Margaret Rowena JONES BEM

This Is Your Life Big Red Book

programme details...

  • Edition No: 73
  • Subject No: 73
  • Broadcast live: Mon 17 Nov 1958
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.05pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 4
  • Edition: 8

on the guest list...

  • Sister Florence O'Grady
  • Billy Morell
  • Bob Salmon
  • R J Smith
  • Bob Smith
  • Harry Smith
  • Edna Rowson
  • Nell Walker
  • Eric - husband
  • Peggy Phillips
  • Ken Phillips
  • Elizabeth Bolton - mother
  • Lizabeth - daughter - live link
  • Edna - sister - live link

production team...

  • Researchers: Nigel Ward, Michael Williams
  • Writers: Nigel Ward, Michael Williams
  • Director: Vere Lorrimer
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
related pages...

Military Life

saluting the armed forces

Is This The Best TV Can Do?

The Stage reviews a recent edition

Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life

Photographs of Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life

Liverpool Echo article: Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life

Liverpool Echo 18 November 1958

Embarrassing... that was how a heroine of the Birkenhead blitz to-day described her surprise appearance on TV last night



Every Monday night millions of viewers settle down into their armchairs for one of the BBC's top television programmes. Its title is This Is Your Life. And it is a programme which is causing increasing concern.

For it heavily underlines a problem to which I now urge the BBC to give immediate and critical attention. It is this. To what extent is television justified in poking into the private life of a person who has not given his or her permission to appear in a "live" programme to be transmitted into millions of homes throughout the country?

This Is Your Life is a programme imported into this country from the United States, where it has enjoyed some popularity for the past few years.

The BBC version has been running at intervals for a couple of years. What is its aim? To produce each week for the entertainment of viewers a personality with an interesting story to tell, and to recall incidents from the subject's past life in the form of interviews with people who have figured prominently in it.

Subjects have been taken from many walks of life. They have come from the world of entertainment. There have been heroes and heroines of the last war. And there have been ordinary folk who never in their wildest dreams imagined that the harsh light of nation-wide curiosity would be focussed on their private lives.

The producers of this programme have reminded us from time to time that its appeal depends largely on the fact that the victims are given no warning at all that they are to appear on the programme. Complete surprise is a vital element of the build-up of the show.

The greatest triumph of the producer is that moment when the unsuspecting victim realises that he or she is appearing in the programme. We have seen that moment of surprise registered in many ways. Complete astonishment? Yes. Amazement? Yes. Delight? Rarely.


Is this entertainment? Or is it an unpardonable intrusion into personal privacy?

"This is cruelty." Not my opinion – but the exclamation of a Merseyside housewife who last night found herself the subject of the programme.

Mrs Rowena Jones, of Little Sutton, to-day thinks of herself as just an ordinary housewife. She lives a quiet life with her husband and three-years-old daughter. Out of the home her interests are centered mostly on amateur theatricals. And a few days ago she was asked by the BBC to go to London to make a recording for a sound radio programme dealing with the amateur stage.

As part of her visit she was shown the This Is Your Life studio. Completely unsuspecting she was looking at some of the backstage equipment when the arclights enveloped her... and the clipped, impersonal voice of the compere told her: "Mrs Rowena Jones... THIS is your life..."

For millions of viewers this is the big moment. For Mrs Jones it was clearly a moment of staggering embarrassment.

And although she struggled to control her emotions for the rest of the half-hour, few viewers could have doubted that for Mrs Rowena Jones the following half hour was something of an ordeal.

Recollections of her days as a blitz worker (for which she was awarded the British Empire Medal). Reminders of the grim days she spent in hospital, critically ill with tuberculosis. Intimate details of the birth of her child.

Throughout it all Mrs Jones was nervous almost to the point of agitation. Her voice shook. Her hands trembled. "Who is looking after my baby?" she asked compere Eamonn Andrews. "You'll see later in the programme," said Andrews.

Later we learned that Mrs Jones' three-years-old daughter had been kept up past her bedtime to be brought before the television cameras in the North of England.

If the aim of this programme is to tug at the emotions of the viewer, then last night's This Is Your Life was undoubtedly one of the best the producers could have thought up. Mrs Jones' life was dissected with the cold impersonality of the surgeon's knife.

I warmed to the friendly, unassuming, modest, pleasant personality of Mrs Jones. She never wanted to be thought of as anything more than just an ordinary wife and mother. And had she given her consent to the programme beforehand I could have enjoyed every minute of it.

What had Mrs Jones to say about the programme this morning? "It did not even enter my head that the subject could possibly be me. When I was taken on a visit to the studio I remarked: "Well, I am safe because I have no claim to fame."

"Within two minutes that was it. They do not even give you time to comb your hair."

Did Mrs Jones really mean what she said when she gasped: "This is cruelty?"

She said to-day that she meant that it was "embarrassingly so" and not cruel in a harsh way.

And she felt embarrassed when she realised that the talk she had been asked to give was a hoax. It was to have been about the theatre club of which she is a member. "I felt that I would have to go home and tell them all I did not give the promised talk," she said unhappily this morning.

There are many subjects who could be considered fair game for this kind of programme. People who live their lives in the glare of publicity are not usually averse to this kind of public entertainment. In recent programmes we have seen Ronald Shiner, Tommy Steele, Jimmy Edwards, A E Matthews, Humphrey Lyttelton, Harry Secombe, Noel Purcell and a dozen others.

But, for people like Mrs Rowena Jones a programme of this kind can be a severe ordeal. It is time to ask if such a programme is justified.

Photo – Largely as a result of her air raid experiences, Mrs Jones had to spend a considerable time in hospital. This picture, taken in 1941, shows her back in hospital with a welcome cup of tea after she had left her bed for a few hours to receive the B.E.M. from King George VI.

Daily Express article: Margaret Rowena Jones This Is Your Life

Daily Express 18 November 1958

Blitz wife tricked into BBC show


Express Staff Reporter

"THIS is cruelty. No, please, no," implored Cheshire housewife Mrs Rowena Jones when she found herself the victim of the BBC's This Is Your Life feature last night. But there was no escape.

In the TV control room where she had been watching the opening of the programme a man gripped her firmly by the arm.

"I am sorry. This is the end of your tour, Mrs Jones," he said; and as she cried out in shocked surprise he urged her through the door at the back and into the theatre, where Eamonn Andrews was waiting.

A tall studio manager, wearing headphones and carrying the script, closed in on the other side and took her free arm.

So politely

Mrs Jones was ever so politely conveyed forward. Her coat was slipped from her shoulders.

Still bemused she found herself in the glare of the lights before the audience.

She sat in the victim's chair, a hand over her eyes, trembling and saying: "This is cruelty."

But the BBC show had to go on.

Mrs Jones had been tricked by the same old BBC hoax: Come and make a recording for a future sound radio programme – this time about amateur theatricals to which she has been devoted all her life.

Then the audience heard the story of her British Empire Medal awarded for bravery in the Liverpool blitz , how her A.R.P. work brought on severe tuberculosis; how her husband, wounded in the Western Desert, read in a Cairo hospital of her decoration, and even the intimate details of her baby, born when Mrs Jones was 38.

Husband knew

And to prove that no detail is too small for the BBC in its passionate devotion to this American show, three-year-old Lizabeth was kept out of bed and brought before the TV cameras.

Little Lizabeth was taken by car from her home in Hillcrest Road, Little Sutton, to the TV studios in Manchester to take part in the programme.

Said a neighbour who was looking after the Jones home last night: "Mr Jones was in the secret. He had to be because he had to get time off from his job as a personnel manager to take part."

Mrs Jones confessed later last night that it was the worst ordeal of her life.

"It was nice"

She rushed straight back to her hotel after the show, walked into the lounge, and said:-

"Please get me something to eat, anything, and tea – lots of tea. I haven't eaten all day."

Then she collapsed into an armchair and said: "I did say 'this is cruelty,' Why did they have to pick on me? Nobody can ever have any idea how embarrassing it is to face those cameras and millions of staring faces..."

"I am just an ordinary housewife, and why bring up these intimate details about my baby girl? I don't think that was necessary."

She smiled for the first time...

[ editor: article incomplete]

Series 4 subjects

Jo Capka | Jimmy Edwards | Andrew Milbourne | Bella Burge | Tommy Steele | Ronald Shiner | James Edward Wood
Margaret Rowena Jones | John Griffiths | Freddy Bloom | Bransby Williams | Miriam Moses | Elsie Mullock | John Vidler
Florence Desmond | Noel Duckworth | Alfred Daniel Wintle | Ted Heath | Andrew Macdonald | Harriet Cohen
Willie Hall | Reginald Blanchford | Kenneth More | Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes | Miriam Jowett | Ted Willis
Alfred Southon | Tiger Sarll | Mary Ward | Roy Gill | Stirling Moss | Ethel Goldsack | Tommy Trinder