Home » Savile: the Jimmy Years » Excuse me, I’m feeling Uncle Dick…

Excuse me, I’m feeling Uncle Dick…

I’m a great believer in string theory.

Take this morning. There’s been a lot of comment on the subject of Lord M. and the unfounded rumours of child abuse that circulated in the wake of a N. programme recently, over which lawyers have become almost comically litigious in attempting to personally sue everyone using a certain social network – mercifully, I am not one of those who T.s – thus ensuring that the name of M. continues to be associated, now entirely legally, with the story for months and years to come.

I recalled that my mother had once mentioned that my deeply unpleasant znd volatile but extremely wealthy step-grandfather, Neville Stewart Bengough, MC, known to all (but never sundry) as ‘Ben’, had a connection with the M. family, and decided to try to find out what.

Despite his prominence as a City financier in the 1950s, I found only one minor reference on a Canadian genealogical website. There is a town in Saskatchewan called Bengough, and lots of Bengoughs live in Canada; also, I later found, in Merthyr Tydfil, a Thatchered former mining community in South Wales.

Ben however appears to have been rather posher, the son of General Sir Harcourt Bengough, of Boer War fame. I recalled that he may also have been the brother or sometime husband or lover of one Gladys M., so I looked her up, and was mystically guided by the usual timewasting association in a G. search of the disjointed names Gladys, Bengough and M., to a certain web site blogging conspiratorially on the subject of child abuse and the case of J.S. and the BBC.

Here the waters start to get extremely murky.

‘Uncle Dick’ was apparently the stage name of the presenter of a popular children’s radio programme in the 1950s,although I remembet it somewhat diferently.

A Daily Mail report (see link, below) claims that the BBC’s now-senior foreign correspondent, John Simpson, outed this ‘Uncle Dick’ ten years ago in his autobiography as a man who, it was said, had regularly abused children invited onto his show.

Simpson had been given this information as a junior reporter while researching ‘Uncle Dick’s obituary, way back in 1967, after what seems to have been a deeply embittered tirade by an elderly contact known only as ‘Auntie Gladys’; the problem being that nobody seems to know who she was, or what her precise relationship was with ‘Uncle Dick’ (which is, as you may know, Cockney rhyming slang for ‘sick’…). But his editor warned him to keep quiet, or else.

I cannot connect ‘Auntie Gladys’ with the Bengough family, or with the Ms. I am not daring to name ‘Uncle Dick’ either, although everyone knows who he was. His family, too, are threatening to sue anyone who breathes – although you cannot legally libel the dead, and the name is all over the T-sphere already – presumably on the grounds that his behaviour, knowledge of which they absolutely deny, might reflect badly on them.

Also, Simpson claimed, Dick’s little secret was culpably hushed-up by BBC management, as he was a ‘national figure’, and some of those people might just about be alive to sue today. It is all a veritable can of worms.

In a totally unrelated coincidence, the drama group of which I am a member is currently in production of the musical play, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The script was developed from a memoir of the poet, Dylan Thomas, which in turn was based on a short play Thomas wrote for BBC children’s radio in 1955, commissioned by… you know Uncle-who.

At one point in the play there is a reference to Thomas’s great uncle, also a poet, Gwylim Thomas. The text hints strongly that he may have abused Thomas’s aunt Hannah when she was a child; and, less strongly, that Thomas’ father, a school headmaster, might also have had certain proclivities.

And meanwhile another story is breaking today, of alleged organised abuse at yet another children’s home. Methinks the isle is full of noises… mainly, the sound of cats furiously resisting being stuffed back into bags.


PS A conversation about this with my mother clears up one missing fact: Gladys McAlpine was my step-grandfather ‘Ben’ Bengough’s first wife, and bankrolled his investments, that turned him into a multi-millionaire during the Great Depression. We both agree, there was never an ‘Uncle Dick’ on the radio, the children’s show host was called ‘Uncle Mac’. A strange mistake for several journalists to make.


Many years; BBC, sex, postscriptum

With apologies to those who don’t follow coincidences, and to BBC Radio 2 fans, elderly DJ Tony Blackburn has just been summarily fired (February 2016), in my view with admirably pathetic panic, by another biddable Director General, Tony Hall.

Blackburn’s crime was, we are told, to have given less-than satisfactory evidence to the haughty Dame Janet Smith, a judge empowered to examine in a thousand pages or less, why it was that BBC Radio One DJs in the 1970s enjoyed trying to have it off with 15-year-old girls.

It’s incomprehensible, to be honest. But I’m not sure Dame Janet would  understand. She seems to be arguingthat sex for a woman is a terrible ordeal to have to endure without the blessing of the Anglican church.

One of those so alleged to have shagged sub-legally was the now 900-year-old Tony Blackburn. The case against the  inveterate DJ is that a memo has surfaced, bearing the sainted name of Bill Cotton, stating that he was interviewed internally in 1971 about a complaint of enhanced fumbling by a 15-year-old fan. Blackburn says he wasn’t, he never saw the memo and the incident never happened.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tony Blackburn at the BBC, but everything I have ever heard about him suggests that the accusation was complete bollocks. He is so honest, it’s painful. The ‘fan’ also complained about having been forced to have sex with Frank Sinatra. Weirdly, Blackburn claims that his UK agent at the the same time also represented… Frank Sinatra.

Then, tragically, she killedherself.

So, no evidence.

But… Her name was Claire McAlpine.

Her adopted mother was Vera McAlpine.

Is there some BBC curse attached to theMcAlpine name? We may never know.




4 thoughts on “Excuse me, I’m feeling Uncle Dick…

  1. Hello,

    My name is Mandy and I work for the Wheaton College Permanent Collection. We have a set of cartoons signed with the name Gladys Bengough. The cartoons have a Scottish theme to them, featuring bagpipers and men wearing kilts. I am trying to find more information about the artist and an Internet search led me to your blog. Do you happen to know any more information about your step-grandmother Gladys McAlpine Bengough, particularly if she happened to have ties to Scotland or was an artist?

    Many thanks,

    • Hello Mandy.

      Thanks for your enquiry.

      I’m sorry, I know next to nothing about Gladys. She was Ben’s first wife, Ben was my grandmother’s second husband I had as little to do with him as possible. He was chairman of Minets, a large City insurance brokerage. It seems unlikely that he would have married a cartoonist, unless she was one of those gifted amateurs.

      I am afraid I;ve left it rather late to start looking into all this. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Glad someone at least is reading my blog.

  2. Hello,
    It may be of interest to you to know that Mr Bengough and his wife June holidayed in Ireland from the 1940’s to 1970. They owned a little property with some land which is where I now live. My parents were caretakers and looked after their needs each summer for about three months. June was a most wonderful, kind and generous lady. Mr Bengough was indeed an avid fisherman. I visited them when they lived in sussex square in 1976.

    • Thank you, Denis. Your father was Tom Fenton, your mother was ( think) Eileen, and the cottage was called Beenbane. How’s that for a 53-years-past memory? I was invited to spend a fortnight in 1962. Ben rented an expensive local stretch of river every year. He didn’t catch anything that fortnight and was extremely angry that I caught two salmon, about 8 pounds each. Then he finally caught one and I let it off the hook trying to net it. I was twelve years old, but he sent me home to London on my own, carrying a rotting salmon wrapped in newspaper!

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