Born in 1929, Vera worked as an actress in the theatre and began her broadcasting career in Children’s Hour on BBC Radio in Manchester (1948 – 1954), working with Violet Carson and Uncle Mac, before going for an audition for BBC Children’s Television in London. She then worked as a presenter on the following: For Deaf Children (1956); Studio E, a magazine programme for older children, aged around 9 to 14, from Lime Grove Studios (7th January 1957 – 18th November 1957 and 28th April 1958 – 28th July 1958); Focus (1958 – 1960); Picture Book (1st April 1963 – 1965). She narrated: Rhythm Rendezvous; Belinda; Little Tiger (1956); Cornelius (1957); Hikey the Hedgehog (1959); The Magic Cockerel and the Diamond (April 1961); Picture Time; Puss’s House (1962); The Mischievous Cat (3rd April 1963); Clapperboard (1964); 13 new colour episodes of Andy Pandy (1970). She was also a storyteller on Play School (21st November 1966 – 25th November 1966, 27th November 1967 – 1st December 1967, 21st August 1969 and 4th August 1970).
Vera acted on BBC Radio in The Black Cap Has to Wait (1949) and Women’s Rebellion (1951). She co-presented The Night is Young on the BBC Light Programme (1954 – 1955). On BBC Television, she appeared as an interviewer on Personality Parade (1955 – 1956); she was a hostess on Afternoon Hostesses Tea-Party (20th December 1955) and Pantomime Tea Dance (24th January 1956). She introduced Mainly for Women (1956 – 1957 and 1959) and presented on For the Schools (1959), Family Affairs, 1910 – 1960: Fifty Years of Guiding and Sunday Special: Can You Answer This? (1960).
Vera was also a network BBC TV in-vision announcer (1955 – 1960) and later left broadcasting to teach drama and be a house mistress, under the name Vera Morley at Roedean School, St Stephen’s College, Broadstairs, Kent (she spent 15 years there and left when the school closed in 1991) and later at St Margaret’s School, Bushey. In 2007, Vera appeared on the documentary Children’s TV on Trial (BBC Four).
Vera was interviewed by Celia Chen on YouTube in 2010 and explained how she got the announcers job in London: “The man who auditioned me at a radio show in Manchester seemed happy with what I was doing, but he said there was something that was missing. He said: ‘You have just got married haven’t you? [I had in 1955]. Get your husband to take a newspaper, cut a hole in it the size of the camera lens and speak through the hole to your husband and that will make it more immediate. Don’t think you are talking to thousands or millions of people, you are talking to just one person’. And that was a presenter/announcer technique as they were all live, all the announcements we did. There was Sylvia Peters, Alex Macintosh and Mary Malcolm. Best moment was when we knew something special was happening on Studio E and in came these two little children – Princess Anne and Prince Charles – as they both loved the programme.”
Paul R. Jackson first corresponded with Vera when she worked in Broadstairs in May 1988: “I joined the BBC at Manchester as a ‘Northern’ actress way back in the 1940s and moved on from there to Presentation, Children’s TV and so on. I was an announcer from 1955 – 1960. Alex Macintosh, Michael Aspel, Mary Parker and Polly Elwes were on the rota for announcers too in those days. In the Sunday Express photo their art dept had done a clever (but naughty!) ‘mock-up’ of Bill and Ben, because as you rightly say, Freda Lingstrom will not let them out of her home. The phenomenal success of Watch with Mother video has brought back many memories and the bonus of nice letters from people like your good self!”
Paul managed to track down Vera again via her former schools’ alumni and corresponded with her in November 2017 and asked about her career: “I’m not in touch with the media now but living a leisurely life on the south coast. Only occasionally I get interest from someone who has found me on the web. As you know all our evening announcements were done live in full evening dress and heavy make-up. On one occasion, I felt something ‘tickling’ my right cheek but carried on making the announcement. A quick look down revealed that the false eyelashes were trickling down which was a bit embarrassing. I don’t know if anyone noticed! Yes, I was asked to take over Picture Book when Patricia Driscoll made Robin Hood and went to Hollywood hoping to break in to the movie world. In 2007, The Test Card Society arranged a reunion at Ally Pally for BBC Television’s 70th anniversary – Sylvia Peters, Patricia Driscoll and the son of the Andy Pandy puppeteer (Audrey’s son Paul Atterbury from The Antiques Roadshow) and I were interviewed.”
Why Did You Leave TV?
“My teacher husband got a promotion to a school on the south coast. The evening announcing duty until closedown meant the last train from Victoria made getting home at 1.30am-ish (not ideal). I had to choose between career and family life (I had three children). I worked with Brighton Local Radio from its opening for three years and fortunately I had trained as a teacher of speech and drama and was able to teach – first doing part-time at Roedean and later becoming head of department until 1987 (aged 60). I then moved to St Stephen’s College, Broadstairs for six years then to St George’s, Ascot and finally to St Margaret’s, Bushey until 2007 when l finally retired.”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Vera which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
PICTURED: Vera McKechnie. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.