Harry DRIVER (1931-1973)

Harry Driver This Is Your Life
  • The first edition recorded by Thames Television for ITV

programme details...

  • Edition No: 259
  • Subject No: 259
  • Broadcast date: Wed 3 Dec 1969
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 12 Nov 1969 7.00pm
  • Venue: Bloomsbury Centre Hotel, London
  • Series: 10
  • Edition: 3

on the guest list...

  • Edith - wife
  • Peggy Mount
  • Len Cussans
  • Stephen - son
  • May - mother
  • Vince Powell
  • unnamed doctor
  • Evelyn Ross
  • Harry Worth
  • Harry Elton
  • Arthur Lowe
  • Jimmy Jewel
  • John Bluthal
  • Joe Lynch
  • Irene Handl
  • Wilfred Pickles
  • Arthur Leslie
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Sid James
  • cast members of Coronation Street
  • Pat Phoenix

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Robert Tyrrell
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Steve Driver for his contribution to this page
related pages...

The Written Word

putting pen to paper

Birth of Life

the genesis of the programme


the show's fifty year history

Obituaries: Roy Bottomley

Press obituaries for This Is Your Life scriptwriter

Jimmy Jewel

Pat Phoenix

Wilfred Pickles

Harry Worth

Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life Harry Driver This Is Your Life book

Photographs of Harry Driver This Is Your Life - and a photograph of Harry Driver's This Is Your Life book

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...

But who was to be the all-important first? Not necessarily the first programme viewers would see, but the show we recorded as the 'pilot', the try-out show to impress the top brass?

No one had any idea who the very first ITV subject to be transmitted on the network would be (I had a good idea, but kept it under wraps for reasons to be explained). Eamonn, in his early BBC years, had had the advantage of carrying on Ralph Edwards's tradition (based on original inspiration) of bringing about a reunion of war veterans, not only with their families and friends but with their courageous wartime comrades. We were now two decades on. But Eamonn, rightly, insisted on looking for a first subject to record whose story was one of determined triumph over inconceivable odds.

My mind went back to the very title of this chapter: Birth of Life. To the blank, wheelchair-bound hopelessness of that very first subject of the Life on radio in 1948: paraplegic war veteran Lawrence Tranter.

Where was the story which encapsulated every ingredient of the original This Is Your Life?

For this try-out pilot programme in the harsh, commercial, realistic world of ITV, there was no room for a 'leak' or 'runner'. This was real Life.

Truly I forget the many names that were pitched, most of whom Eamonn had 'done' years ago at the BBC. I thought long and hard and went back to the fundamentals of the programme which had once held the nation's viewers spellbound. I tried to remember stories I had covered in my newspaper days in the north. Was there something there I was overlooking since my transition to the glamorous world of television and show business?

Indeed there was. The first subject of This Is Your Life on Thames Television was - literally - staring me in the face.

And from a wheelchair.

His name was Harry Driver. With his writing partner Vince Powell he created such television comedy gems as For the Love of Ada and Nearest and Dearest (for which I was later to co-write both TV and film). Vince still turns in great popular comedy such as Ne'er The Twain. He and Harry had been a semi-pro double act in the northern clubs. Then Harry, married with two children, was taken ill. Polio was diagnosed. He was confined to an iron lung.

A working-class northerner of great pride, he was determined to remain the family breadwinner. If he could not perform comedy, he would write it. If he could not sell his written comedy, he would write drama?

But how? His paralysis meant he could not even use his fingers, but in his mouth he could hold a knitting needle. With that knitting needle he could tap the keys of a portable electric typewriter.

And as a young journalist in Manchester, I wrote an article about Harry.

With his partner, he had persevered, against all odds, to write some of the most successful comedies on British television, including one which took the nation by storm: Love Thy Neighbour, the first white-family-next-door-to-black-family comedy.

I had worked with Harry and Vince when an original script I had co-written for Hylda Baker (about a northern pub landlady, based on my own mother) was, for want of a better word 'fused' into Nearest and Dearest. I'll never forget Hylda, at a swish West End restaurant, telling the wine waiter how much she liked the wine. 'This sparkling Bordeaux, where does it come from?'

Anyway, the idea of a man in a wheelchair with a great Northern sense of humour became the first try-out subject of Thames Television's recording of This Is Your Life.

The newly built studios at Euston Road were not ready, so we recorded the programme at the Burlington Hotel in the West End.

It was a huge success. What's more, it was in colour. My concept of 'This Is Your Colourful Life' had been dropped, without any argument from me; after all, the message had got through. We had a start. But Eamonn, as he did to the very end, still harked back to the days of live television. He loved the Harry Driver Life, but he didn't want to come back on air, on ITV, with a recorded programme.

Series 10 subjects

Des O'Connor | Bobby Charlton | Harry Driver | Twiggy | Honor Blackman | The Beverley Sisters | John Fairfax | Henry Cooper
Jackie Stewart | Jimmy Savile | Arthur Dooley | Wendy Craig | Tony Jacklin | Charlie Cairoli | Richard Evans | Alfie Bass
Jack Good | Joe Mercer | Ronnie Corbett | Colin Milburn | Frankie Vaughan | Lorna Ridgway | Val Doonican
Johnny Speight | Reg Varney | Harold French