Let us turn gratefully away for a moment from the sometimes sorry spectacle of the present day, and let me introduce the first of what I think will have to be a very short series : Old Rossallians on YouTube.
This is my favourite OR of all – Patrick Campbell – in action on Call My Bluff from some time in the 1970s.
Campbell doesn’t seem to have greatly enjoyed his time at the school (I think he described it as “a notoriously Spartan school in the North of England where the drains blocked at high tide“). His father was a notable Irish barrister (not Barrista) and his Grandfather – the first Baron Glenavy – Baron Glenavy was an even more eminent Irish jurist, being successively the Attorney General, Solicitor General and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in the years before partition and after it the first President of the Irish Senate – Seanad Ireann. I seem to remember, in fact, that Patrick Campbell had quite an amusing anecodete about the anti-Partition faction of the IRA trying to burn the family home down.
On the show I don’t think it’s too fanciful to see his performance as a parody – almost – of the old style of advocacy his father and grandfather might have employed, but which, presumably, his speech impediment must have prevented him making use of professionally (even if he’d had the inclination, which I don’t think he did). There always seemed to be a slight gleam in his eye as he leant back in his chair in triumph having given his definition of the word, knowing that no-one would be so ill-mannered as to admit that they hadn’t understood a word of it. I particularly like it here when he says “I can’t do an English accent”.
My liking for Campbell was partly due, I think, to the fact that as a child I had a slight stammer, though mine was of the milder Derek Nimmo-as-silly-ass-clergyman variety. The only words I really had difficulty with were those beginning with H, which may have contributed to an unquestioning nature.
Those of us who mourn the passing of this rather more leisurely and amateurish syle of TV presentation will note sadly the presence of a serpent in this happy Eden, sitting alongside Frank Muir – not the Minister for the Elderly and Infirm, but the one introduced as the “Disc Jockey and Motor Racing Driver”.