According to The Sun
, John Simpson's revelations cast doubt on the BBC's claims to have known nothing of Jimmy Savile's activities. Simpson revealed that as a young journalist, he had been given the task of writing an obituary for a BBC star of decades.
Simpson calls the star "Uncle Dick" and says he contacted someone he calls "Aunty Gladys" for a quote. Aunty Gladys obliged. As The Sun
reports, she described him as "an evil old b******” and added: “I hope he died in agony.”
Simpson pressed her for an explanation. As Simpson wrote in his book:
Week after week, children from all over the country would win competitions to visit the BBC and meet Uncle Dick. He would welcome them, show them around, give them lunch, then take them to the gents and interfere with them.
If parents complained, the Director General’s office would write saying the nation wouldn’t understand such an accusation against a much-loved figure.
So the young journalist showed the editor what he intended to write in Uncle Dick's obituary. Simpson records the response:
You stupid, unthinking, ignorant, destructive young idiot.
He goes on to describe how the editor dictated the deceased star's obituary:
Auntie Gladys told the BBC tonight that she was deeply saddened by Uncle Dick’s death. He had a wonderful way with children.
The editor told him:
That's how you write an obit.
Simpson's use of the false names is doubtless discreet and well-mannered. And the subterfuge would appear to have baffled the Daily Mail
, which said:
Uncle Dick - whose real name is not known.
However, the false names are really rather transparent. The details Simpson provides correspond with only one household name, who worked at the BBC at the relevant time and would meet children who had won competitions.
The programme can only be Children's Hour
, which ran from 1922 to 1964. It was at the time the only children's programme on the BBC. Derek McCulloch was closely involved from 1926 to 1950. He subsequently presented Children's Favourites
. As the presenter of both programmes, he was known as "Uncle Mac". Children's Hour
in Scotland was presented by Kathleen Garsgadden, who was known as "Aunty Kathleen". It would have been only natural for a young journalist writing an obituary for McCulloch in 1967 to have asked Scotland's equivalent for a comment.
The revelations by Simpson can only increase the suspicion that the BBC knew about Jimmy Savile's behaviour and sought, not to protect vulnerable children, but its own reputation.