Last year I wrote:
I wonder if there is a collective noun for a spate of deaths of the performers that comprised the theatrical and musical milieu of a chap’s childhood and teenage years. Of course it’s no surprise that a clutch of the memorable stars of one’s youth begins to fall off their perch when youth itself progresses to middle-age or beyond, but it does become a bit alarming when so many seem to expire in relatively quick succession.
Admittedly 2016 was a year in which quite a number fell off their perches, but saying “ta ra” to John Noakes, for whom the bell has just tolled at the age of 83, really does comprise an end-of-era farewell. For my generation Noakes spanned the televisual experience of TV’s golden years; years that just happened to coincide with our primary and secondary school days.
He was the centrepiece of Blue Peter’s classic line-up: Singleton, Purves, Judd and Noakes.
He was the bloke that was brought in after Christopher Trace was compelled to leave the show due to an extra-marital fling and his divorce (we youngsters couldn’t be exposed to such nefarious happenings).
He was the bloke that was bruised and battered when the bobsleigh he was in crashed when descending the Cresta Run.
He was the bloke that had his foot ‘trod on’ by a baby elephant that also peed on the studio floor (except he later confessed to making up the bit about having his foot stood on).
He was the bloke that jumped out of a plane five miles up with the RAF Falcons and entered the Guinness Book of Records as the first civilian to jump from that height (the British Parachute Association records that he made 27 jumps in 5 years, including a trip to France with 3 relative work jumps, 18 freefalls, 3 water jumps from a helicopter into Poole Harbour, 7 C130 jumps, two 4 ways and his record breaking jump with oxygen from 25,000 feet).
He was the bloke that climbed a ladder up Nelson’s column without any safety lines or harness; an endeavour that seemed anodyne to a youngster watching TV back then, but is gobsmackingly courageous and death-defying to the adult watching the YouTube footage of it today.
He was the bloke that spoke with the same sort of north-of-England accent as me at a time when TV presenters all spoke with received pronunciation.
Most of all, he was the bloke that you watched Blue Peter for, the class jester. What a guy!
The Clown Prince of north country blokes
His passing most surely evokes
A nostalgic air
And quiet despair
That we’ll never again ‘Go With Noakes’.