Mike BRACE (1950-)

Mike Brace This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 588
  • Subject No: 585
  • Broadcast date: Wed 13 Jan 1982
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Tue 10 Nov 1981
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 22
  • Edition: 15
  • Code name: Belt

on the guest list...

  • Brian Johnston
  • Charlie Magri
  • Brian Tripp
  • Rolf Wilhelmsen
  • Maureen - wife
  • Rose - mother
  • Ron - stepfather
  • John - brother
  • June - sister-in-law
  • Chris - stepbrother
  • Pat - stepsister-in-law
  • Pat - stepbrother-in-law
  • Janet - stepsister
  • Bobby Smith
  • Ossie Ardiles
  • Rolf Harris
  • Alan Green
  • Sheena Green
  • Clare - aunt
  • George - uncle
  • Mary - aunt
  • Allan Mabert
  • Chris Wright
  • Bill Aitken
  • Jeanette Stanley
  • Josephine Thompson
  • Mike Franks
  • Guttorm Froysok
  • Ase Froysok
  • Mary
  • Jackie
  • Michael
  • Keith Coleman
  • Lorna Coleman

production team...

  • Researcher: Vivien Lind
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Paul Stewart Laing, Terry Yarwood
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Going for Gold

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The Night of 1000 Lives

a celebration of a thousand editions

Rolf Harris

Brian Johnston

Charlie Magri

Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life Mike Brace This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Mike Brace This Is Your Life

Mike Brace's autobiography

Mike Brace recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography, Don't ask me, ask the dog!...

When Eamonn Andrews greeted me outside Bush House, the home of the BBC's World Service, and said those immortal words:

"Mike Brace, sportsman and social worker, this is your life", I was filled with a mix of emotions. My first reaction was one of surprise and disbelief, and even suspicion, i.e. was it really Eamonn or a friend trying to be funny and putting on an Irish accent? Then, confirmation came from Brian Johnston whom I was there to meet, so it must be true!

After the shock wore off and we were on our way to the studio to record the programme, I also had another thought, I was only 31 and appearing on This Is Your Life, was that it then? Had I done everything that I was going to do with my life?

I thought back on the day I had just had prior to being grabbed for This is Your Life. The day had been a bit hectic and of course I did not have any inkling of what was to come later. When you are an ordinary individual you never expect or dream that something like This Is Your Life will ever involve you! Looking back after the event I should have smelt a rat.

On the previous Monday I received a phone call from my friend Robbie, who was the Metro blind cricket team's Captain, to say that he now had to work on the following Wednesday when Metro were due to have their Cricket AGM. I offered to Chair the meeting but he was very insistent that he wanted to be there and that the meeting was cancelled. I remember putting the phone down and thinking, the guys are going to be really hacked off with the meeting being cancelled, just because Robbie couldn't make it. A few minutes later the phone rang again, and on answering it, I found that it was Brian Johnston, the broadcaster/cricket commentator and Metro's President. He was asking if I could by any chance help him out by doing an interview about blind cricket for the World Service of the BBC? He said that he knew it was short notice but was I free on this coming Wednesday evening? I, like the idiot I am, said, "that's really spooky until about 3 minutes ago I would have had to say no, but my Club's cricket meeting has just been cancelled so I am now free".

Brian went on to say that we might have a bite to eat afterwards and tactfully suggested that perhaps I should wear something a bit smarter than my usual social worker's uniform of jeans and jumper! He then astounded me by saying he would send a car for me. I say I was astounded, as anyone who worked with the World Service in those days, knew that they had no budget for things like cars, and barely had enough money to make the programmes!

I still didn't suspect anything; well you wouldn't, would you?

At work the day after the phone call from Brian, my Team Clerk at the social work office said, "it will be great to see your guide Rolf again won't it?" I thought, what an odd thing to say, as I wasn't due to see Rolf, my skiing guide until I went training in Norway the following March! Lesley recovered well and said "... Oh, in March when you go skiing".

I again thought it was a bit odd, but again did not suspect anything. On the morning of my supposed meeting with Brian Johnston I took Mo a cup of tea in bed (more about her role in the subterfuge later), kissed her and set off to visit a large children's home in Hornchurch. I had qualified as a social worker in 1976, worked for Tower Hamlets Local Authority and had 12 children and young people in care on my caseload placed there. I thought, as it was near to my home, that I would stand a fighting chance of being on time for my driver at 5.30 that evening.

As I left Mo I asked her what she had planned for the day, and she had replied nothing special, and said she planned to laze around and relax. Imagine my surprise therefore when I popped back home within 3 minutes of leaving, having forgotten something, to find Mo up and downstairs rushing around like a maniac! I had always prided myself on being able to tell when Mo was hiding something or telling porkies, but not on that occasion. She had apparently known for over a year that This is Your Life was considering featuring me as a subject but thought they had gone off the idea. Then six weeks earlier from the day in question (the maximum time they thought anyone could keep such a secret), they had phoned her and said that it was all systems go for the 4th of November. A researcher had visited and gone through my address book and asked Mo who she thought I would like to be on the programme. A number of guests had been contacted and had agreed to appear.

So off I trotted to work, still none the wiser, and met with the kids, the bit of my job I really enjoyed. I was compassionate to the plight the kids found themselves in and passionate that someone, me in this case, should try and make a difference in their lives. I had no idea then if the kids knew how I felt and it has been both humbling and highly emotional to have been contacted recently, over thirty years later, by a number of the kids, now in their forties, to say how much I meant to them and why, having gained access to their records, they felt the need to contact me.

I remember rushing home, after my visit, late as usual, (I think social workers have almost a pathological inability to be on time for anything) to find the driver Jim, waiting for me. I think I was about 15 minutes late, and thought that it was no big deal as all the programmes at the World Service were recorded, so it wouldn't matter if we were a few minutes late. I was due there for 6.30 and as the time was then 5.45, and I still had to change, there was no way we would do the 15 mile journey in the rush hour in 30 minutes!

I put on my best trousers and a shirt which Mo had left out for me (she was not in, funny that!), I strolled out to Jim the driver, and was put in the back of quite a posh car for a cab! We then set off at a hundred miles an hour, I kid you not. Talk about thinking of everything, Jim kept giving updates over the car radio to the programme organisers. As the World Service was run by the BBC and This is Your Life was an ITV programme, they had even changed the car's call sign to BBC 1! I still didn't tumble and just felt overwhelmed and honoured that my progress to the World Service was thought to be of such importance to warrant five minute updates via the car radio! We made it in 30 minutes from Hornchurch to the Strand and I rushed to get out of the car on arrival, with relief, only to find that I was child locked in! Brian was there to meet me and as I eventually struggled out of the car, I was aware of him saying something about wanting to introduce me to a very old friend of his, Eamonn Andrews. As I was thanking the driver, I then heard Eamonn saying, that he wanted to meet me "for a very special reason, because, Mike Brace, social worker and sportsman, this is your life".

My honest first thoughts were that someone was taking the p..s and was putting on a phoney Irish accent. My second reaction was one of complete shock and after uttering "you're joking, you're joking", I was completely lost for words (which for anyone that knows me is almost unheard of!). I was then put back in the car I had just climbed out of, with Brian Johnston in the front passenger seat and Eamonn next to me in the back. I was aware of Brian saying something like, "I'll tell you more about what's going to happen when we get to the theatre around the corner in the Aldwych."

Eamonn was saying something like,

"You're surprised then?"

I just sat there in a state of complete shock and then, I am ashamed to say, did the smelliest fart I have ever experienced! One of the biggest moments in my life and my lasting memory was the obnoxious smell wafting out of my trousers! It was so bad that Brian and Eamonn both hurriedly wound down their windows, and stuck their heads out!

Another lasting memory is us driving down the strand with Brian and Eamonn's heads out of the window and Eamonn saying whilst coughing his lungs up, "I can see (cough, cough,) you were (cough cough) surprised"!

Poor Jim, the driver just had to choke! I just sat there apologising and thanking my lucky stars that it was only a fart!

We arrived at the theatre and I was ushered into a dressing room. I was told that the recording would start at exactly the time the programme would be broadcast which left about 40 minutes to relax and get changed into a suit. I said that I didn't have a suit (still in shock of course) and Brian said that they had a smart brown suit there, with a Round Table badge on it. They must have got a bit worried that I would not cope with the actual programme when I responded, "Oh, I've got one like that at home"!

Of course it was my own suit that Mo had brought up to the theatre that afternoon. Suitably attired I sat there and was introduced to the sound engineer who wanted to put a small radio mike down the front of my trousers. I then had a moment of panic. Suppose my outbreak of flatulence reared its ugly head, just as they were doing a sound check?!

I then found myself having a few minutes on my own to reflect on what had, and was going to, happen.

Who would they bring on as my guests were my initial thoughts? Would I remember them if they were from my distant past? Could I keep my emotions in check or would I cry like a baby?

I had gone blind aged 10 following a firework accident when someone had concealed a banger in a black medicine bottle which I had picked up and which exploded in my face. Would it be the kids with me when I had the accident? Would it be the boys that had concealed the firework in the bottle? Surely not!

I then went to a special school for the blind in Wandsworth. Would some of the guests be my teachers from school?

I had continued my love of sport at the school and developed an interest in folk music. Would someone from my school sports teams be on the programme, or members of my school and later folk groups be there?

I then studied as a shorthand typist and worked in the Civil Service. I realised after 2 weeks in the job that I wasn't very civil or anyone's servant, and studied hard to move on. Surely nobody from the typing pool would be trotted out!

Having got my 2 "A" levels whilst working in the Civil Service, I trained as a social worker at the North London Polytechnic. After a shaky start there, (with me thinking that somewhat uncharitably my fellow students were a bunch of sad weirdoes), I had a great time. Would fellow students be marched on? Oh God, I hoped not, as they might have a tale or two to tell!

I then started work as a social worker in Tower Hamlets. Whilst I worked as a generic social worker i.e. with adults as well as children, I found that my empathy and skill, to some extent, was relating to, and engaging with, young people. I remembered some of the funny situations I had been in, and the amusing comments from the parents and children I had worked with. Presumably it wouldn't be any of them as that would be too sensitive?

As well as embarking on a social work career, I had also discovered skiing in the early 1970's, and had represented Great Britain at the first Paralympic Winter Games in Sweden in 1976, and the second Winter Paralympics in Norway in 1980. Would someone from my competitive sporting activities be brought on, and if so, who?

I then thought about my family. Wait until I saw Mo! My mum and her sister had had a colourful past with 9 husbands between them! They deserved to be on the programme as subjects, but perhaps they had too many skeletons in the cupboard! What would they say?

My brother John had taken a bit of a backseat in the family when I had my accident, with our mum focussing a lot of her attention on me during the weekends when I was home from boarding school. Would he take this moment to mention how he felt?

I had some great friends, who would they select to come on and recount those embarrassing moments that I had seen revealed on other This Is Your Life programmes?

They always had a final guest that you hadn't seen for years, would they bother to go to that much effort for me and if so, who could it be?

I had begun after dinner speaking some 2 years earlier, would it be someone from the Round Table, where it had all started, I hoped not!

My musings were soon interrupted by a knock on the door and Eamonn Andrews saying the time had come to start the programme. I had been told that we were to walk into the theatre from the front, walk through the auditorium and then go up a few steps onto the stage. I learned later from Mo that the producers had been worried that I would not manage the walk, or to climb the stairs, and they had seriously considered starting the programme with me on the stage with the curtains opening on Eamonn and me! However when she pointed out that I was a Paralympic athlete and was probably more able to manage the stairs than Eamonn was, they relented and agreed for me to enter the auditorium the same as anyone else. I had given Eamonn a quick lesson in sighted guiding i.e. letting me hold his arm rather than him grabbing me in a vicelike ex boxers grip and carrying me up the stairs!

We set off and I was hit immediately by the noise of 500 people clapping. I hadn't even considered the fact that there would be a live audience. When I did, I thought as we walked through, how disappointed they would be when they realised that I was not anyone famous.

I then sat for the next 30 minutes, in a dream, as one after the other special and important people from my past and present were brought on to say funny or flattering things about me.

Brian Johnston was on the stage to start with and then they brought Mo on. Mo is one of the shyest people I have met and I was totally amazed that: a. she had kept this immense secret for weeks and b. she was standing on stage with me in front of 500 people speaking to Eamonn.

I gave her hand a squeeze, called her a cow and said I would have words with her later!

Then came my mum with Ron (husband no. 4), my aunties, brother and his wife plus my step brother and step sister with their partners.

So far, so good I thought.

They then brought on several friends and teachers from school and from my folk group which I sang with, when I left school.

One of the friends recounted an occasion when he and I went to a naturist camp to raise money for our sports club and when, as my friend Allan put it, "reaching out to shake hands took on a whole new meaning".

I then was amazed when they brought on Charlie Magri the boxer, whom I had met when he opened my club Metro's athletics meeting. Having just got over the shock of Charlie, they then mentioned my passionate support for Tottenham Hotspurs and brought on my hero of the day, Ossie Ardiles. When I thought it couldn't get any better, they brought on my childhood Spurs hero, Bobby Smith the England and Spurs centre forward. When I had my accident and was lying in bed in Moorfields Eye Hospital with pads over my eyes, and the doctors were trying to save my sight, Bobby and another legendary Spurs player, Danny Blanchflower, came in to visit me.

The surprises weren't over yet. Next to appear were my two ski guides, Guttorm and Rolf, both from Norway. I couldn't believe that they had flown people over from Norway just for me!

With still a few minutes to go, I thought there can't be anyone else surely?

I had developed an interest in trying somewhat unusual and potentially challenging sports, one of which was Para kiting. This is where you go up on a parachute behind a land rover or boat and fly through the air. They therefore brought on my parakite instructor Brian, who had a bit of a special place in my regard in that he had not been daunted by my request to try something new, and enabled me to have an experience I have never forgotten.

When I was about 14, we used to go to a caravan in Great Yarmouth for our holidays. The highlight of the week was when we went to the show in the theatre, and on one occasion we went back stage to meet the performers. Marty Wilde was a big star then and the Tornadoes were a popular group, and the light relief was supplied by someone named Rolf Harris. He and I got on really well and he drew a picture of his face on the back of an autograph card, which he then proceeded to raise up with his pen to provide me with an image of his face that I could feel. I was immensely impressed by this and we corresponded for several months afterwards from wherever he was around the world. Imagine my surprise then when the next sound I heard was the didgeridoo and the next guest was Rolf Harris. He remembered the drawing he had done all those years ago and gave me another one he had drawn for the occasion. My emotions were in turmoil but there was more to come.

Eamonn then turned in the script to my work as a social worker and started to mention the family of 2 girls and a boy who were the first children I had taken into care. Their mother was dying of multiple sclerosis and their father had given up trying to cope. He had abandoned them by giving up his flat, and the children's only home, whilst they were on a school journey! I had to meet them from the coach and take them to see their mother in hospital and then to a children's home in Mill Hill. They were aged about 14, 12 and 10 at the time and their plight really got to me. My heart leapt and my stomach went over when onto the stage came Mary, Jackie and Michael now aged 19, 17 and 15. They said some wonderful things about me, and what I meant to them, and, I'm afraid the tears started to flow. Apparently even Eamonn was crying! There was so much waterworks that a viewer wrote to me afterwards to say, "I thought it was disgusting that the programme didn't provide anyone with tissues".

So my emotional roller coaster was over my surprise guests had arrived and I was waiting for Eamonn to give me the red book and say those immortal words but, he wasn't finished.

Through my tears I heard him then talk about how 2 friends and I had been inseparable as youngsters. Alan had already come on as a guest and Keith, the third of the musketeers had emigrated to New Zealand the day after he got married some 8 years earlier.

The tears started to flow again when I heard a voice with quite a strong New Zealand accent say, "and you don't think a mere 12,000 miles would stop me from being here do you?"

I nearly didn't hear Eamonn say, "Tonight, Mike Brace, This Is Your Life"!

Tears were flowing, the audience were on their feet, and I was hugging everyone, which was a bit difficult because I had a bloody great red book in my hands!

Mike Brace This Is Your Life

Eamonn then came and relieved me of the book, not because he was aware of my need to hug more easily, but because there is nothing in the Red Book at that stage other than his script, and possibly a cheese sandwich in case he got hungry during the show.

When I had watched the show previously Eamonn had referred to the after show party, and sure enough they had arranged one for me too.

As well as the guests that had appeared on the show, about 60 other guests had been invited. The emotional turmoil started again with yet more people from my past hugging and kissing me. Friends from my club Metro were there; Danny Blanchflower, the football legend was there; my scout master from school greeted me, and I thought I had best take it steady when the drink started to flow, as I wasn't sure I could keep my emotions in check much more.

At about 9 o'clock one of the producers took me aside and said that they had arranged for 2 Daimler limos to take me and about 16 guests to a restaurant for a meal. I must have looked a bit worried because he then asked me if that was all right? I asked if the restaurant was already booked, as if not, couldn't we stay at the theatre and carry on with the party. I am not sure if this was the first time a subject of the programme had asked this, but he reluctantly agreed.

At midnight, having drunk the bar completely dry about 18 of us packed into the 2 limos that had been waiting all the time, and set off across London to my home in Hornchurch.

I have a slightly fuzzy memory of drunken guests leaning out of the car window and telling the passengers in the cars next to us that we had been on This Is Your Life. Having got home we then started to party in earnest. I remember waking up about 8 a.m. and thinking firstly, "Was it a dream?" and secondly, "Oh God, I'm late for work!"

Series 22 subjects

Bob Champion | Bill Fraser | Wayne Sleep | Ian Botham | Cannon and Ball | Rob Buckman | Angela Rippon
Julia McKenzie | Jackie Milburn | Paul Shane | Peter Adamson | Kiri Te Kanawa | Mickie Most | Anita Harris
Mike Brace| Faith Brown | Robin Bailey | Rod Hull | Bob Monkhouse | John Toshack | Wally Herbert
Joe Gormley | Roger Whittaker | Alan Whicker | Peter Davison | Douglas Bader