David Benson - actor, writer, singer, director

david benson

My Jackanory Story

 The Rag and Bone Man by David Hodgson (later Benson) aged 13 as performed by Kenneth Williams on Jackanory BBC1 Wednesday 10th December 1975

Here is my winning entry to the Jackanory Story Writing Competition, unheard - except by me - since the day it was broadcast. The recording was made in our front living room in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham by myself, holding a small portable tape recorder up to the television set. As far as I know there were no video recorders in home-use at that time. In fact we did not even possess a tape recorder of our own - my father, with great foresight, borrowed the machine from a friend of his. Since the original video tapes have long since been wiped by the BBC, this remains the only extant recording of this historic Williams performance!

Also lost are the drawings I submitted  - entrants to the competition were encouraged to do so though few had the nerve. Like the narrative the drawings were Spike Milliganesque in style, furthering my hope that my hero, the creator of The Goon Show, would be asked on to the programme to read my story, in the unlikely event that it should be chosen as a winner.

A whole week was given over to the winning entries. The format of each programme was thus: two unknown presenters would read the bulk of the stories in a studio setting - apart from one star spot each day which would be given over to Kenneth Williams. I got the Wednesday Williams spot - a huge honour, though I did not fully appreciate this at the time so mortified was I at being associated in the minds of my school tormentors with the Campest Man in England.

About halfway through each programme, after a burst of introductory piano music (performed by Jonathan Cohen) the screen would be filled with the title of the star story and a photograph of the winner. I had been snapped by a BBC researcher posing outside our house a few weeks earlier, trying to smile like Fred Astaire.

Then one of the unknown presenters would pick up a phone in the studio and dial. Cut to a filmed segment: Kenneth Williams seated imperiously in the back of a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, the car pulling to a halt - I have a fuzzy memory of the location being a piece of scrubby wasteland, or possibly a scrapyard of some kind. He answers his in-car telephone and receives his order. 'The Rag and Bone Man... thank you'. Cut to exterior shot of Williams stepping from the car; he holds up the first of my drawings, and begins: "Arthur Wrencher, the Head Curator of the Merkesbury Steam Museum.


 The Rag and Bone Man
Text as performed 

Arthur Wrencher was the Head Curator of the Merksbury Steam Museum. Nobody knows why it was called a "steam" museum, as it had nothing whatsoever to do with steam. But despite this, Arthur was the head (and only) Curator.

He looked at his gold-plated pocket watch, which had been given to him by his father in nineteen-o-three-and-a-half.

'Oh, blast! It's stopped, like all those other watches he gave me,' he said, carefully putting it in a glass case marked Early Nineteenth Century Finds.

Arthur was very attached to the old museum, which was started by his grandfather, but even though he was fond of the museum, he knew there was something missing; firstly, new exhibits and secondly, people.

Merksbury wasn't a very big village and most of the people in the village had been several times already so it was usually as empty as an author's wallet.

He went and sat down on an Elizabethan chair that he'd made at a woodwork class, and started to think about what he could do to improve the museum.

'Now, it needs something valuable, something mysterious, something that will draw people in like, err...miners to a strike meeting!'

Then he remembered back to an article he'd been reading in a newspaper a couple of days ago. It was about a man who had bought something from a rag and bone man for fifty pence, and had had it valued at about six thousand pounds.

'That's it!' Thought Arthur. It wasn't long before the rag and bone man came up the road with his horse and cart, and Arthur stopped him.

'I say, Mr Rag and Bone Man!' he said. 'Have you got anything on your cart of great value, which you don't know about and would be willing to sell for a mere fifty pence?'

The Rag and Bone Man thought for a bit and said, 'Eh' and Arthur repeated the question.

'Well,' said the Rag and Bone Man, 'I'll ave ter see.' And he searched through the things on his cart.

'Ere you are,' he said. 'Will this do?' And he unloaded a huge case onto the road.

'What is it?' asked Arthur.
'It's one of yer Egyptian mummies there, that is,' replied the Rag and Bone Man.
'Oh, it's just what I want. How much?'
'Err, fifty pee,' he replied. Arthur gave him the money and went.

When he got back to the museum, he propped the case against the wall and very slowly opened it up, and inside was a great big bandaged mummy.

'Blimey!' said Arthur. 'It must be worth a fortune!'
The mummy opened its eyes, looked at him and said, 'Yes, I should sink zat I ehm!'
Arthur was a bit surprised by this. 'An Egyptian mummy, speaking with a German Accent? Ridiculous!'
So the mummy went back to sleep and Arthur shut the case.

'Now,' he thought to himself, 'I'll need some sort of publicity.' He went and got a notice and put it up outside the museum. Soon, people started to notice the notice, and started to come. In a few weeks there was a long queue of people outside, and Arthur was very pleased with himself and the museum.

But there was one person who was not pleased, and that was the mummy. Day after day he would stand there, getting more and more bored, until one day:

'Arzhur,' he said. 'Arzhur, I ehm leavink you.'
'What?' cried Arthur in reply.
'Yes, I ehm leavink you, right now!'
'But,' said Arthur, 'What about my museum? What will I do?'
'Vell, zat's up to you. Meanvhile, I'm going to become a sailor'
'A sailor?' replied Arthur. 'But mummy, you can't leave me, I don't want to become an orphan!'
But alas, the mummy did leave him.

....and the moral of this story is: Always keep your mummy interested when being viewed in public.


 

This extract from BBC4's documentary The Story of Jackanory features me talking about The Rag and Bone Man.