Memories of ITV 

3 September 2005 tbs.pm/3465

I have always been obsessed by television, and for this I can offer no rational explanation. I was obsessed by it as a child; the years have not diluted my passion towards the medium. I was scolded, at the age of three, for defacing all my Christmas annuals with Testcard C and drawings representing our own set, the first of which was a Sobell from Radio Rentals. I would guess that this was around 1965.

In fact, one of my first memories of television was watching The Beverly Hillbillies on TWW one Wednesday evening in 1966 and seeing the picture on our set gradually disappear until smoke rose from the back of the set and it had to be switched off for the evening until the repair man called the next day.

We had lived for a while with my grandmother, when my parents’ house was being built, and remember clearly that the box like, fifties-style Philips set was permanently tuned to Channel 8 Presely [sic], and was only ever changed to the ‘other side’ for The Good Old Days.

Y-Dydd caption

This may have been because the picture obtained from the BBC’s Haverfordwest transmitter was not as good as the one from Preseli, but it meant that my grandparents cheerfully sat through Welsh-language programmes such as Y Dydd on Teledu Cymru for fear that they would wear out the channel changer if they strayed to the BBC too often – and this despite the fact that neither of them understood Welsh!

Even as a child I had a greater affinity with ITV. I loved the fact we were always watching our very own local channel, and was filled with pride if a local programme made it onto the network. Dashing home from primary school, I remember switching on the television and waiting eagerly for at least two minutes for the set to warm up.

Suddenly the test card would appear; fade to black in readiness for the mysterious Picasso card and the stern authoritative station announcement, accompanied by the strains of the familiar Teledu Cymru march, based on (ironically) Men of Harlech. So ingrained was this music in my soul that it has stayed with me for more than 30 years.

In our area of South Wales this enjoyment was doubled by the fact we could also receive TWW on Channel 10, and this meant more memorable start-up music, the lively TWW march! The cheery faces of the TWW/Teledu Cymru announcing team followed these tunes.

A TWW Presentation

I can recall Ivor Roberts, Maureen Staffer and Iris Jones almost as old friends. It’s difficult to imagine quite how famous these faces were in Wales and the West but they were, in their day, as popular as any Hollywood film stars.

As Ex-announcer John Mead once said ‘when we visited the Valleys we would be mobbed by crowds wherever we went’, and so they were! Much has been written about the demise of TWW and on reflection I think many of the accusations levelled at the company were unfair. Ivor Emmanuel, singer and presenter of the long running Land of Song, described the loss of franchise as ‘rustlers taking over from the pioneers’.

However, even at the age of seven, I felt that the output of TWW was stale and I was, in fact, looking forward to Harlech taking over. Along with Tyne Tees and a few other stations, the TWW symbol (‘logo’ in today’s parlance) was dated and drab and it would be hard to overestimate the impact the new Harlech logo had on a jaded public (and a seven year old child!). The new announcers like Liz Carse, Peter Tomlinson, Daphne Neville and Endaf Emlyn seemed fresh and exciting.

Endaf Emlyn, who wishes to remain anonymous

On reflection, with all the benefits of hindsight, the programmes of the new company were no better and maybe no worse than those of TWW and, as Sendall said, Harlech got off to a ‘shaky start’!

In some ways it was business as usual. Alan Taylor, the childhood hero of Tinker and Taylor, and the jovial presenter of Mr and Mrs was indeed Mr TWW, and duly became Mr Harlech. Other personalities like Bruce Hockin and the chef Toni Stoppani also survived the cull and were also part of my childhood, as was the lovely Eirwen Davies who read the news on Y Dydd for TWW and Harlech.

She was, however, banned from reading the news in 1962 by TWW programme controller Wyn Roberts because he felt that female newsreaders lacked authority. Although Harlech had made a clean sweep in the announcer’s booth they had retained the personalities and flavours of so many TWW programmes such as Tinker and Taylor, Mr and Mrs and its sister programme Siôn a Siân.

So far I seem to suggest that I only ever watched ITV. Well, I must say that on the whole it really was TWW and Harlech that we tended to watch. Names like TWW and Teledu Cymru were strong brands that survived for years. My mother referred to the TVTimes as the Television Weekly at least a decade after the latter publication became defunct.

For a seven year old with an avid interest in television, 1968 was a golden year. Not only did the TWW of my early childhood disappear forever, but also the names of the other more mysterious faraway companies and symbols that had fascinated me.

The spinning star of Rediffusion London heralded some very popular programmes whose theme tunes and songs are with me to this day. ‘From London – Take Your Pick!’, echoes of ‘Double Your Money and try to get rich’ and the big thumb print on the promotion slide of No Hiding Place. Who could forget personalities like Michael Miles, Hughie Green and Monica Rose?

The green triangular Quality Street chocolate will for me always represent the striking symbol of ABC (boom de boom!) and although it was years before I saw these symbols again they stayed with me in my memories.

This was also the period when I discovered that, during calm weather (I was unaware of high pressure and atmospheric changes), we could also receive Westward Television …an exiting prospect to a young lad straining his eyes to see the distant ITV station on Channel 12.

Westward from Plymouth

My eyes frequently squinted and strained trying to make out the snowy images of Gus Honeybun and Westward Diary with Kenneth McCloud and Graham Danton, the weatherman.

Yes – unlike TWW/Harlech, Westward had its very own weatherman! From this period, I can remember TWW’s last weekend. On the final Saturday Night the film ‘Calamity Jane’ was followed by the final edition of ‘Discs a Gogo’, the successful part-networked pop show.

Come to an end

Then on the Sunday I seem to have a recollection that after the final shows ‘All Good Things…’ and ‘…Come to an End’ all the announcers crowded tearfully into the booth to say goodbye. This could of course be my memory playing tricks and may well have happened on the last night before Harlech began on 19 May 1968, when the tearful, outgoing staff of TWW were treated to a party on the lawn outside Pontcanna Studios.

Harlech

I recently checked the Western Mail in Cardiff Library to see what was actually broadcast by TWW on their last weekend only to find that it was almost exactly as I had thought all those years. Why on earth would a seven year old remember these things? I don’t know, but I do remember feeling sad that TWW were disappearing even though I was excited by the arrival of the trendy, modern new Harlech.

The launch into colour in 1970 meant that the eye-catching two-year-old Harlech symbol had to be sacrificed (but not the catchy electronic jingle) so that the station could be renamed. Its replacement, the memorable HTV aerial symbol also heralded a new era of out-of-vision announcing.

It was to be the autumn of 1975 before we could see the likes of Margaret Pritchard and Arfon Haines Davies in vision once more. ‘Harlech’ was soon dropped in favour of ‘HTV’ in the primary school playground when we discussed the previous evening’s entertainment.

HTV (via Harlech House of Graphics)

Two years after the demise of TWW, the black and white cardboard symbol of that era had been replaced with one of the first solid state, electronically generated symbols in ITV, the blue aerial logo.

Originally static as a pre-programme ident, the aerial became first animated then localised to represent the two HTV service areas. What an exciting period as so many companies changed their on screen images!

The orange/blue London Weekend logo still evokes memories of Friday nights and Manhunt, not to mention shows like The Saturday Crowd and On the Buses. The loss and reappearance of the Granada arrow reminds me of a 1969 trip to Bangor and the excitement of watching Granada in a hotel there and seeing their stripy arrowless logo.

When my parents got their first colour set in 1971, a rather large Baird model with doors and a VHF tuner, we were unable to receive HTV in colour. At that time we relied on Westward, transmitted from Caradon Hill, to see Coronation Street and Crossroads in colour (Noele Gordon had red hair – what a shock!).

Although I loved the Westward start-up sequence and its friendly continuity, we did miss HTV Wales and were glad when the Kilvey Hill transmitter opened the following year. In those days being able to watch both HTV and Westward was a huge advantage, as there were so many variations in the schedules of those companies.

By 1972 most of the ITV stations had settled into colour and they retained their idents throughout that decade. It was a rare treat to venture outside HTV Land and see how others viewed their local ITV station, each with its own ‘flavour’.

The 1975 ITV Yearbook described its readers as people who would ‘recognise the distinctive style of Granada, the touch of ATV or Anglia; the characteristics of Thames’ and I was certainly such a person. However the ITV of my youth was about to change forever.

Although the eighties was a period of consolidation and expansion for ITV, the writing was on the wall with the arrival of satellite services towards the end of that decade. It was with sadness that I noted the passing of the regional pre-programme idents in 1988, part of the glue that held together the robust regional network that was ITV.

The various logos from the Westward ship to the Anglia knight reflected the diversity of content and style of those regions. The erosion of local identities companies occurred gradually and culminated in the loss of regional presentation some years ago.

Now the scaling down of regional resources and programming is all too evident in all areas. In the cold light of the present multi-channel environment I accept that changes were necessary, but has it all gone too far?

As has as been suggested, the logical conclusion to what has happened at ITV is that it will be bought by an American network, who will find it cheaper to fill airtime with imports than to produce British programmes for a British audience.

As the years rush by, the fond memories of those childhood years with TWW and HTV become ever more distant but thankfully are now being preserved by Transdiffusion, and, anorak or not, I feel privileged to be part of that process.

You Say

3 responses to this article

Tomos Hale 17 June 2013 at 2:59 pm

That was very interesting. Thank you for this. I’m half Welsh but I’ve never lived in Wales. The only ITV region I can remember is Carlton and I can vaguely remember watching HTV when I went to see family but that’s all.

Joseph Doyle 14 March 2015 at 10:12 pm

Hello. Enjoyed your article. I enjoyed HTV CYMRU WALES from across the Irish sea here in Co Wicklow. We had great reception here of HTV but didn”t get BBC Wales or S4C until the 1980s. We used to get Border tv and Granada in the summer time and occasionally, YTV too.

Robert Wood 2 February 2018 at 11:51 am

Great to see my grandad Toni Stoppani still being mentioned, he was and still is an absolute hero to us.

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