different show: an episode of Minder or Ned's Atomic Dustbin soundtracking a hideously drunk Oliver Reed as he slurred his way through Wild Thing on Channel 4's much maligned but sadly defunct weekend "yoof" vehicle The Word.

Readers of a certain age may be unfamiliar with the concept of This Is Your Life, a one-time staple of the TV schedule that could well have flashed up on screen when the Scottish scientist John Logie Baird switched on the first television in 1926 and more or less ran weekly with the occasional hiatus until its controversial conclusion 13 years ago. A salute to assorted luminaries including those known for their work on stage, screen and in the sporting arena, each episode featured a well-known "victim", who was surprised by the microphone-wielding host before being whisked away to the TV studios where they were taken through a life invariably well lived with the assistance of various special guests including fellow notables, family members and assorted childhood acquaintances whose identity certain subjects of the show often visibly struggled to remember.

Paisley was by no means the first or last football personality to appear on This Is Your Life and before him the Tottenham and Northern Ireland legend Danny Blanchflower had made history by refusing to participate, going so far as to actually run away upon being ambushed by Andrews. "As I straightened up and turned to present him with the book, there was no Danny," recalled the Irish presenter in his autobiography. "He had headed for the door of that studio like a greyhound from a trap. Angus [Mackay, then the BBC's sports editor] lunged forward to try to stop him, caught hold of his coat and Danny wriggled out of it, went through the door in his shirtsleeves and I could hear him pounding down the stone steps, shouting: 'Let me out! Let me out!'."

There were no such problems with Paisley although, perhaps mindful of the peculiarity of his unfortunate experience with Blanchflower, Andrews approached him on a moving bus from which there was no escape: the Liverpool team coach making its way from Loftus Road after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of QPR. "How the secret was kept from Bob Paisley has the hallmarks of bizarre fiction," the journalist Michael Charters wrote in the Liverpool Echo. "Not only his family were involved in the preparations for the programme, but dozens of people on the Anfield staff, including the players, had to be told."

Among them were Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith and Billy Liddell, who appeared alongside Paisley's wife, Jessie, his younger brother Hughie, coaches and future Liverpool managers Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran, his friend, the Hong Kong-based racehorse trainer Frank Carr, and a couple of Paisley's colleagues from his days as a bricklayer in Durham. Having helped Liverpool to a league and European Cup double the previous season, Kevin Keegan had moved to Hamburg, but was on hand to pay homage to his charming former manager with a video message he concluded by saying: "Auf Wiedersehen... which in case you don't know, in Germany means something like, eh, ta-ra wack". Paisley's predecessor, Bill Shankly, was also present as well as various comrades with whom he occupied dugouts of a different kind in the Middle East during the second world war.

Months in the planning, it later emerged that Paisley's appearance on This Is Your Life had almost been derailed in its infancy when he had taken the European Cup and league trophies to his home village of Hetton-le-Hole in Durham to show childhood pals and had been decidedly nonplussed when several of his closest failed to turn up. It was later revealed the show's organisers had got wind of his visit and ordered anyone earmarked for an appearance on his televised tribute to stay away. Liverpool fans are occasionally mocked for their obsession with history but in stumbling upon a copy of their late manager's long lost appearance on what was once the most popular show on British television, one amateur archivist has uncovered a fascinating chapter.

This article was amended on 11 December 2016 to point out that Danny Blanchflower was a Northern Ireland legend and not a Republic of Ireland legend.

Series 18 subjects

Richard Beckinsale | Peter Ustinov | Virginia Wade | Robert Arnott | Lin Berwick | Bob Paisley | The Bachelors | David Broome
Arthur English | Barry Sheene | Margot Turner | Pat Coombs | Michael Croft | Max Boyce | Nicholas Parsons | Richard Goolden
Ian Hendry | Marti Caine | Ian Wallace | Dennis Waterman | Anton Dolin | Terry Wogan | William Franklyn | Richard Murdoch
Harry Patterson | Jule Styne | Mike Yarwood