RADIO CELEBRITY AND HORTICULTURALIST
Frederick Robert Yull - he later changed his surname to Yule - was born in 1893 at Hemsby, Norfolk. His early career was in horticulture, working for Frederick Sander, known as the Orchid King, at St. Albans in Hertfordshire. It was here that his lifelong love of plants and gardens was first awakened. He was also keen on amateur dramatics and soon joined a group of local players, appearing in many of their productions. However, the First World War saw the close of the orchid nursery and Fred joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. After the war Fred found work on the music halls, becoming famous for his fine and powerful baritone voice.
In 1921, he married a fellow music hall artist, Laura Montgomery, professionally known as Doreen Monte. By 1926, Fred had joined Catlin’s Royal Pierrots, a touring music hall troupe and for the next ten years, he and Laura continued the itinerant life-style common to entertainers, playing music halls throughout the country and living out of a suitcase. Fred’s first big break came in 1937, when he appeared in an early television production of The Beggar’s Opera, but it was a role in radio comedy that made Fred a familiar voice to the listening public.
In 1939, the entertainment show ITMA (‘It’s That Man Again’) was first broadcast, and quickly became one of the BBC Light Programme’s most popular comedy shows, running until 1949, when its star, Tommy Handley, died. Fred had joined I.T.M.A. in the early 1940s and was soon established as a regular member of the cast. He also had regular appearances in the comedy show, Ray’s a Laugh , starring Ted Ray, where playing the star’s brother-in-law. In November 1947, to celebrate the BBC’s Silver Jubilee, a special edition of the musical review programme, Bandwaggon, was broadcast, with Fred sharing the billing with Richard Murdoch and Arthur Askey.
Dramatic roles also came his way. Fred was cast in the popular science fiction serial, Journey into Space, the last BBC radio drama to enjoy higher ratings than television. He also had an occasional role in the Archers playing the part of Admiral Bellamy, until the character’s demise in 1964.
At the end of the War, Fred and Laura had moved to Park Road, Leigh and in 1949 Fred opened the Ideal Home Exhibition, held at the Kursaal Exhibition Hall.
Shortly after moving to Leigh, Fred’s love of plants and gardening led him to join the flourishing Leigh Horticultural Society, where he was a popular and much loved member. With more time on his hands, he became a regular exhibitor at the Society’s flower shows, showing some of the magnificent chrysanthemum and dahlia blooms grown in his beautiful garden, and winning many awards. Fred enthusiastically accepted the position of President of Leigh Horticultural Society, an office he executed with great professional skill and wit, until ill-health forced him to stand down in 1981, he died the following year aged 89.
Although Fred never achieved the fame and celebrity of many of today’s radio and television performers, he had been a most popular entertainer, and a mainstay of many successful BBC radio programmes/
With grateful thanks to © Jim Sanctuary of the LHS for this
Fred Yule (left) with Tommy Handley and Hattie Jacques