Remembering Buxton-born Tim Brooke-Taylor
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 April 2020
The Derbyshire-born comedian who found fame, but never forgot his roots
It had been many months in the planning.
Pride Park Stadium in Derby was to host Derbyshire’s celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in the presence of Her Majesty on 1st August 2002.
A pageant featuring 2,000 local people depicting the history of Derbyshire was being rehearsed in village halls, schools and on playing fields across the county, but what the event didn’t yet have was a compere; a well-known personality with county roots.
As Head of Media at Derby County Football Club at the time, I’d been handed the curveball by Chief Executive Keith Loring of organising the entertainment for a one-off extravaganza to be watched by 27,000 people.
The event ‘committee’ included the then Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire John Bather and at one of our regular gatherings someone mentioned Tim Brooke-Taylor. TBT, a hero of the Baby Boomer generation, one of the three zany Goodies (‘Ecky Thump’) and a fabulously witty member of Radio 4’s ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ panel.
He was a son of Derbyshire. Buxton born, where his family’s name can still be seen above a firm of solicitors in the town, plus a renowned Derby County fan.
Not necessarily a fan onside with the club however. In the early 1980s he had signed up as a director when the Rams were in serious trouble and was later quoted as saying: ‘The fans were on the Baseball Ground pitch, below the directors’ box, chanting that we were all a bunch of comedians. I took it as a compliment.’
Someone had Tim’s email address and I fired off a grovelling request. Would he be interested in compering Derbyshire’s golden jubilee event - and would he consider doing it for free?
I didn’t expect a reply, but reply he did - and quickly. He would do it FOC. Should he wear his trademark union jack waistcoat? And who would write his script?
Not wanting to put any obstacle in the way of this coup I replied to a man who had written brilliantly for the likes of John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman that I would write his script.
It was a case of Tim taking the crowd through a feast of entertainment featuring Derbyshire theatre groups, dancers, singers, gymnastics teams and schools, army cadets, scout councils, sea scouts, the Mothers’ Union and more.
Two of Tim’s own Derby County heroes - Dave Mackay and Roy McFarland - would be introduced to parade the League Championship trophy, won twice by the Rams in the 70s.
Everything went to plan… apart from the weather. It rained and rained. My abiding memory is of Tim soldiering on, squinting at the soggy pages on his clipboard, with a brolly-carrier at his shoulder, trying to protect him and my script. Sometimes his voice cracked as he projected into the microphone against the incessant drumbeat of the driving rain.
But he got through it and with customary good humour. Departing from the script for a moment he looked up at the Queen in the (covered) Pride Park directors’ box, then glanced to the heavens and cried out: ‘Long to rain over us!’