From PC49 to Z Cars

a) No 59, OLD WILLOWS, Strand on the Green (see left of image above)

Brian REECE was born on 24 July 1913, in Wallasey, Cheshire. He served in the Royal Artillery between 1940 and 1946, and lived at Strand on the Green 1948-1953 (see “Who Was Who on Strand on the Green“).

A film and stage actor, he was probably best known as “PC49”. He starred as the eponymous policeman in the BBC radio series The Adventures of PC 49 (1947–1953), playing an untypical British police constable, Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby.

Reece appeared twice as a “castaway” on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs, first on 24 July 1953. On his second appearance, on 17 April 1961, he chose as his favourite track “Love and Music”, from Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. The book he chose was a Navigational Manual, and by way of a luxury he requested a still.

The radio series gave rise to The Adventures of PC 49, a 1949 British crime film starring Hugh Latimer. Reece starred in the sequel, A Case for PC 49, in 1951.

There were six children’s annuals full of stories of PC 49, as well as an annual reprinting of his strips in the Eagle comics.

Brian Reece died in London at the age of 48, on 12 April 1962.

b) No 52, RIVER HOUSE, Strand on the Green

From the website of the Jewish Lives Project:

“Born in Zurndorf, Austria, in 1926, Fritz Spiegl was a distant relative of Gustav Mahler. Following the Anschluss in 1938, his parents fled to Bolivia while Fritz and his sister were sent by Kindertransport to England. Spiegl spoke only German, but was taken in by politician David Margesson, later Secretary of State for War, who taught him English.

(Margesson married Frances, daughter of Francis Howard Leggett, in 1916. They had one son and two daughters but were divorced in 1940. Following his divorce, Margesson was living at the Carlton Club when it was bombed by the Luftwaffe on 14 October 1940. He was left homeless and had to sleep for a time on a makeshift bed in the underground Cabinet Annexe.When, at the end of 1940, the position of Secretary of State for War fell vacant, Margesson was promoted to it. Lord Margesson died in the Bahamas in December 1965, aged 75.)

While working in London he taught himself the flute, and in 1946 joined the Royal Academy of Music. Before completing his course he was appointed principal flautist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948, a post he held until 1963. In 1949 he founded the Liverpool Music Group, a serious ensemble but which also played comical concerts, such as the Nuts in May and April Fool Concerts, to bring younger audiences to classical music. With his wife, he arranged a traditional Liverpool skipping song as the theme tune for the television series Z Cars. In 1965 he set up the Scouse Press. He also wrote books and newspaper columns on the subject of language, and he worked on BBC radio, presenting Start the Week and Fritz on Friday.

From: Who Was Who on Strand on the Green by Kathleen Judges and Christopher Knight:

“He came to England as a child refugee and lodged with Mrs Audrey Tower at No 52 while a student at the Royal College of Music. He joined the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as their youngest principal flute and also became their lampoonist. His version of his wife’s arrangement of a folk-tune became famous as the theme from Z Cars. He gave up orchestral work in favour of composing and writing and became a regular broadcaster.”

Martin Anderson: “Spiegl’s music-making first enjoyed a national ambit when, having discovered a Liverpool-Irish skipping tune, “Johnny Todd”, he suggested it to his first wife, the composer and harpsichordist Bridget Fry: she had a commission to write the signature tune for a new police television-drama series, Z Cars. Launched in 1962, Z Cars attracted almost 14 million viewers in its first season; Spiegl’s recording of the theme tune, complete with Ulster pipe band, entered the Top Ten when it sold 200,000 copies in its first week on the market.”

From Wikipedia:

“(The title “Z Cars” comes from the radio call signs allocated by Lancashire Constabulary. Lancashire police divisions were lettered from north to the south: “A” Division (based in Ulverston) was the detached part of Lancashire at the time around Barrow-in-Furness, “B” Division was Lancaster, and so on. The TV series took the non-existent signs Z-Victor 1 and Z-Victor 2. The title does not, as sometimes suggested, come from the cars used, Ford Zephyr and Ford Zodiac. The Zephyr was the standard traffic patrol car used by Lancashire and other police forces, while the Zodiac was only used for specialist tasks such as traffic duty.)

The Z Cars theme was based on the traditional folk song “Johnny Todd”, which was in a collection by Frank Kidson dated 1891 called Traditional Tunes: A Collection of Ballad Airs. Kidson’s notes for this song say: “Johnny Todd is a child’s rhyme and game, heard and seen played by Liverpool children. The air is somewhat pleasing, and the words appear old, though some blanks caused by the reciter’s memory have had to be filled up.” The song appears in the book Songs of Belfast edited by David Hammond, who heard it from a Mrs. Walker of Salisbury Avenue, Belfast, who claimed it dates from around 1900.

Spiegl also composed the original theme for the Z Cars spin-off series Softly, Softly (the song was also released as a single on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate record label in 1966). His BBC Radio 4 UK Theme, in which national songs from each of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom are combined, was heard on Radio 4 at the beginning of each morning’s broadcasting from November 1978 until April 2006.

Spiegl’s first marriage, to Bridget Fry (1952-1969), produced three daughters. In 1976, he married Ingrid Romnes. Fritz Spiegl died suddenly during a lunch in Liverpool with his wife Ingrid and some friends, on Sunday 23 March 2003.”

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