The halcyon days of Hallam

The halcyon days of Hallam

by Roger Moffat

I think it was a Friday. I can’t be sure about it being a Friday but I do know it was March, 1974 because the telephone hadn’t rung since the New Year and I was thinking that it was a waste of time paying all that money to the GPO when nobody rang me and I had no friends left to ring. No, I’m wrong. It wasn’t a Friday at all. It was a Tuesday because I remember that I was just off to get my dole money when the call came through.

“A Mr Keith Skues is ringing you from a London call-box. Will you pay for the call?” Although I didn’t realise it at the time, that must have been the first occasion (there have been many more since) that I said “No Way Baby”.

Minutes passed. The phone rang again. Keith Skues — with money. (There haven’t been many occasions since!!)

“Roger, how about having lunch with me next week”, spoke Mr K. In my impecunious state, I would willingly have supped with the Devil, so I agreed.

Monday next I hid in the guards van from Aylesbury en route for London and a free meal.

We shook hands. It was, after all, quite an historic occasion. I hadn’t met Keith since I was fired by the BBC and he hadn’t met me since he parted company with the BBC. It was “Stanley and Livingstone” all over again! “Right then”, I said “How about the lunch offer?”

His countering remark left me somewhat puzzled. “How about SHEFFIELD?”

Now I know quite a bit about the north and I also know that few, if any, people travel from the West End of London to Sheffield — FOR LUNCH. Especially when they are standing outside the Savoy Hotel.

“No, not Sheffield for lunch”, he said. “How about working for me — for RADIO HALLAM in Sheffield”.

It was the soothing voice of the nurse at the Middlesex hospital that I heard next. “You’ll be OK”, she said “You’ve just had a slight shock. Do you know that you’ve just signed for SHEFFIELD HALLAM?” “When do I play?”, I muttered. “Nine till twelve, every morning”. It was not the nurse but Keith who answered. He had never left my side — and he hasn’t since.

The scene changes now to Sheffield, July 1974. It was a Sunday; a drab and damp Sunday as the train drew in. No Station Manager to greet me. No red carpet. No Guard of Honour. Just rain and litter. Just litter and rain. Not even a Keith Skues in attendance. “Taxi?” I enquired, looking helplessly around the completely empty station forecourt. I might just as well have asked for a private helicopter! And then this fella came up. “Roger Moffat?” he enquired. “Yes”, I replied, thinking he was my belated taxi driver. “And I’ll tell you one thing to start with”, I said “Sheffield is a bloody awful place”. He wasn’t a taxi driver at all, he was a reporter from “The Sun” newspaper. What a way to run a railway station. Come to think of it, what a way to launch a Radio Station!

As Keith led me into “my office” the next day, he did comment upon “being cautious” when talking to the press. My “office” hadn’t been completed. One wall was still yet to be built. There was no glass in the windows. How could there have been? There were no window frames! My “chair” was a pile of bricks. My “desk” was also a pile of bricks. Whilst I was “off the ground”, I had serious doubts as to Radio Hallam ever doing the same.

The Radio Hallam dog, which we seemed to have acquired from the builders, used either me or my pile of bricks as a lamp post and I thought, as I hung my socks out of the non existent window to dry, “Yes indeed, Sheffield is a bloody awful place”.

It isn’t. As we began to meet the people and the people met us, we got “the local stuff going”. Thank you, you people of South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, those in Rotherham and on the River Don, Chesterfield and the many other places we’ve yet to visit — “Thank you for having us in your homes”.

Roger Moffat

ROGER MOFFAT has occasionally been known to ‘Freakout’ – seen here in a Glitter Band Suit.