by Phil Burgess
It all started one summer night when we were at the Cadgwith Cove Inn. Pedro Jose, Nigel Legge, Plugger Jane, and myself were sitting at a table, pint in hand and talking about the days fishing we had, and what we caught.
At the next table there were two people, and you could sense that they were listening to our conversation. They then started asking us all about fishing, what we catch down here, and they seemed interested in what we do. It didn’t seem funny to us at the time, as visitors were usually asking questions about fishing, and the way of life in the cove.
They said that they had read that Rodney Bewes owned a cottage here in the cove and did we know him. So we started telling them a few stories, about how he likes to go fishing with us, and he is usually down with his wife and four children, enjoying the cove and the surrounding place.
After half the evening was gone they owned up to the fact that they were researchers for a program called This is Your Life, and did we know it? Well yes we said, as it was a very popular program back in the seventies and eighties.
They said that they were going to include Rodney Bewes in one of the future programs, and would we be prepared to come up to London, as Cornwall will be included in part of the story of his life.
After we agreed that we would of course, they said that we would have to keep it secret, and tell nobody. If it ever got out, they wouldn’t then be able make the program on him. We asked when do you think this will be, and they said in about three to four weeks, we will be in touch. When they were leaving, again they said do not tell anybody.
Well it was about a month after that they rang us, and said you’ve got to be in London next Tuesday, we will send you the rail tickets, and one of our drivers will meet you at Paddington Station.
So a local hairdresser offered to give us all a haircut, and armed with fisherman jumpers we boarded the train at Redruth. Barry Monday from Mullion then joined us as well. Look out London here we come.
Arriving at Paddington station, we were told to look out for a driver holding a board, with London Weekend TV on it. Sure enough he was there, but also quite a lot of other people were as well. We walked up to him and said who we were, he said I thought you lot looked like fishermen, as we were all dressed the same in navy jumpers. The other people there soon dispersed, as they thought somebody famous was arriving, one look at us lot and they were off. The driver said while you are in London I’m here to take you around, anywhere you want to go.
Walking in the door of the hotel, we were met by one of the show’s producers who said, when you are all checked in we will all be off to the TV studio for a run though of the script. So with several of Rodney’s family, his mother Bessie who we already knew, and various other people, we boarded a coach and off we went to London Weekend TV. Running through the script we were supposed to be first on the program, then sit there. We thought well that’s no problem we can do that.
We then went back to the hotel for a meal, walked in the dining room, and the five of us sat at one of the tables. The waiter came over and said sorry but I can’t serve you, and what’s more, he more or less told us to get out. The problem was he was convinced that we were not guests in the hotel.
Well Nigel came up with a plan, we will go for fish and chips, they can please themselves. As we were walking out, Ian-la Frenais and Dick Clement who again we knew as they used to come down to Cadgwith with Rodney and also wrote The Likely Lads, Porridge, and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, came over and said what is the matter? Well they won’t serve us so we are off, we said. After they explained who we were, the waiter apologised, he couldn’t do enough for us after that.
We all should have had an early night, seeing that we have a big day tomorrow, but we went clubbing instead which was a bit of a mistake. No idea what time we got in, but breakfast the next morning did not go down too well at all. I remember Bessie, Rodney’s mother grinning at us, she knew that we were a bit worse for wear.
We all assembled on the coach at 9.30am and then we were off to the Apollo Theatre in the West End, the big day has arrived. We were there all day, doing a lot of rehearsals, then going back to a big room upstairs, where you could relax, eat and drink. Tom Courtenay was there, so was a lot of other actors, some were very nice and would talk to you, but the odd one or two were playing the big “I am”. I have seen a lot of them on TV since then, but I notice the few who played up never went to go on very far, with their acting.
The whole program was changed around as the day went on, and they then had us coming on last. The theatre was of course empty at this time, but they assured us that it will be full when the show began. It was all starting to get a bit real now. From the window above we could see people arriving for the show, and we were ushered down back stage, where there was a big screen showing the stage. We were all there waiting for the show to start. The music started and in walked Eamon Andrews with Rodney and his wife Daphne.
Waiting back stage and watching the show unfold, we were starting to get nervous. One by one the guests were going out through the curtain and saying their bit. There was only Tom Courtney and us left to go. Then off he went and so we were next on. You then get moved to the curtains which lead to the stage. Eamon Andrews started telling a few stories about Rodney down at Cadgwith Cove, he then said, “from the West to the West-end they are here, all the way from Cornwall the fishermen of Cadgwith”. Then out we go, bang the lights hit you first, can’t see a thing. Walking to the front of the stage seems to take an age, you then see a theatre full of people. I remember thinking, I would rather be out at sea in a gale of wind at this very second, than be here. Eamon Andrews then said those famous words “Rodney Bewes This is Your Life”.
After all the applause died down we all then moved from the front of the stage to a huge back room, where they lay on a buffet. Plenty to drink of course, everyone mingles around chatting and the like. It was then that Eamon Andrews came over and started talking to us. He was a big bloke I should say about 6ft 5 inches tall, apparently he used to be a boxer in his younger days. He was very nice and said to us, I know exactly where you are all from, I was down at your Lifeboat station back in 1962.
For those of you who didn’t know, they used the station for the first live transmission from England to North America, via the satellite “Telstar”. I can just remember it happened here at about 9 ish in the evening, I suppose that was because of the time difference, so it would be in the day over there. I do know he stayed at Housel Bay Hotel that evening.
There was a Lizard girl, married and living in North America at the time, and she said she felt homesick watching The Lizard live as it was happening. The group, The Shadows wrote a song called “Telstar” based on it.
I appreciate all the young readers of Lizard Lives are probably wondering why it was such a big thing, to see The Lizard, live in real time as it was happening. What with mobile phones, video calls, What’s-app, etc etc. in this day and age. But it was cutting edge stuff back then. How far we have come in a short time.
They then played the whole thing back to us all, the uncut version on a screen. Rodney then had to leave because he had to do the evening show of the theatre play that he was starring in. He said to us “you have got to come and see it”, so we said we would.
This is a picture of us standing there with Eamon Andrews handing the red book to Rodney.
We are standing behind him, myself on the left, next is Nigel Legge, then Dick Clements (co writer) Barry Monday, Parry “Pedro” Jose, and Peter Jane.
We all stayed on at the after-show party for a while and then thought we better get going on to the theatre where Rodney was. Our driver was there waiting for us, so we jumped in the car and off we went. To be honest we were quite glad to get out of the theatre, having been there all day. When we arrived at the theatre where his stage play was running, we all headed for the bar, instead of going in and sitting down in the theatre, which was a bit of a mistake. It had already started by the time we all got in there, and we did make a bit of a racket getting to our seats, Rodney said after I knew when you lot turned up, I could hear you.
After the play finished we had a message that Rodney wanted us to meet him in his dressing room. So we was shown back stage by one of the theatre staff, he was busy taking off his make-up, when a tall man walked in. I thought, ‘I recognise him’, he was in fact Simon Williams from the long running and very popular TV series Up Stairs Down Stairs.
Rodney then said “we are all off to a restaurant and you are all coming”. So we all left the dressing room and off we went. Funny thing though, when we went out through the side door, it was the very door that we walked past the night before, when we went out clubbing. If we had been seen it would have given the whole game away. We could never explain away what we were doing in the West End to Rodney if we bumped into him.
The restaurant that we went to belonged to Dai Llewellyn whose brother Roddy was friendly with Princess Margaret at the time.
On the bottom floor was a huge night club and on the top floor was the restaurant.
We all sat around on a big table, I should think about a dozen of us. I sat next to Simon Williams and his wife Lucy Fleming, whose uncle Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond books.
After dinner had finished, as it was now getting late, Dai Llewellyn said to us, “as the restaurant is closing it’s all yours now”, the piano player stayed on with us and everybody stood around the piano singing. I always remember one he sang was American Pie by Don Mclean he didn’t half bang that one out. It always reminds me to this day of that evening all those years ago when I hear it. Mike Winters also walked in who used to be on TV in the Mike and Bernie Winters show. As did about twenty tiller girls, the high kicking ones who used to dance around at the London Palladium.
We left at about 3am, and someone suggested we go to Billingsgate Market to see the fish being landed, but I don’t think any of us by now were able to walk around there. So it was back to the hotel, and the next morning we were on the train home. The day after that we were all out at sea, crabbing, it was like we had been in a dream.
Somebody I have not mentioned is his co-star James Bolam. Although in the Likely Lads the chemistry between them worked very well, but off screen though, they didn’t get on at all. When asked to appear on This Is Your Life, he declined, which to my mind was a bit petty.
Rodney came down on holiday to Cadgwith many more times over the years since then, but when he was down in 2017 he got taken ill and was rushed to hospital.
The four of us went up to see him, in what was to be the last time, and he sadly died the next day.
Daphne his wife died several years before that, but they had four children, Daisy, and triplets, all boys Tom, Joe and Billy. Luckily they were able to keep the cottage in the family at Cadgwith, and Daisy and her children now come down on their summer holidays. So his legacy lives on.