Ian Hendry – This Is Your Life 40th Anniversary – First Broadcast On 15th March 1978 [Thames Television]

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Ian Hendry’s This Is Your Life, hosted by Eamonn Andrews, produced by Thames Television and first broadcast  on 15th March 1978. It was recorded just one week before, on 8th March 1978.

And on Radio 4 today, they announced that they’re bringing TIYL back after a break of 15 years! The last show was in 2003 and Jonathan Ross will be hosting it. Funny that it should be announced today of all days…

The following is a guest article that I wrote for the excellent Big Red Book website, an authoritative guide on This Is Your Life. It has detailed entriess on the many famous names that were surprised over the years and is packed full of anecdotes – well worth a visit.

“I was 10 years old when my parents took my two sisters and I to one side and said that what we were about to be told, must be kept a complete secret! In one week’s time, we were all to travel by train to London, for the surprise filming of my uncle Ian Hendry’s ‘This Is Your Life’.

Of course at that age such a responsibility seemed huge, but I was also told that if word did get out, then the whole thing would be called off and I would have to go to school instead. That was certainly all the persuasion I needed.

We travelled up to London the day before the show with my Grandparents and were met by a Thames TV driver who then took us to our hotel. We checked in under the cover name of McNaughton – all part of the careful plan to ensure that no-one could guess who that week’s guest star would be. The hotel was probably used frequently by Thames TV, whose Euston Road studios were located nearby.

On the day of the recording, we had to be at the studios in the morning for the rehearsal. We passed security and met with the ‘This Is Your Life’ team who gave us a warm welcome and showed us to the Green Room for refreshments. Patrick Macnee was there along with a few other guests that I recognised – including the show’s inimitable host, Eamonn Andrews. My cousins were also there and all the children present were given a small ‘This Is Your Life’ autograph book, replete with the red cover and gold lettering. It was a lovely touch and exemplified the attention to detail and professionalism of the show and all those involved.

The ‘dry-run’ was scheduled for around midday, when we all assembled at Studio No. 5 which had already been set up with a large black and white picture of Ian – revealed as the sliding doors opened. Eamonn Andrews was there too, to help guide things along as we practiced our entrances and those who were to speak practiced their lines. Timings were all checked as the crew practiced camera angles and audio.


Ian was quite ill on the day of recording and there was even concern as to whether he would be well enough to make it or not. A ‘Red Flu’ epidemic was sweeping across the country in 1978 and Ian was suffering from the full force of it’s effects. He had no clue, of course, about the show and was scheduled to head across London with a friend, for what he thought would be an interview with a Sunday newspaper. That was of course all part of the plan to get him in place for the ‘interception’ by Eamonn Andrews and his ‘partner in crime’ Patrick Macnee – both dressed as that famous character from The Avengers, John Steed!

Picture: A young Neil Hendry greets his uncle Ian. My one [and only] screen credit!

As the evening approached, the nerves began to increase. We all went off to change into our clothes and I remember that I’d been bought a pair of flared black trousers, wide-collared shirt and a tie for the occasion; I was the epitome of 70s fashion as I emerged again from the changing room. I think we then all gathered again in the Green Room, before heading off to the studio – lining up in the order with which we were to go up on stage. The lights were low, except for one large red lamp which remained on until the cue came for the next group of people to go on. As we stood there waiting in a dimly lit corridor, I noticed a very large man seated to my left. I glanced at him, caught his eye and we said hello. I then took a double-take, looked back again and we both smiled at each other. It was Tommy Cooper.

The show itself is all a bit of a blur, but I remember vividly the trademark ‘This Is Your Life’ music – which still gives me goosebumps to this day – the bright studio lights, hearing the audience’s applause, hugging my uncle, finding my seat and then quickly sitting down. I remember some of the guests speaking and the retelling of anecdotes, some of the jokes and one-liners – before the red book was finally handed to Ian and the closing music and credits began.

It was a day that neither I – nor my family – will ever forget and a fitting tribute to my uncle, his life and his many achievements.”

This Is Your Life – Extract Of Original Camera Script




Ian Hendry – This Is Your Life – Photographs





Programme Details:

Edition No: 484
Subject No: 482
Broadcast: Wed 15 Mar 1978
Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
Recorded: Wed 8 Mar 1978
Venue: Euston Road Studios
Series: 18
Edition: 17
Code name: Lotus


Patrick Macnee
Sandy – wife
Sally – daughter
Corrie – daughter
James – father
Enid – mother
Don – brother
Valerie – sister-in-law
Karen – niece
Susan – niece
Neil – nephew
Patrick Powell
Murray Robb
Valentina Poliakoff
Ronald Fraser
June Ritchie
Ian Bannen
Neil McCarthy
Ian Ferguson
Anouska Hempel
Wanda Ventham
Maurice Denham
Tommy Cooper
Emma – daughter
Filmed tribute:
Heather Sears

Production Team:

Researchers: John Viner, Maurice Leonard
Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
Directors: Royston Mayoh, Terry Yarwood
Producer: Jack Crawshaw


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Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Tribute To Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read: ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry












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