|LENNOX-BROWN:||General Assistance Department. Number One speaking.|
|LAMB:||Hello! This is Number Two.|
|SIR GREGORY:||Pitkin Here!|
|ANNOUNCER:||(HANKIE GAG) Certainly not!! And now Springbok Radio invites you to lean back, put your feet up and spend the next half hour with the briefcase, brolly and bowler brigade...|
|MILDRED:||The Men from the Ministry!|
|... a personal account
These familiar lines above are how "Men" opened every week on Springbok Radio - lines I will never forget.
These pages have been published to the internet because I was approached by a few people who also have an interest in the radio comedy series "The Men from the Ministry". So here is an account of my involvement in the series broadcast on Springbok Radio in South Africa during the good old days of radio...
When I was about 12 years old, one of my classmates would often talk like Humbert Snetherswaite, one of the regular characters from the series played by Tommy Read. Humbert, a pensioner, has a speech impediment - and makes a splash sound with every word containing an "s". (A bit hard to describe, so click this link.) I asked my friend Michael why he spoke like that in class and he told me it was Humbert Snetherswaite from "The Men from the Ministry" broadcast on Springbok Radio on a Saturday evening. (We had no TV in South Africa then - the early 70's)
Eager to know who he was referring to, I tuned in the next Saturday evening and took an instant liking to the programme and appreciated the humour. Later, another friend, Russell - who had by this time also become an avid listener - told me he'd met John Simpson (Number One) who had been to their home to install a dictaphone for his mother. They got talking, and John informed Russell that they record the programme (and others like "Father, dear Father", "Friends and Neighbours" and "The Navy Lark") at the studios in Durban. Needless to say, I had my mother telephone and make a booking for us to attend a recording one Thursday evening.
The day finally came (we had to book a month or two in advance) and I walked into the studio for the first time joining about 150 other people as the audience at the recording. It was amazing to see the actors behind the voices from the radio, and although I couldn't see very well from where we were sitting, I was hooked, and told my parents we had to come back, and get there early next time so we could sit in the front.
Well, we did go again (and again, and again...) and got there early to get a front seat. Actually, we went so often, Joy Meehan, producer Tom's wife would say, "Oh hello, you all in the front row again!" After one recording I nervously asked Brian Squires for a copy of the scripts.
The programmes were so popular, as we left, another 150 people would be waiting outside to take our seats for the recording of another 2 episodes of "Friends", "Navy", "Father" or whatever was on the air at the time. Over the years, Tom Meehan had many "live" comedy shows on Springbok Radio, (not to mention the many, many other programmes he and Barry produced).
(We used to tease Phyl about having to get
At the second to last recording session of "Men" at the
Nederburg Theatre in New Germany, outside Durban, South Africa.
her headphones built into her hair-do!!!)
Eight years later and after numerous tours of the studio complex, I was fortunate enough to join the staff and soon learned the craft of playing sound effects and music at "Men" recordings.
The series ran until December 1985 when Springbok Radio closed, and I worked on the last episode recorded for the station. Pics on this page and the Nederberg page were from the penultimate recording session.
In October 1993 the show was revived on Radio South Africa, and I produced and edited a short 2 minute package for a breakfast TV show. (See the Radio South Africa page)
Seventy one episodes of "The Men from the Ministry" ran on Radio South Africa for just over a year before it was dropped because of programme changes to the station which, if I'm not mistaken was at about the time the name changed to SAfm 104 - 107.
Sadly "Men" went off the air for the last time, but has not been lost forever.
Fortunately there are some recordings of the show floating around out there. Strangely enough many are in America and Canada (see the links below). The SABC has a streaming Springbok Radio site where some "Men from the Ministry" episodes are played from time to time (Note: Google Chrome will not play Adove Flash content so use another browser), also the Springbok Radio Preservation Society streams many Springbok Radio programmes.
The SABC gave hundreds of old "shadow recording" tapes to the local Blind Society for their recorded books in the mid eighties. I wish I'd thought of saving some when they were thrown out, but I didn't think at the time how valuable those tapes would become. (Perhaps they were of more value to Tape Aids for the Blind at the time.) I am also sorry (as are many other people) that the SABC didn't archive it's local material!!! Perhaps it was because we used to churn out those radio programmes week after week, and sadly became so blasé about them. No one ever gave it a thought that one day someone, somewhere would love to hear those old radio shows again....
What happened, happened and happened for a reason - but the memories (and some recordings) live on...
Follow the links in the menu below and enjoy what I have published here.
Come back here and visit these links:
Men from the Ministry - Canada
Old Time Radio - South African (USA)
The Men from the Ministry - British Comedy (UK)