'Dapper' CHANNON (1887-1964)

Dapper Channon This Is Your Life
  • In the first known example of its kind, the cover of the This Is Your Life book was decorated

programme details...

  • Edition No: 56
  • Subject No: 56
  • Broadcast live: Mon 24 Feb 1958
  • Broadcast time: 8.15-8.45pm
  • Venue: Queen's College, Taunton
  • Series: 3
  • Edition: 22

on the guest list...

  • Rev Walter Floyd
  • C S Haslam
  • Col J H Williams
  • Sister Dorothy Laker
  • John Hortop
  • Rev Roderick H Foster
  • Richard Gliddon
  • Mrs Channon - wife
  • Marcia Phillips - daughter
  • Jimmy Phillips - son-in-law
  • Filmed tribute:
  • A M Akiwumi

production team...

  • Researcher: Ray Marler
  • Writer: Peter Moore
  • Director: unknown
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • with thanks to Geoff Bisson of Queen's College for his contribution to this page
related pages...

Jack of all Trades

from domestic cleaner to teacher


the show's fifty year history

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

This Is Your Life by Eamonn Andrews

Weekend Magazine reports from behind-the-scenes

Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Dapper Channon This Is Your Life Big Red Book

Photographs of 'Dapper' Channon This Is Your Life - and a photograph of 'Dapper' Channon's big red book

Somerset County Herald article: Dapper Channon This Is Your Life

Somerset County Herald 1 March 1958



It is estimated that about ten million people saw Mr H J Channon, the "Mr Chips" of Queens's College, Taunton, on BBC television, on Monday evening, in the popular programme, This Is Your Life.

The programme was televised from the school hall, and it was only the third time that a broadcast in the series has come from outside a BBC studio [Bigredbook.info editor: it was the programme's seventh outside broadcast].

Mr and Mrs Channon were taken completely by surprise, and the surprise reached its apogee at the end of the programme when, from the back of the hall, appeared Marcia, Mr and Mrs Channon's only daughter, who, with her husband, Mr Jimmy Phillips, had been flown by the BBC especially from California for the occasion.

Her parents had not seen Marcia since she went to the United States 12 years ago, and this was their first meeting with their son-in-law, who is an American. It was a highly dramatic moment when Mrs Phillips came down the hall and was embraced by her speechless mother and father.

Mr and Mrs Phillips reached this country on Sunday night and were carefully "hidden" in the Castle Hotel until the start of the programme. They are spending a fortnight touring Europe before returning home.


Complete secrecy, especially so far as the "subject" of the programme is concerned, is vital to success. That is why elaborate precautions were taken to make sure that Eamonn Andrews, who would be easily recognised, was kept out of the sight of Taunton people.

He travelled to Bristol by train on Monday morning. From there he was taken by car to a spot near Bridgwater and concealed by a roadside haystack until he was picked up by a car from Taunton and smuggled into the Castle Hotel, where he was hidden and fed in a remote part of the building.

Mr Channon, who can tell the most entertaining stories of school hoaxes over 60 years, was, in a way, the victim of one on himself.

Towards the end of the last year the producer of This Is Your Life, Mr T Leslie Jackson, and the script writer responsible for the Taunton programme, Mr Peter Moore, and his collaborator, Mr Ray Marler, felt it was time that a contribution to the series came from the West Country.


Early in January Mr Moore asked, among other people in the West of England, the editor of the Somerset County Herald, for suggestions. Mr Moore was told that Taunton could produce a "Mr Chips", an incarnation, so to speak, of that most lovable character in public school fiction.

No name was mentioned over the telephone, but Mr Moore was told that, as pupil and master, the Taunton "Mr Chips" had been associated with Queen's College for nearly 60 years; that, like the fictitious character, the school had been his life; and that the affection in which he was held by old boys was shown by the fact that he received each year, on an average, 1500 letters from former pupils all over the world, and, in his own hand, wrote about 1500 letters a year.


The following week a "chance" meeting was arranged in Taunton between Mr Moore and Mr Channon, and a similar one took place a few weeks afterwards between Mr Marler and Mr Channon.

Mr Channon never once suspected who these "chance" acquaintances were. When he was introduced to them, talk was carefully steered towards his life at the school, and Mr Moore was convinced that here indeed was a "Mr Chips" who could fit well into the programme.

From material supplied, partly from Mr Channon's own articles which have appeared every week in the Somerset County Herald for 19 years, and from other sources, at the school and elsewhere, his story was built up. The conspiracy came off completely: "Mr Chips" had not the remotest idea what was being prepared for him by February 24th.


The Headmaster of Queen's College, Mr S J Haynes, was taken into confidence from the start, and after giving the matter some consideration, agreed to co-operate and place the school hall at the disposal of the producer. The cameras and other BBC equipment moved into the grounds on Sunday. Measures were taken to establish "security" among the boys at the school, and although there were one or two "alarms" during Monday the secret of the evening's programme was well kept, especially as to who the "subject" was.

The Headmaster fetched Mr and Mrs Channon in his car for an evening meal, and they were then taken casually to the school for what looked like a school concert. As a matter of fact, there had been rehearsals of the programme during the afternoon of those taking part (except Mr Channon), with Mr Eamonn Andrews, Mr Leslie Jackson, Mr Moore and Mr Marler.


The Rev Walter Floyd, a retired Methodist minister at Minehead, who appeared in the programme, was a big boy at Queen's – he is 76 – when Mr Channon was a small boy, and is now one of the very few contemporaries of those years.

Others who paid their warm tributes to "Dapper" were "Elephant Bill" (Col "Jim" Williams) who came up from West Cornwall and told viewers how Mr Channon came by the nickname "Dapper", by which he is affectionately known to all old boys; Mr C S Haslam, son of a former Headmaster, Mr A S Haslam; Sister Laker, who was the nurse at the school for 30 years, and came from Hove especially; Mr Johnny Hortop, groundsman at Queen's for about 35 years; the Rev Roderick Foster, of Bideford, an old boy and later chaplain of the school; and the present head boy, Richard Gliddon, of Williton, third generation of the family to be educated at Queen's.

There was a filmed message of greeting to "Dapper" from the Speaker of the Ghana Parliament, Mr A M Akiwumi, who is an old Queenian, and in the hall to hear his father's message and see the film was the Speaker's son, who is a pupil there now.


Mr Channon has done six sound broadcasts, but this was his first appearance on television. As a matter of fact, he sees little television (he enjoys particularly the sport) and does not own a set. His composure during the broadcast was impressive, and the BBC people concerned with the programme, who have a high standard for it, expressed themselves as satisfied. Since then Mr Channon has received hundreds of messages from many parts of the country, all praising the programme, and there has been the same reaction in West Somerset.

After the broadcast the BBC entertained all who had taken part and other guests, numbering 40 altogether, at the Castle Hotel. At the end of the party Mr Haynes thanked the "cast" and the BBC, and especially Mr Moore, who, he said, had been so gracious and considerate to him and the school. If the BBC could be thanked, he thanked them for the great happiness they had given to the reunited Channon family and for the pleasure he had no doubt they had given to millions of viewers.


In early January I received a telephone call from Mr J F Tigg (Chairman of the Governors), saying that the BBC would like to meet me and him concerning a Mr Channon whom they believed we knew particularly well.

At this preliminary meeting we were told that he had been selected for the programme This Is Your Life, and that the keynote of the programme was secrecy. We were asked our opinion as to who should appear on this programme, although Mr Peter Moore, the Producer, had already received a few names from Mr Haynes, the Head Master. Mr Moore's idea was to produce a person on stage who had actually entered Queen's with "Dapper" and then to continue up to the present day with Old Boys and Staff.

We had great difficulty in finding one of "Dapper's" year, but as most people will know, this was done, and eventually seven persons appeared, namely, the Rev Walter Floyd, "Elephant Bill", Stuart Haslam, Sister Laker, Johnny Hortop, the Rev R H Foster, and the Head Prefect, Richard Gliddon. Also, there was a message from A M Akiwumi, which had been screened in Ghana. These people were asked to submit to Mr Moore a script of what they intended to say, and at our second meeting he had the programme well in hand and had trimmed the edges into shape. On this occasion we were asked who would "Dapper" most like to see on the programme, and our immediate reply was his daughter Marcia, who was in California. Without hesitation Mr Moore said this could be arranged. This all led up to a very successful appearance at 8.15pm on February 24th of "Dapper" and his associates with the unexpected appearance of his daughter at the conclusion.

As a happy climax to a most successful programme a party was held at the Castle Hotel, which was attended by the Head Master and Mrs Haynes, "Dapper" and Mrs "Dapper", Sister Laker, "Elephant Bill", Marcia and her husband "Jimmy" Phillips, Rev R H Foster, Mr C Stuart Haslam, Rev Walter Floyd, several masters and their wives, Old Boys, Mr W C Stacey (Editor of the Somerset County Herald) and his wife, Johnny Hortop and his wife, and other friends of the School, and, of course, the cast – Eamonn Andrews, Mr Moore, Mr Ray Marler, Mr Leslie Jackson, BBC cameramen, and a host of local newspaper reporters.

In conclusion, really Queen's were fortunate to be selected for such a programme, and the writer would like to add his own congratulations to "Dapper" to the many received from all over England on his most successful appearance.


"Dapper" and Mrs "Dapper" thank profoundly all of you who sent us kind letters and telegrams, and gave us 'phone calls after the programme. So many came that it is impossible to write to you all individually, but, be certain, these lovely messages were deeply appreciated. They showed how dearly Old Boys loved the Old School.

The lasting impression of that memorable evening will be one of delight that the School was so greatly honoured and will benefit by the programme. One Old Boy wrote to say that friend of his was so impressed that he asked for a prospectus of the School to be sent to him.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Dapper Channon This Is Your Life

Unknown source 25 February 1958

Taunton's 'Mr Chips' Rather Overwhelming

THE TV programme This Is Your Life came West last night – to Taunton.

To pay tribute to "Mr Chips."

He was Mr H J "Dapper" Channon, who spent over 50 years teaching at Queen's College, Taunton.

It was a well-kept secret. "Dapper" Channon had been invited to a gathering in the College assembly hall.

He was picked out by Eamonn Andrews as he sat in the front row listening to the pupils singing.

As he was taken on to the stage he muttered, "It's overwhelming."

A much bigger shock came at the end of the programme. His daughter Marcia greeted him after being flown specially from California for the programme.

In between there were many moving tributes to Taunton's "Mr Chips."

They included a filmed greeting from one old pupil, now Speaker of the Ghana Assembly, and tributes from Col H J Williams ("Elephant Bill") and the school groundsman and matron.

Newspaper article - unknown source: Dapper Channon This Is Your Life

Unknown publication and date


TELEVISION'S This is Your Life programme is now a slick, star-studded show for the well-knowns, but back in 1958 there were surprises for people who had led inspiring lives away from the public eye.

On one occasion the BBC broadcast a tribute from Queen's College, Taunton, to the town's very own "Mr Chips," H. J. (Dapper) Channon, who was both a pupil and master there. He taught geography, history, scripture and English and was keenly involved in many activities, especially cricket. He also compiled the college history.

Our picture shows a young Eamonn Andrews - then 34 - listening to an anecdote from Sister Dorothy Laker, formerly college matron. She was among the many to salute Dapper's half-century association with Queen's. The guests also included Old boy Col J. H. Williams, who won world fame as the author of "Elephant Bill." Another former pupil, Mr Akiwumi, who became speaker of the Ghana Parliament, spoke on film. The climax of the programme was when daughter Marcia flew in from Los Angeles to meet her father - and mother - for the first time in 12 years and introduce her husband, Jimmy.

One thing remained a mystery - how Mr Channon came to be nicknamed Dapper. Two theories were put forward: he wore high collars; he displayed great agility on the sports field and fives court.

Mr Channon has since died, but his This is Your Life book is kept under lock and key in the archives at Queen's.

Chard and Ilminster News 25 November 2022

Eamonn Andrews' This is Your Life in Taunton and Chard

By Phil Hill

THE day a much-loved TV broadcaster was smuggled into Taunton under great secrecy has been recounted by a former County Gazette reporter.

Irishman Eamonn Andrews, who would have turned 100 on December 19, hosted 730 editions of television's This is Your Life.

And he brought the show of surprises to Somerset twice some 60 years ago.

In February 1958, 10 million people watched the edition featuring H. J. (Dapper) Channon, the 'Mr Chips' of Queen's College, Taunton.

He first entered Queen's as a schoolboy in 1901, and later returned to teach English, history, geography, and scripture.

He was also a sports master who loved cricket and wrote a book, A Sportsman's Parables, as well as the college history.

Old boys from all over the world kept in touch with him.

One of them, the speaker of the Ghana Parliament, paid tribute on film.

Producers flew over Mr Channon's daughter, Marcia, from Los Angeles, to meet him for the first time in 12 years.

One-time Gazette reporter Mike Ford said: "Such was the secrecy of the programme that Eamonn travelled to Bristol by train, was driven to a roadside haystack near Bridgwater where he waited in hiding for another car to smuggle him into Taunton's Castle Hotel, before heading to Queen's."

Three years later, Eamonn returned to the county to present the book to Dr Robert Fawcus, a GP at Chard's Fore Street practice.

Riding his famous round tank motorcycle, Dr Fawcus was noted for reaching every emergency whatever the time or weather.

He supported people through the unemployment of the 1930s and was a founding member of Toc H, the international Christian movement.

The show was recorded at Dillington House, Ilminster, and transmitted in February 1961.

Mike Ford has been liaising with Eamonn's family and friends, including Sir Michael Parkinson, to honour the TV presenter in a series of centenary features.

"Eamonn was the reason I went into broadcasting," said Mike.

"I first wrote to him when I was 15, later worked with him, and stayed in touch until he died in 1987."

"A devout Catholic, Eamonn was a man of immense kindness, compassion and integrity."

"Away from the screen, you'd find him generously and quietly helping other people, even writing to prisoners to offer hope and friendship."

Series 3 subjects

Albert Whelan | Colin Hodgkinson | Vera Lynn | Arthur Christiansen | John Logie Baird | Richard Carr-Gomm | Jack Train
Edith Powell | Anne Brusselmans | Norman Wisdom | Victor Silvester | Jack Petersen | Lucy Jane Dobson
David Bell | Matt Busby | Minnie Barnard | Gordon Steele | Louie Ramsay | Tubby Clayton | Daniel Angel
Anna Neagle | 'Dapper' Channon | Frederick Stone | Paul Field | Noel Purcell | Barbara Cartland
Harry Secombe | Archie Rowe | Humphrey Lyttelton | Francis Cammaerts | A E Matthews