Ray REARDON (1932-)

Ray Reardon This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 424
  • Subject No: 421
  • Broadcast date: Wed 14 Jan 1976
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 7 Jan 1976
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 16
  • Edition: 10
  • Code name: Break

on the guest list...

  • Sue - wife
  • John Pulman
  • Eddie Charlton
  • Cliff Thorburn
  • Jackie Rea
  • John Spencer
  • Graham Miles
  • Alex Higgins
  • Joyce Gardner
  • Ben - father
  • Dan - uncle
  • Johnny - uncle
  • Bryn - uncle
  • Lena - aunt
  • Jack Ray
  • Derek Tooth
  • Wilf Shingler
  • Percy Wright
  • Sam Latham
  • Jack Winnard
  • Jack Parks
  • Alan Ratchell
  • Frank Sheppard
  • Jack Window
  • Joe Davis
  • Darren - son
  • Melanie - daughter
  • Ron - brother

production team...

  • Researchers: Debbie Gaunt, Marilyn Gaunt
  • Writer: John Sandilands
  • Director: Royston Mayoh
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Pot Black

cueing the stars of snooker

Alex Higgins

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Screenshots of Ray Reardon This Is Your Life

Ray Reardon's autobiography

Ray Reardon recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography...

The following January I was involved in a recording session at Thames Television Ladbroke international series at the Holiday Inn in London when I heard Eamonn Andrews say, 'Ray Reardon, This Is Your Life.' Many times I have heard people discuss whether the 'victim' is really surprised when this happens, but I can assure you that I had no inkling of what was about to happen. I felt as surprised as I looked.

John Pulman, John Spencer, and Graham Miles were there, along with Cliff Thorburn, of Canada, Jackie Rea and Alex Higgins, of Ireland, Eddie Charlton, from Australia, Joe Davis and seven-times women's champion Joyce Gardner. Eamonn Andrews had arranged for my brother Ron to fly over from Johannesburg, and old colleagues from my mining and police days were there to add their reminiscence. I lived it over again: marbles on the kitchen table, threats of a spanking for playing for money, Jack Window chauffeuring me around in the old Gutless Wonder, my pit accident and my police service. At home I have a video recording of the show and savour all the emotions again.

Being featured in such a programme is an experience you never forget and I think I am fortunate to have access to this and other television highlights at the flick of a switch.

Ray Reardon This Is Your Life
Snooker Scene article: Ray Reardon This Is Your Life

Snooker Scene February 1976

Ray Reardon This Is Your Life

Ray Reardon finished playing the last frame of the second recording session in the Thames Television Ladbroke International series at the Holiday Inn and set up a trick shot which he had been asked to record as a possible programme filler.

He started... and floor manager David London stopped him.

"Technical problem," he said. There was a pause. "Okay. Ready now." And Ray again launched into his spiel.

Actually, there was no technical problem, merely the problem of precise liaison with someone Ray did not know about - though a privileged few did.

Ray started to play the shot itself and there was a little flurry of activity near one of the doors behind his back.

A brown-haired, surprisingly young-looking man climbed over the table surrounds and stood at Ray's shoulder waiting for him to finish.

The man tapped him on the shoulder. Ray, surprised, first looked round over the wrong shoulder. Then, as he realised who it was, his legs buckled and he grabbed the table for support.

The man, as millions of television viewers now know, was Eamonn Andrews and the scene which Ray was unwittingly enacting was the "pick up" sequence for This Is Your Life.

Snooker Scene: Ray Reardon This Is Your Life article

It had been Snooker's best kept secret: it had to be, for it is an inflexible rule of the programme that no subject is ever proceeded with if the victim becomes aware that he is involved.

Fortunately, security was perfect, Ray himself having dismissed from his mind a couple of 'wrong numbers' when Thames researcher Marilyn Gaunt rang up Ray's wife, Sue, who of course was involved in the planning of the programme from an early stage.

The idea was originally conceived by Snooker Scene's editor, Clive Everton, when working on Ray's book Classic Snooker which is to be published in September by David and Charles. Over the telephone last July he outlined the basic idea and the features of Ray's life which seemed to fit the formula of the programme to This Is Your Life's then executive producer, Jack Andrews.

For a month... nothing, but then there was a call from Thames to Snooker Scene and a meeting with programme researchers Maurice Leonard and Marilyn Gaunt. From this, Marilyn prepared a "feaser" or feasibility study, and her first meeting with Sue Reardon followed shortly afterwards. Sue loaned scrapbooks and photographs and, with the help of Ray's father, Ben, provided valuable names and addresses.

The miners who rescued Ray from the roof fall at the Florence Colliery were easy enough to trace except for one who had moved to Mansfield and even he was tracked down with the help of one of the unions. So too were Ray's two police colleagues, Supt. Frank Sheppard and a Police Sergeant who joined the City of Stoke Constabulary on the same day as PC 184 Reardon and who remained his best mate until the professional Snooker circuit beckoned him away.

Ken Shaw of Union Billiards, South Africa, the company for which Ray's brother, Ron, now works was located immediately and so too, in Australia, was Eddie Charlton.

Snooker Scene: Ray Reardon This Is Your Life article

Marilyn travelled to Tredegar to meet Ray's family and stay with his Uncle Dan and Auntie Lena. "I had a smashing time," she said. "We had a lot of fun and getting to know everyone personally made the programme all that much easier to do."

At one time there were 19 technicians crammed into Uncle Dan's front room but, as is the way with television, order emerged from apparent chaos. (Incidentally, the shot in the Kitchen Table Snooker sequence when all the marbles were potted at once was done with the aid of a piece of sellotape.)

The day before the programme was recorded (exactly one week before it was shown) the principal guests had the benefit of a run-through with scriptwriter John Sandilands standing in for Ray. Only Eamonn Andrews is scripted but in order to ensure as far as possible that the programme fills the right amount of time the producer has to have some clear idea what guests will say "on the night". As it happened, the show ran one minute longer than intended but the Independent Broadcasting Authority was able to give it an extra minute so that it could be transmitted uncut.

Snooker Scene: Ray Reardon This Is Your Life article

After the programme, Eamonn Andrews chatted with the studio audience - which seemed to include half Tredegar - and asked whether anyone wanted to play Ray.

"I'll play him," said nephew John Reardon, a Welsh Championship competitor.

"It was only an innocent rhetorical question," said Eamonn defensively.

Thames entertained generously in the hospitality room and re-ran the programme; the other players who had been on the programme went back to the Holiday Inn for their next recording session and Ray and Sue continued their celebrations until a 3 a.m. breakfast in the Cavendish Hotel.

"A marvellous experience," they agreed next day and it is nice to know that it gave them so much pleasure because, in their different ways they have both earned it.

Snooker Scene: Ray Reardon This Is Your Life article

But it was also, of course, great for Snooker for the programme revealed its top player - in a personal and human way - to an enormous public, so much so that anyone who saw the programme will follow Ray's progress (and, by association, Snooker itself) with new interest.

Ray felt the impact of such mass exposure when playing in Jersey the following week when he was constantly stopped in shops and in the street by people who had seen the programme. He was also given honorary membership of the exclusive Le Moye Golf Club in Jersey ("I wonder whether the programme coming out had anything to do with that") and virtually everybody he has met since seems to have seen the programme and to want to talk about it.

"It was so exciting for me. It was so nice seeing everybody again, the miners, the players (even though I'd been with them just before) my family, and I was very pleased that Joe Davis came on the show. It was fantastic."

jimbrook.co.uk unknown date

This Is Your Life

An Exhibition by Mitch Vowles & Jim Brook.

On Wednesday the 7th of January 1976, Welsh snooker professional Ray Reardon was recording a session for Thames Television's Ladbroke International series at London's Swiss Cottage Holiday Inn. Having finished up the last frame, Reardon began setting up a trick shot - requested by the event's producers as possible programme filler - before the floor manager that day, David London, interrupted citing an unexpected 'technical problem'. As filming resumed and Reardon launched into his piece to camera and subsequent effortless trick shot, a man entered the hall via the rear doors, vaulted the table surrounds and approached the six-time World Snooker Champion, tapping him on the shoulder. A visibly startled Reardon initially looked over the wrong shoulder, before his legs almost gave way and he grabbed the table for support. "There's one red you haven't potted yet", declared the man, somewhat triumphantly.

Almost exactly four years later, on Wednesday the 9th of January 1980, fellow Welsh snooker pro Terry Griffiths was being driven through central London by Barrie Gill - the founder of sports marketing company CSS - following a long day of potential sponsorship meetings. While on their way to a Ford dealership showroom, supposedly for a similar meeting about an upcoming exhibition match, a large London bus pulled out in front of them, blocking the road ahead. That same mystery man, this time disguised as a bus conductor and brandishing a large red book resembling a family photo album, exited and made his way toward Griffiths in the passenger seat, grinning maniacally.

That man was, of course, television presenter and host of the long-running documentary series This Is Your Life, Eamonn Andrews. Andrews made a career out of doorstepping, ambushing and surprising unwitting celebrities, sports stars, cultural icons and even members of the public, before presenting them with that talismanic autobiographical tome and uttering the immortal eponymous epithet "Tonight, this is your life!". The 'victims', as they were known in the particular parlance of the popular light-entertainment programme, would then be whisked away to a television studio, where they were expected to discuss and dissect their life in front of a live audience, aided and abetted by a cohort of colleagues, friends, family members and surprise guests. It was typically an emotional affair, and Andrews didn't shy away from exploring the lows as well as the highs, the failures as well as the successes. Reardon, for example, was reunited with his fellow miners, those who had rescued him after an accidental roof collapse left him buried for almost three hours.

Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, who had appeared as a guest for Reardon's episode, received the 'big red book' treatment himself in 1981, the snooker legend's trip down memory lane only slightly marred by the fact that his then wife Lynn wasn't on speaking terms with Higgin's mother Elizabeth. And despite tensions reportedly boiling over at the programme's after-party, with Lynn receiving a slap across the face from an extended 'Hurricane' family member, Higgins himself always remembered the experience fondly. For at a time when only three television channels existed, to air your dirty laundry and the trappings of fame and fortune on primetime was, according to the 'People's Champion', "almost like the British equivalent of getting an Oscar or a gold medal.".

Despite coming to an end in 2003 - after 48 years, 43 series and 1130 episodes - at Collective Ending HQ we find the programme's name in lights once more. Carnival lights, set within the green baise of a snooker table. It's an apt title for an exhibition featuring two artists who don't shy away from exposing their whole, honest selves through their practices. Autobiographical anecdotes abound, with tales of traditional Sunday chicken dinners and the resultant wishbone ritual. Sentimental stories shared within the sanctity of a snooker hall bridge the inherent North-South divide. Differences are put aside next to the coins stacked on the table's edge by awaiting competitors. There are the aforementioned guests, albeit more akin to ghostly apparitions than their over-excited on-camera counterparts. A father absent save for his size-nine Slazenger trainers, another immortalised within a customised keychain. Family portraits etched in motorcycle jacket patches. An uncle's pensive poetry and a grandfather's affectionate put-down. The loitering Levi 501s of fellow pub goers. And Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins again - of course - omnipresent in that renowned red and white floral funerary wreath.

"Jim Brook, Mitch Vowles, tonight, this is your life!"

Essay by Hector Campbell.

Series 16 subjects

Ronnie Dukes | Ray Milland | Mike Hailwood | Frank Windsor | Magnus Pyke | Bill Tidy | Gladys Mills | Andy Stewart
Windsor Davies | Ray Reardon | Patrick Mower | Alberto Remedios | Susan Masham | Betty Driver | Henry Davies
Gwen Berryman | Vince Hill | Arnold Ridley | Beryl Reid | Alan Mullery | Percy Thrower | Gareth Edwards
June Whitfield | Terry Fincher | Richard Dunn | Norman Croucher