A radio broadcast on a shilling a day fishery

Words by:
Barry Grantham
Featured in:
May 2024

It is 16th June 1953 and two anglers catch a carp for the BBC…

These days we can watch plenty of angling programmes on TV, or find videos on the various internet and social media sites like YouTube or Facebook. The options are many. Back in the 1950s, anglers did not have the choices we have today.

In the last issue, I wrote about an angler from Hitchin, Richard Walker, and a fishing match against one of Lincoln’s top match anglers, Tom Sails. In this issue, I want to tell another story involving Walker, and his friend Maurice Ingham from Louth. They were asked by the BBC if they could catch a carp on the first day of the fishing season, between midnight and 6am, on 16th June 1953 – preferably a large one, over 15lb.

There was to be a commentary, recorded by Bill Latto and the well-known author and all-round angler Bernard Venables. The Angling Times staff photographer Tiny Bennett was also on hand to take photos of the event.

A lake in Lincolnshire was chosen, one that any angler could fish on a day ticket, for a shilling a day. Maurice Ingham lived not too far from the lake and he baited up two pitches in advance.

On the evening of 15th June, all those taking part in the broadcast arrived at the lake. There was the BBC producer, the sound engineer, Bill Latto, Bernard Venables, Tiny Bennett complete with a stack of photographic equipment weighing 70lb. Then there was Richard Walker and Maurice Ingham. A total of seven. Richard thought there were too many people.

To start the programme Richard and Maurice spoke about carp and carp fishing, with Venables and Latto doing the interview. Once the interview was complete, Richard and Maurice got themselves ready for the fishing. They both set their tackle up along with a large landing net. They also erected a small ridge tent, as it was starting to rain.

There was a lot of noise on the banks of the small lake. Microphone cables were laid out, the recording vehicle was about 200 yards away from the fishing area. Richard and Maurice insisted that once all the preparations were done, all walking about must cease. Before the producer made his way over to the recording vehicle, he asked a stupid question: “What time do you expect to catch a fish?”

Both Richard and Maurice were dumbstruck. Did the producer actually think they could tell him this? They told him the last one caught from this spot was landed at 1.15am.

At midnight Richard and Maurice cast out their baits. They did a short commentary and also recorded the swish of the casting rods, followed by the plop of the boiled potatoes hitting the water. All was now quiet.

Bernard and Tiny were old hands at carp fishing, so knew it was vital to keep still. Bill Latto was not as experienced, but did as he was told and kept quiet.

There came a thump, thump, thump, along the bank with an electric torch flashing all over the place. It was the BBC producer coming to ask why, as it was now 1.20am, they had not caught a carp – his tone clearly implying that they were five minutes late and he thought it was a bad show. Richard asked what would happen if they were to hook one now, with the producer away from the recording van. He scampered off without a word, rather more quickly than he came.

At 4.30am it started to get lighter and at 5am Maurice had a nice steady run, he did everything right but missed the fish. Maurice rebaited and then Richard noticed something that made him smile. There was Tiny Bennett, who was 6ft 9in tall, on his hands and knees feeding a damp fieldmouse with bread and cheese. It struck Richard as touching and funny, that such a giant of a man like this should have the thought and gentleness to feed such a tiny timid creature.

It was now 5.40am. Everyone other than Richard and Maurice looked very tired and sleepy. There was even the sound of someone snoring. At 5.45am Richard’s line started to trickle out. Richard struck, there was a tremendous splash 25 yards out in the lake and the carp was on. Richard yelled loudly like a madman. Bill Latto and Bernard Venables were ready, as was Tiny, who in the poor light was taking what turned out to be superb action pictures. The BBC people did not stir – they were fast asleep.

After a combined and frantic yelling from Richard, Maurice, Bernard, Tiny and Bill, the BBC producer and sound engineer were woken and the commentary commenced. The fish fought really well, it made the small lake rock. Bill and Bernard took it in turns on the microphone and provided an exciting commentary.

The carp took around seven minutes to be expertly netted by Maurice. The fish was weighed and the scales showed 16lb 4oz – so above 15lb – and they all felt tired but pleased. A fill in of the bite alarm going off and Richard shouting fish on was recorded and then the BBC producer came along to have a look at the fish.

He gave it a nudge with his foot and said, “If anyone asked me how big that fish was, I would say about as big as a cod.”Maurice said quite savagely, “Yes and as long as a piece of string.”

Maurice was disgusted with the producer’s remark. Richard said he was just beginning to realise how little non-anglers know about fishing, despite the two million or more anglers of the time that fished in Britain. He also said there seemed to be a dearth of anglers among broadcasters too.

I also did a radio broadcast, but about trout fishing around ten years ago and sadly I was to find the presenter was anti-fishing. I did what he required and caught a nice trout from the lake – a lovely brown trout of about 4lb. This was met with the same contempt that Richard Walker and Maurice Ingham experienced all those years ago.

It is not all bad, since then I have done other radio recordings and a film for the Discovery channel on making split bamboo rods. There are now more organisations that support angling than there were in 1953.

The shilling a day fishery was closed later that year. The owners were fed up with litter being left. Maurice and Richard spoke to the landowner and a small fishing syndicate was formed. It remains to this day. I have spent many a happy hour and caught carp from the same spot where they did that recording, on 16th June 1953.

Never miss a copy!

Big savings when you take out a subscription.

LIKE, SHARE AND SPREAD THE WORD - VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITES TODAY!We need your nominations – Celebrating Lincolnshire’s food, drink and hospitality businesses in our Taste of Excellence Food and Drink Awards 2024. Click here to vote bit.ly/tasteawards2024Closing date for nominations 31st August 2024. ... See MoreSee Less