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Memories of Stan Unwin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hans Summers   
Friday, 28 November 2014 06:45

stan 1Reflections on Stan Unwin, a radio character - by Eddie G3ZJO

Stanley Unwin on Wikipedia
The World of Stanley Unwin

I was lucky to have known Stanley Unwin, star of TV, stage and screen personally - here a some reflections.

I checked the Biogifolds and whereas there is a mention of the fact that he was a Ham Radio user, little is said about that side of Stan.

I learned about his interest in Ham Radio, he was an SWL, (Short Wave Listener), via Jazz, Stan Liked Trad Jazz and would appear in the audience at local pubs to listen. He followed the antics, as did I, of Horace M Smith Jazz Band.

He lived in East Haddon, just up the road from Northampton, as well as SWL he was an Electronics' Engineer. He had a very interesting life. He was a sound, wire, recordist for the BBC with General Pattons Army in WW2. With a keen interest in languages including some elementary German he was used as an interpreter at times, leading to some humorous stories. He related his attempt at a command to some German POW's to clean out the Latrines. "Clean those b....y, sh...y, sh.t houses", he said it translated, or words to that effect.

He remembered General Patton who had a farming background and was known for being outspoken, commenting on the futility of a certain plan as being "like trying to fertilize a forty acre field with a fart".

Later he was an Engineer with the BBC. I remember his d├ębut on Black and White TV. There was a short period around tea time on BBC TV when there was a slot to fill in before the News. TV was not as slick in those days, Stan's gobbledygook was known to the producer and one evening he appeared before a blackboard and easel, mortar board on his head, black cape and cane. He gave a talk with some mathematical formula, totally non understandable but somehow it should have been.

I was instantly hooked. The BBC were not so keen. After a time, when Stan had engagements and made advertisements for ITV, the Flowers Keggy Brewflade Beer series is one I loved, he was called to the office and asked to choose his further career. You couldn't be an engineer for Auntie Beeb and have conflicting interests.stan2

I remember Stan's story of a hectic drive to an appearance on TV, Birmingham I think, the driver was almost at the studio, they could see it but not get to it, they were running late. If they slipped down a one way street the wrong way they would be there, so they did. A policeman stopped them, Stan interceded over the drivers shoulder. "Scusely osciffer we haley from the far flung Atipodes of Hobartly Tansmanial, we are late for an engagely, importance extreme". "OK, carry on sir" said the Policeman.

Official Biogifolds talk of the early days but they don't seem to mention Stan's youth. He spent quite a bit of time in the local radio component shop, I did too. His interest in language started early, a regular customer would get words wrong, asking for a 10 Medohm resistor etc., this fascinated Stan. We had some odd customers in our shop too who caused quite some amusement.

He got a job at Plessey here is how:-

"I see from your letter that you know something of oscilloscopes. What would you use one for?" he [Dennis Moody, Test Design department] asked.

...There was some confusion in my explanation as the words jumbled out...

"Percentage modulakers on the output," I began.

"Pardon?" asked Moody.

"Transmitter on the 'Y' with tone on the horizole modulating the carrier throom, left over right times 100%." I was worried about conveying the information which I knew to be right and hoped at least I was getting the cardinal points in the right order.

"What about time bases?" he asked.

"Ah! Thyraton discharbs. Hellumercry vapours. Then there's the puckle..." Moody's manner was reassuring and this increased my confidence. Gradually I found a better grasp of the technical terms was coming and I was able to give him satisfaction. I must have done, because I got the job.

That is not a quote from my personal memory like all the rest of this piece, but I just had to include it.

Stan was approached by a friend in a TV studio refreshment area, 'would he mind if Doctor Jonathan Miller asked him a few questions'. After the interrogation the conclusions from Dr Miller were that Unwinese was a true Language of its own with all the correct structure etc. not just gobbledygook.


I asked him to do a couple of talks for Northampton Radio Club. When you rang him he would answer the phone with "who calls". He would call me Lenny, "like the Comedian" (Lenny Bennett), "no you're the comedian Stan."

He did the talks for free and joined us for a pint at the pub after. A lady from behind the bar came over to our table on one occasion, "excuse me" she said "are you Stanley Unwin". "Indeed, I am having a tiltly elbow with my friends you know, oh yes". He was also happy to go after a talk and visit G3OQJ (also Stan a white stick Ham pal of mine and big fan of Stanley), where we sampled his home brew Ale.

As he didn't like to drive at night I collected him and took him back home afterwards. In his house, Stan, now more than 70 years old, had an old Photocopier, the EHT drum power supply had failed. He found he couldn't get spares, so he built one of a totally different design and got it working again. I remember taking a look and I thought, I don't know whether I would have tackled that. That was the last time I met Stan. After a long evening of chat, beers and fellowship I left his home, there was only one thing that I could say as I shook his hand, "deep joy Stan, deep, deep joy."

I put him forward and he was made an Honorary Life member of Northampton Radio Club. He was a great, normal guy with no side inherited from his fame.

I missed his funeral, I was doing a little delivery job at the time and said if there was something in that direction I would like to do it and take an hour off, the boss agreed but the deliveries didn't. Our mutual Jazz Band friends played and several celeb faces were there, I bet it was fun, just as Stan would have liked it. Oh yes.

Eddie G3ZJO

Further reading:

Stanley Unwin on Wikipedia
The World of Stanley Unwin

Last Updated on Friday, 28 November 2014 07:11
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