Eamonn ANDREWS (1922-1987)

Eamonn Andrews This Is Your Life
  • Eamonn Andrews - the show's regular host - is surprised for a second time!

programme details...

  • Edition No: 387
  • Subject No: second timer
  • Broadcast date: Wed 15 May 1974
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 6 May 1974
  • Repeated: Fri 6 Nov 1987
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 14
  • Edition: 27
  • Code name: Miracle

on the guest list...

  • Grainne - wife
  • Muhammad Ali - live link
  • Margaret - mother
  • Treasa - sister
  • Noel - brother
  • Hedy Nolan
  • Patrick Fitzgerald
  • Joe Loss
  • Michael Moore
  • Harold Berens
  • Gladys Hay
  • Isobel Barnett
  • Barbara Kelly
  • Pip Hinton
  • Jillian Comber
  • Peter Glaze
  • Leslie Crowther
  • Harry Secombe
  • Emma - daughter
  • Fergal - son
  • Niamh - daughter
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Bob Hope

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writer: unknown
  • Director: Peter Webb
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Eamonn Andrews

first tribute

Life Second Time Around

surprised again!

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

A Life Remembered

tributes to the original presenter

Eamonn Looks Back

first-hand recollections

Birth of Life

the genesis of the programme

New Lease of Life

the programme's relaunch

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success


the show's fifty year history

Michael Aspel

a career review

The Audience

the applause, laughter and tears

Secret names that have special meaning

TV Times reveals more secrets from television's most secretive show

This Is Your Life

The Daily Mail profiles the programme's history

Obituaries: Roy Bottomley

Press obituaries for This Is Your Life scriptwriter

Muhammad Ali

Leslie Crowther

Bob Hope

Barbara Kelly

Joe Loss

David Nixon

Harry Secombe

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Screenshots of Eamonn Andrews This Is Your Life and a rare audience ticket from the recording

Eamonn Andrews' autobiography

Eamonn Andrews recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in the book For Ever and Ever, Eamonn - published by his wife Grainne after his death...

Apparently, producer Malcolm Morris and the boys had been toying with the idea for some time and finally they got the nod from Grainne. We were coming to the end of the series. The second-last programme had already been recorded for reasons that escape me now and we wanted a big finish for the last show. We found exactly what we wanted – a wonderful, heroic, colourful story of an English missionary, who was coming home after a lifetime spent in the field. It was full of surprises, humour, pathos. It had everything. I couldn't believe we should be so lucky for the last programme. I wasn't to know there was no such person! We had arguments about how and where he should be surprised and, looking back on it now, I realise that I won a lot of these arguments that might otherwise have given me a hard time. One thing we don't have is a team of yes-men or yes-women.

I must explain that, at this time, I was hosting the Today show every day except Wednesday, when This Is Your Life would go out. My second home – or, more accurately my third home – was Euston Studios and I felt that I spent as much time in my little dressing-room there as I did anywhere else. It's a routine you quickly get into and I was enjoying every moment of it. Current Affairs, Politics, Religion, Sport, Theatre. It was all there, live, exciting, unpredictable. I was as likely to be interviewing the Prime Minister one day as I was the newsvendor from Piccadilly the next. I tell you this to help you understand how the most meticulously laid plot almost went wrong. No predictable detail had been overlooked. I was expecting to do the missionary programme on the Wednesday, live, but, meanwhile, David Nixon had asked me if I would be kind enough to do a guest spot on his programme. He knew I very seldom did these if I could avoid them and he was his own hesitating, diffident self asking me. He knew too, of course, that I owed him a favour or two and that we were very, very old friends. Of course, I said yes. This was to take place on the Monday.

The week before, because of the recording, I had a free Wednesday and that's how everything almost went crucially wrong. I was in town visiting a friend in hospital – one of my colleagues in Butlins, of which I was at that time a director. The hospital wasn't far from the studios and, when I came out, seeing that it was a bright, sunny day, I decided to walk over to them and see how next week's programme was getting on. The This Is Your Life offices were in the same building, of course, as the Today programme. I had, in fact, received an outline draft script from that great reporter-turned-researcher-writer, Jack Crawshaw, and I wasn't totally happy with it. I strolled into the Euston Studios, was about to get into the lift to go up to the This is Your Life offices when something made me change my mind and carry on to my dressing-room on the ground floor to check if there was any urgent mail or message there. Had I gone upstairs at that moment, Malcolm and Jack and the others working with me on the programme had a number of giveaway things spread out over the desks, notably old family photographs and memorabilia that might be of use on the programme. There would have been no way of hiding them, had I walked in unexpectedly. The second stroke of luck was that laziness overcame my bones and, instead of going up, I telephoned Jack, who, at that moment, had sat down behind his typewriter to hammer out a few glowing words about me for the next week's programme – the real programme. I gave him an earful about the draft script of the fictitious programme that I had before me. Obviously he hadn't put his heart into it, but there was no way I could have guessed why. When he heard where I was, he said he'd be down to see me right away. The scene now shifts back to Jack. Having given him what for (he tends to exaggerate this part of the story) he slammed down the phone, banged the typewriter, and muttered: 'I can't write glowing words about that bastard!' Anyway, we sorted it all out a few minutes later without me even guessing that poor old Jack was trying to summon up enthusiasm for a non-existent missionary.

Monday rolled on and I was back in my dressing-room going through the research needed for the evening programme when Malcolm put his head around the door.

'Hey,' he said. 'They tell me you're going on David Nixon's show tonight. What's all this about? I thought you didn't like doing those things.' I explained and he said, 'Fair enough. Tell you what, I'm driving out there this evening and I'll give you a lift after your programme. What time are you expected?'

I told him 7.30, thanked him and said: 'Fine, that would suit me down to the ground.' I got on with my work and, when I tried to make a telephone call, I was unable to do so and called the operator. She apologised. She said there was some fault on my line and that I'd have to ring her to get a line out. They'd have it fixed tomorrow. I thought nothing more of it. Immediately after the programme, Malcolm popped in and I was starting to get nervous about the next show, as I always do, even though, in this case, I had been assured by David all I had to do was help him saw a lady in half! Malcolm now said, very casually: 'Oh, by the way, there was a message for you to phone Grainne at home in Dublin.'

'Hell, I can't phone her now. Besides which, the phone is out of order.' He told me to relax, as he often does, and said there was plenty of time before we need dream of being at Teddington, where the Nixon show was taking place. I said OK and called the operator and gave her the Dublin number, saying that, if there was any problem about getting it quickly, to cancel it as I had to move out of the studios fairly soon. Within seconds, she had Grainne on the line.

'I know you're in a hurry, darling,' she said. 'But Conor was on the phone and said he has to go to Geneva tomorrow and won't be able to meet you as arranged. I thought you'd better know in case you didn't ring me later tonight.'

'Fine. Fine. How's everyone? Talk to you tomorrow. Bye.'

It was a brilliant, additional brush-stroke. It placed Grainne clearly in my mind's eye across the sea in Dublin, although she was, of course, already sitting nervously in Teddington Studios, from where she'd spoken to me. It's the sort of additional precaution that's well worth taking just in case, in the million-to-one off-chance the person in question has vaguely suspected something. Belt and braces.

Off we sailed to Teddington. The David Nixon Show had already started when they brought me down to the wings in the studio. David dashed out and apologised for not having had time to talk to me beforehand and, although I knew him as a nervous performer, I'd never seen him shake like this before, so I told him not to worry.

'All you have to do is what I tell you,' he said, and was gone. Next thing, he had the lady in the box, told the audience he was introducing a new assistant and called me on. I was starting to use the saw when David produced the most enormous This Is Your Life book I'd ever seen. I thought it was another joke. I only began to realise it was for real when I spotted our resident This Is Your Life photographer, Stan, in the audience. He's always there to take special shots for the final presentation version of the Big Red Book.

No time to think. The show was on its way. My bewilderment was soon overcome by emotion but I couldn't help be aware, even then, of the brilliance of the deception. The coolness of it. Sheer audacity. The Raffles technique. I had taken my children to school that morning in Dublin (one of the reasons I finally dropped the Friday Today show was to have a second bite at the school run and feel that I wasn't a total absentee father). What, of course, I didn't know was that Michael, who had drove me to the airport, had to double-back, re-collect the children from school, pick up Grainne and head for the next plane out. They couldn't have picked a better bunch of my pals and, of course, my ego was nicely buzzed by having Muhammad Ali bounce in by satellite, and the ever-youthful Joe Loss bounce in by legs. Most of all, of course, it was memorable because our three children were on this programme and I suppose I could truthfully say that's where my second life began. The moment that touched me most of all was when Grainne came on, kissed me and I could see, through the affection that I so happily take for granted, a flicker of anxiety, trying to assess whether I was pleased or not that she had decided to go with it. I told her then and I tell her now that I was mightily pleased.

'Never again, though,' she said most firmly. 'Never again. I wouldn't go through that again for anything, not if you live to be a hundred!'

We came to realise over the years that the toughest part of the whole programme belongs to the subject's closest partner and we always tried to make that space of time as short as possible. Incidentally, an additional precaution on the grounds of secrecy was that we never told very young children until the day of the programme. Sometimes we also applied the same rule to beloved grandmothers, who couldn't, in all truth, be expected to keep a secret from favourite apple-of-the-eye grandchildren.

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

It took four series, that's 104 programmes, before I decided to say goodbye to Eamonn and the team. I felt it was time for another change. I was determined to go out with a bang this time and decided that we should reverse the programme and do a Life on Eamonn himself.

It took a lot of persuading because the team did not think that we would succeed in keeping it a secret from the man himself, but I promised them that I would come up with something that would fool even Eamonn.

David Nixon, the TV magician, was a very good friend of Eamonn's and was delighted to be the presenter. He also agreed to invite Eamonn onto a 'dummy' David Nixon Show on the pretext of getting Eamonn to do a guest spot and be sawn in half.

Meanwhile Jack Crawshaw and I went to Ireland and secretly met Eamonn's wife Grainne in a Dublin hotel. As luck would have it, a friend saw me with Grainne and started the rumour that Grainne and I were having an affair. This was then confirmed by Grainne's and Eamonn's children, Emma and Naimh, who later said on a BBC interview, 'Oh yes, we heard that Malcolm was having an affair with Mummy.'

What I was doing was setting up the most fantastic bluff that the Life team had ever done. First we invented a mythical Indian doctor who was so saintly that he made Mother Teresa seem quite sinful in comparison. The problem was that a dummy script had to be written to convince Eamonn that we were going to do the programme on the Wednesday when in fact we were planning the 'real' show for the night before, when Eamonn was to guest on the David Nixon Show.

That began to become problematic as we got nearer to the programme. Eamonn was insisting on seeing the research for the programme – which of course did not exist. On Tuesday, the actual day of Eamonn's Life, he telephoned me to give me a terrible rollicking because the script had still not turned up, although I had promised he would have it the night before. He demanded to speak to Jack Crawshaw or anyone in the office who could give him some more information. In fact the office was totally empty because the team was in the studio, setting up the programme.

I remember looking around at the empty desks and saying, 'My God, it's chaos here! I can't get anyone right now, we are in the middle of a terrible rush and are due to have a programme meeting right now. I must go. Goodbye!'

My master stroke was still to come. I was sure that if any suspicions were lurking in Eamonn's mind they would be settled if he knew that Grainne was in Dublin just before he set out for the David Nixon Show. He knew we would never do the programme without his wife being there, so I came to an arrangement with a telephone operator who 'fixed' Eamonn's telephone at 6.30pm for ten minutes. Any number dialled on his telephone during that time would go through to a special telephone at our Teddington studios.

As we set out for David's show I told Eamonn that there had been a message for him to ring Grainne in Dublin that evening. He told me he would do it later but I nagged until he agreed. He dialled his Dublin number and spoke to Grainne in Teddington, who gave him the day's news and told him that they had been invited to a party on the Saturday night and should she accept?

Once that domestic exchange had taken place he relaxed; he just positively knew that it was not going to be his life.

Once David had shown Eamonn the book and Grainne had walked out to greet him, Eamonn spotted me standing at the back of the cameras. I gave him a wink and a shrug. It was my way of saying goodbye.

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

He was in a greater daze when, twenty years later and in response to an endless stream of letters, we trapped him again, this time for Thames TV.

On that occasion, Eamonn wanted a moving story with which to close the season. He was delighted when we told him we had found just the person – a heroic English missionary, returning home after a lifetime in Africa.

What Eamonn didn't know was that this particular hero did not exist.

A totally fictitious script was written. Eamonn rang the Life office from his dressing room to complain it simply wasn't human enough. On the fifth floor the team were working on his own Life, not knowing he was in the building. He had a day off - but had called in to collect some mail from his dressing room. All the evidence was swept off the desks in case he popped in.

Our plan was simple. Eamonn would be invited to make a guest appearance at the Teddington Studios - ten miles from the Euston offices and studios where Life was based at the time - on the David Nixon Show. David, that great magician, was a good friend from the earliest days of What's My Line? at the BBC, and had been a Life subject himself.

Now it was David's turn to get his own back.

But how to trick Eamonn?

It was his routine to telephone his wife and family in Dublin from his dressing room, after presenting the Today programme most evenings.

We arranged for there to be a 'fault' on the line, and the call had to go through the Thames Television switchboard.

So it was switched to Grainne, safely across the Irish Sea at our Teddington Studios. But when they spoke, in Eamonn's mind Grainne was in Dublin.

So, after David Nixon had sprung the big surprise on The Big Fella (as we called him), he really did think it magic when Grainne walked on to the set.

'A record flight by Aer Lingus,' said Eamonn drily after the programme.

The Stage article: Eamonn Andrews This Is Your Life

The Stage 23 May 1974


I was happy to relate my cruising experiences in the Cruising and Camping Supplement last year writes JOE LOSS. I'm delighted to have been asked to once again record my latest cruise happenings on the magnificent QE2. Come to think of it, I hope I'll be asked again next year!

For me, this Mediterranean cruise ended quite dramatically, due to the wonderful co-operation of the Cunard Company. It was all very hush-hush at the time, but like they say in those Sunday newspaper exposés, I can now reveal all.

Thames Television wanted me to appear in their This Is Your Life programme which was seen on May 15. As you now know, the subject was none other than Eamonn Andrews himself! I said I would be delighted to appear, but unfortunately I would be aboard the QE2 at that time. "Never mind," they said. "We'll collect you at Lisbon and bring you back to London for the show."

Naturally I told Cunard about the suggestion and, with their usual generosity, they agreed for me to leave the ship some three days early.

I wouldn't have missed my participation in Eamonn's life story, particularly as I brought him over from Dublin some 25 years ago. I could see then that he had a great future. But I'm also sorry that I missed the last few days of that marvellous cruise!

Series 14 subjects

Jim Dale | Vic Feather | Hayley Mills | Pete Murray | George Sewell | David Nixon | Robert Dougall | Deryck Guyler
Derek Dougan | William Coles | Jimmy Jewel | John Alderton | Patrick Moore | Sam Kydd | John Dankworth
Gordon Ostlere (Richard Gordon) | Lionel Blair | Sheila Scott | Roy Dotrice | Barry Briggs | Christopher Lee
Beryl Grey | Terry Biddlecombe | Don Revie | Robert Morley | David Hemery | Eamonn Andrews