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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every Christmas, without fail, I got 'The Guinness Book Of Records'
from my grand parents. These hefty slabs of tightly-packed print were
chock full of interesting but useless facts about who could run the
fastest, laugh the loudest, stay underwater the longest, the world's
fattest man etc. I made myself massively unpopular at school by quoting
statistics at every opportunity. The problem was that many of the
records were often broken as soon as the books hit the shops, so all I
was doing was reeling off outdated information.
In 1972, the B.B.C. launched the children's show 'Record Breakers', a kind of 'Guinness Book Of Records' of the air, hosted by the energetic and versatile Roy Castle. It was a tribute to human endeavour, and nearly broke a record of its own by spanning twenty-nine years. We saw interviews, attempts at breaking records would be made in the studio ( Roy broke at least three in the course of the series ), and there would be a regular spot whereby the ever-so English twins Norris and Ross McWhirter ( the compilers of the 'Guinness' books ) fielded questions from the audience. The length and breadth of their knowledge was astounding. Roy sang both the opening and closing songs ( the latter was called 'Dedication' ).
Perhaps the best remembered edition went out on 30/12/75. 'All-Star Record Breakers' featured not only Roy but presenters from just about every B.B.C. children's programme on air at that time, such as 'Play School', 'Blue Peter', 'Animal Magic', and 'Vision On', all of whom literally burst out of a giant Christmas cracker. It was also the source of that much-repeated clip of Roy tap-dancing with a thousand schoolgirls outside the T.V. Centre.
The McWhirters, in addition to their work on the 'Guinness' books ( goodness knows how they found time to do anything else ) were also political activists. In 1975, Ross was assassinated by the I.R.A. after offering a reward for information leading to their arrest. Poor Roy had to introduce the next episode to explain ( without going into detail ) to viewers that it was taped before Ross' death. I remember thinking how lucky Norris was to still be alive. As one of twins, he could easily have been mistaken for his brother, and killed in error.
The show carried on as before. In the early-80's, Norris left to be replaced by two new presenters - Julian Farino and bubbly Scottish singer/actress Fiona Kennedy, who had played 'Holly' in the classic film 'The Wicker Man'. They brought a fresh, youthful look to the programme, particularly Fiona, who I found very sexy. The most memorable edition around this time was one with thousands ( no, millions ) of dominoes lined up in a room, which then fell creating a wonderful hypnotic effect. I admired whoever it was who had gone to great lengths to set them up. One mistake and - disaster! Sadly, Fiona left eventually to get married, and in her place we got Cheryl Baker of 'Bucks Fizz'. It did not take me too long to make my mind up about Cheryl. She was no Fiona.
Tragedy struck the show again when in 1994, Roy died of lung cancer. It carried on for a few more years, first with Cheryl and Kris Akabusi and then Linford Christie before being laid to rest in 2001.
'Record Breakers' is fondly remembered by children from not only the '70's, '80's, '90's and beyond. Roy and the McWhirters may no longer be with us, but when those 'Guinness' books ( known today as 'Guinness World Records' ) go on sale each Christmas, their spirit lives on. Dedication really is what you need.
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