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A Dickensian Christmas Bullseye for a Bugle reader back in 1990

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 20, 2013

By John Workman

  • Some of the elegantly dressed Dickensian women from Dudley who travelled to the recording of the Bullseye Christmas Show in October 1990. From left, Lynn Dunn, Rita Lee, Hazel Rollinson, Anita Tonks, Joan Rose and Christine Langford.

  • Roy with the winner of the Bullseye, darts player Bob Anderson.

  • Jim Bowen as Scrooge with Roy Langford

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MANY will remember Bullseye, with Jim Bowen at the helm, a TV game show and a firm favourite here in the Black Country that was broadcast for 13 years from 1982 to 1995 by Central Television.

As the name suggests, the show centred around darts with prizes won for arrow accuracy and good general knowledge.

The producers of any successful TV show with a large countrywide following were encouraged to put on a Christmas special and Bullseye was no different. This is a story from Dudley mon Roy Langford, about the time he travelled back in time (actually just up the M1 to the Central Independent Recording Studios in Nottingham) to join a studio audience for the recording of a Dickensian Christmas edition of Bullseye.

Roy writes, "Even though it was only Sunday, 21st October, 1990, we all had to get into the Christmas spirit. A trip to the Central Studios in Nottingham had been arranged by Bob and Joan Rose from Tividale, near where I live, who for many years had a franchise to be ticket agents for all the major TV companies of that now bygone era.

"Three weeks before Bob had told me he'd got hold of 40 tickets for the Bullseye Christmas show, the only proviso, we would all have to get dressed up Dickensian style, with Dickens' famous A Christmas Carol very much in mind.

"Getting hold of costumes proved to be less of a problem than the journey up to the studios on the day, but more of that later.

"My wife Christine's sister Jean once dabbled in fancy dress hire from her shop "Charades" in Penn, and luckily for us she had a good selection of just what we wanted, and we were able to dress ourselves, as near as any modern couple could, to a Dickensian couple of yore.

"It was a cold, windy day when the coach picked us up from an arranged location on the Birmingham New Road, and as we stepped out of our front door for the short two minute walk we were given some hearty cheers from the neighbours, our elegant Dickensian outfits causing quite a stir.

"But then came the embarrassment. There we were waiting patiently for our lift in full view of an extremely busy road, the minutes ticking slowly by. I stopped counting the number of times car horns were blown and hands frantically waved, especially from kids. Phew! were we glad to see the bus, but at the same time dismayed to realise it was an old banger; we'd probably have done better with an old coach and a team of 'osses!

"Even though it was an old bus, Bob Rose had a good track record with other trips he had previously arranged, and there was never any doubt we would arrive at our destination safely and in one piece; oh dear, famous last words!

"A question about its road worthiness was put to the test after a mid journey break. Resuming the journey the coach seemed to lack pulling power and our mounting fears about its inability to get us to the studios materialised in traffic near Nottingham airport. We were three-quarters of a mile away when the engine gave up the ghost, maybe one of the three that visited Ebenezer Scrooge?

"It turned out the clutch had burnt out and we were stranded. But Bob took charge, rang the studio, explained our predicament and told the programme bosses we would make haste on foot, and the Bullseye people were terrific and said they would delay filming until our arrival.

"We then began the long, embarrassing walk, but at least Chris and myself were in among about 40 others dressed in Dickensian costume. We arrived all hot and bothered and to our surprise received a welcoming round of applause from a very patient studio audience.

"We took to our seats at 8 o'clock and the recording got underway 15 minutes later. It was like a scene from another popular TV programme of old, The Good Old Days, with a colourful array of fancy-dress everywhere you looked. The show's host, Jim Bowen, came ambling down the aisle appearing every bit like Scrooge, the miserable old skinflint character he was portraying, and close at hand was his mathematical assistant Tony Green, suitably entwined with chains as the ghost of Jacob Marley.

"The first three characters were introduced. They were Bobby Davro (alias Bob Crachit), Paul Shane (alias Tiny Tim), and Bella Emberg (alias Mrs Crachit). These three were to be the brains in the game, answering the general knowledge questions, but they needed darts players to help them. Scrooge then called upon his three ghosts to appear in the form of darts legends Leighton Rees (Christmas Past), Eric Bristow (Christmas present) and Bob Anderson (Christmas yet to come).

"The show seemed to follow its normal course with a few stops and starts along the way, but I'm sure fellow Bugle readers will remember the gist of how it went.

"Bobby Davro had teamed up with Bob Anderson and they won the contest in convincing style, winning loads of children's activity items which were donated to a Down Syndrome children's society in Portsmouth, and a total prize fund of just over £2,000 which was donated to research into "Cure Meningitis", two worthy causes.

"For the record Eric Bristow and Bella Emberg won £1,000 for "Help the Elderly", and Paul Shane and Leighton Rees £900 for research into diabetes.

"This humdinger of a Christmas show came to an end after two hours, and before boarding the replacement bus that Bob Rose had organised, I just had enough time to collar Jim Bowen and Bob Anderson for a couple of keepsake photographs.

"We were tired time travellers when we arrived back in Dudley at half past midnight, our costumes somewhat dishevelled, but what a fabulous evening we'd all had. Christmas may have come early for us that year, but it was an unforgettable experience and we were able to enjoy the show all over again, but this time in the comfort of our own home, when it was broadcast on the Sunday before Christmas Day, 23rd December, 1990."

Have you a similar tale to tell? Contact jworkman@black countrybugle.co.uk or write to our editorial address.

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