John was born in Leyton, Essex. He was an actor/writer, who was a long-time member of the London’s Players Theatre. During World War II, he served as a navigator in the Fleet Air Arm with the rank of lieutenant. He later returned to London’s Players Theatre.
He is best remembered for his appearances as Captain Birdseye in the Birdseye Fish Fingers television adverts (1967 – 1971 and 1974 – 1998). In 1971, an obituary for the Birds Eye character appeared in The Times when the character was retired. However, the Captain returned to TV adverts three years later.
John appeared as a relief BBC Children’s Television announcer on 14th May 1952. He was also linked with various children’s TV shows:
- Saturday Special (1952);
- Presenter on Sideshow (1952);
- The Great Detective (1953);
- Presenter on Sugar and Spice (1954);
- The Children’s Television Caravan (1957);
- Studio E (1958).
Other TV credits include:
- Tales from Dickens (1959 – 1960);
- Dave’s Kingdom (1964);
- The Good Old Days (1965);
- Before the Fringe (1967);
- Hugh and I (1968);
- Nicholas Nickleby (1977);
- Home Before Midnight (1979).
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with John in September 1992 and asked about his time with BBC children’s TV: “My appearances as an announcer were on Fridays largely I believe because of the sports content of the programme for which I was judged more suitable than Jennifer Guy. At that time I was in my late-twenties. I did comedy spots written by myself or in conjunction with Bill Hitchcock, now alas dead, who did become a very successful TV producer. I can recall nothing whatsoever about Sideshow and can only guess that it was a sort of ‘review’ based on a fairground. In Saturday Special – I acted “as required”, but always with a comedy beat. The reason I left Sugar and Spice (which Bill Hitchcock and I wrote) was that I went to America to do The Boy Friend on Broadway. It seems hard for me to believe it now – at my age – but I went to play the juvenile lead opposite Julie Andrews. That’s why Maurice Lane succeeded me. While I was in New York, the BBC offered me a long-term contract which I declined.
“On my return from America, in 1957, I did many, many shows for ITV – mostly for Rediffusion. From 1967 to 1977, I presented a weekly TV variety show in Canada called The Pig and Whistle. I commuted monthly to Toronto, doing four shows in a week there. In the interim I have done quite a few West End shows – from Noel Coward to Gilbert and Sullivan, and for 18 years I ran a business producing what are known as ‘industrial shows’ for big business as well as presenting summer shows and two full-blown shows in the West End. Finally, for the last twenty-five years, I have been Captain Birds Eye. Back with the children!”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring John 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: John Hewer (1992). SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.