Up in the Morning Early

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Up in the Morning Early was a daily BBC Home Service programme of physical exercise instruction (or 'physical jerks' as it was called then), originated and produced in Glasgow for the duration of the Second World War. It went under its original title from 4 December 1939 to 31 July 1943, and then re-appeared as The Daily Dozen from 27 September 1943 until 1 September 1945.

Format

The broadcasting of physical exercises early in the morning had become an established feature in Germany and other parts of the world by the autumn on 1925. The BBC considered the desirability of introducing a similar feature in Britain. Some of those who advocated the broadcasting of 'physical jerks' argued that there was "something to be said for the psychological effect of the reception of the orders involved, even if the listener remains in bed during the process".[1] However, plans did not progress and it took the special circumstances of war before the BBC put the idea into practice.

Instruction was initially aimed at the under-40s and given for men on three mornings of the week, and for women on two. A variety of styles were attempted until a successful formula was settled upon involving two presenters: J. Coleman-Smith, Physical Instructor at the nearby Glasgow Academy, who gave the men's exercises, and May Brown who instructed the women. Music was provided by a staff pianist.

Coleman Smith had a fine singing voice and, after detailed instructions for performing each exercise, would join in the music and sing, "And DOWN with a BOUNCE and a BOUNCE!" The broadcaster Howard Lockhart, who produced some of programmes in the later war years, wrote:

People liked to hear him singing, and this became so much part of the performance that sometimes the exercises were chosen to fit the music, rather than the other way round! I had to put myself through all sorts of contortions in choosing exactly the right tunes and ensuring that they were suitable for each exercise. As it was a daily programme, we had to change the music and have several tunes available. So the sheer physical effort in finding them was considerable. I used to go back to my office after rehearsals, panting, my braces dangling and my hair flying! [2]

It was estimated that at the end of 1939, 750,000 men and 900,000 women were getting up in the morning early to do their 'daily dozen' with the BBC.[3]

The programme duration was extended to 20 minutes from 1 May 1940, with the first half alternating daily between instruction for "younger men/women" and the latter half between "older men/women". The start time was also brought forward to 7.30 with Lift Up Your Hearts following rather than proceeding the exercise programme.

The programme listing for Monday 12 August in the Radio Times states that:

The arrangements for 'Up in the Morning Early' have been altered for the rest of the summer, making it a kind of 'free-for-all', though in all probability it will return in the autumn to the former rigid division into special programmes for younger and older, men and women. The new plan introduces a 'double-piano act', one pianist stressing the rhythm so necessary for those doing the exercises, the other playing an accompaniment that should provide pleasant early-morning listening for the lazier ones — or, more important, for those who must perforce 'stand by' during exercises that are unsuitable for them.[4]

The Radio Times description for 19 July 1941 states that the programme employed "a section of the Scottish Variety Orchestra, conducted by Ronnie Munro".

From 13 September 1941, a Saturday afternoon/evening repeat was broadcast, compered by announcer Tom Dawson. Its duration was 15 minutes.

From 4 January 1943, the Radio Times lists: "At the pianos, Barbara Laing and Mollie Davie"; with from 12 January 1943 to 20 February 1943 "Andrew Bryson and Barbara Laing". "Andrew Bryson and Lena Blackman" from Monday 10 May 1943 to Saturday 22 May.

After a summer break in 1943, the programme re-appeared on 27 September under a new title, The Daily Dozen, and at the earlier time of 7.15 am.

In his monthly report for November 1944, the Scottish Director, Melville Dinwiddie, noted that the exercises were recorded beforehand and that, for a six-month period in 1944, listening figures were a daily average of just under a million, in spite of the early hour of 7.15 am at which the programme was broadcast. His hope was that the item may be continued until the cessation of hostilities in in Europe, and possibility into the transitional period towards peace.[5]

The programme ran only for the duration of the war, with the final broadcast on 1 September 1945.

Captain Jack Coleman-Smith

"J. Coleman Smith" was Captain Jack Coleman Smith, Physical Instructor at the fee-paying Glasgow Academy. Affectionately nicknamed 'Coley' or 'Colebags', one former pupil described the ex-Indian Army man "a strict disciplinarian but with a very kind heart". As the school's rugby coach he brought on generations of young Academy teams, notably 'Coley's Juniors' of 1929 who went on to become the school 1st XV for two unbeaten seasons. When 'Coley' joined The Academy staff he was a bachelor but he soon courted and married Ethel, the supervisor of the school dining room.[6]

Former pupil James M Anderson, who left the Academy in 1942, recalled:

Soon after the start of the war Mr Coleman Smith was given a slot on the BBC Home Service radio every weekday morning to lead the audience in physical exercises. One day at school he asked us how many had listened to him; we almost all had done so. He then asked how many boys did the exercises — very few it seemed![7]

His theme song was: "Jump, jump, jump little frog. Why don't you jump right over the log?" which he would sing at the start and end of each session in his baritone voice.[8]

Another former pupil, Alan G Diack (class of 1945), recalled:

In Coley’s days the gym was on the top floor where he reigned supreme. Poor souls who could not climb ropes or hang on to parallel bars incurred his wrath. Underneath a fearsome exterior, however, there was a very warm heart. At Anniesland his voice could be heard all over the pitch telling the front row forwards to ‘get their bottoms down’. On retirement, he and Ethel lived firstly in a cottage on Inchmurrin, an island in Loch Lomond. Later he moved to a most beautiful house on Rodborough Common near Stroud and welcomed former pupils warmly.[9]

Deputy presenters

Various instructors stood-in for for J. Coleman-Smith in conducting the exercises for men. They included: George Welton (see 27 October 1941); Frank Punchard (see 22 December 1941); John Elder (see 25 May 1942); and J. D. Elder (see 19 April 1943).

Deputising for May Brown in conducting the exercises for women were names such as: Doris Robertson (see 20 October 1941) and Audrey Nicol (see 24 November 1941).

References

  1. 'Official News and Views: Broadcasting "Physical Jerks"', Radio Times, 18 September 1925, 552.
  2. Howard Lockhart, On My Wavelength (Aberdeen: Impulse Books, 1973), 58.
  3. BBC Handbook 1940, 28.
  4. Up in the Morning Early, 12 August 1940 (BBC Genome).
  5. Melville Dinwiddie, 'Monthly Report: Scotland: November 1944’, 1 December 1944, BBC WAC R34/748/1.
  6. Biographical note from Frank Coutts (1936), cited in Etcetera, No. 1, Autumn 2006.
  7. Etcetera, No. 4, August 2007.
  8. Ian F. M. Saint-Yves, Snapshots on A Journey: Home at Last (AuthorHouse UK, 2011)
  9. Etcetera, No. 12, Summer 2010.