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Backwords: Journey Of Discovery!

"Television brings real pictures into our homes. Radio encouraged children to use their imaginations...'' Mike Shaw recalls his younger days when he went roaming with radio guides Romany and Nomad.

Some of my happiest boyhood memories are of the hours I spent roaming with Romany and wandering with Nomad.

Romany was the man who first introduced me to the joys of the countryside. Rambles with him and his companions -- Muriel, Doris and Raq the faithful cocker spaniel -- never failed to produce some exciting discoveries.

Romany simply never drew a blank -- there was always a bird’s nest hidden away in a hedge, a rabbit twitching its nose on the edge of a cornfield or a woodpecker hammering away in the trees.

It was all literally too good to be true, of course, because Romany’s rambles were all imaginary walks, reconstructed within the four walls of a radio studio.

And the millions of us children who followed them never moved from our armchairs as his programme, Out With Romany, was broadcast in the BBC’s Children’s Hour.

Television brings real pictures into our homes. Radio encouraged children to use their imaginations … and for those who did the rewards were immense.

For years I was convinced that the broadcasts really did come from the fields, woods and lanes. That Romany and his friends really were out in the country with microphones at the ready.

Later in life, long after his sudden death in 1943, I was to learn a lot more about the man who seemed to know everything worth knowing about the countryside.

I recall being amazed that for nearly 20 years he was a Methodist minister and spent part of his career in Huddersfield as superintendent of the Buxton Road Circuit.

His real name, I discovered, was the Rev. G. Bramwell Evens. But it was as Romany, the man who taught millions to love nature, that he is remembered by me and others of my generation.

A gypsy by birth, he loved nothing better than roaming the countryside in real life, either on foot or in his horse-drawn caravan.

When he died someone wrote of him: “He never lost almost a boyish sense of wonder as he turned the pages of nature’s book…a man who could never have bored a child.”

He certainly never came within a million miles of boring me. And I suppose it was only natural that we thought of him as irreplaceable.

But before long we were off on our imaginary rambles again, this time with a new guide called Nomad.

Out With Romany was a hard act to follow. But Wandering With Nomad was destined to run and run and run.

Muriel (Levy) and Doris (Gambell) helped to keep up the continuity by joining him on his rural adventures, along with some new characters who I remember included Dick, his nephew, and Mrs. Baggs, his housekeeper.

As the years slipped by I forsook Children’s Hour for other things, such as homework, cricket, football . . . and girls.

On the radio, my favourite listening switched to the more adult adventures of Dick Barton, Paul Temple and The Man in Black.

But, long after the exploits of Dick, Paul and the anonymous storyteller had faded almost into oblivion, those happy jaunts with Romany and Nomad stayed refreshingly clear. And still do.


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