Robert Wentworth John Holness (12 November 1928 – 6 January 2012) was a British-South African radio and television presenter and occasional actor. He presented the British version of Blockbusters.

Bob Holness
Bob Holness.jpg
Holness in 1989
Robert Wentworth John Holness

(1928-11-12)12 November 1928
Vryheid, Natal, South Africa
Died6 January 2012(2012-01-06) (aged 83)
Pinner, London, England[1]
EducationAshford Grammar School
Alma materMaidstone College of Art
OccupationTelevision and radio presenter
Years active1955–2006
TelevisionTake a Letter,
Raise the Roof,
Call My Bluff
Mary Rose Clifford
(m. 1955; his death 2012)
Children3; including Carol

Early lifeEdit

Holness was born in Vryheid, Natal, South Africa.[2] When he was seven,[3] his family moved to England, initially to Herne Bay, Kent, where his grandfather Nathaniel was brought up, then later to Ashford, Kent. After attending Ashford Grammar School and briefly Eastbourne College he went on to Maidstone College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts).[4] He then worked for a printing company before returning to South Africa. He married Mary Rose Clifford in 1955, whom he met in South Africa. The couple returned to the UK in 1961. His daughters, Carol Ann (aka Nancy Nova) and Ros, were singers and members of the band Toto Coelo.

Radio careerEdit

In 1955, he received his first job as a radio presenter and, a year later, became the second actor to portray James Bond (after Barry Nelson in the 1954 TV special "Casino Royale") in a radio production of Moonraker for the SABC's Springbok Radio.[2][3][5]

Holness joined the BBC as a presenter on Late Night Extra, initially on the BBC Light Programme and later on Radio 1 and Radio 2, presenting alongside Terry Wogan, Michael Parkinson and Keith Fordyce. From 1971, the show was broadcast solely on Radio 2. Between 1975 and 1985, he was co-presenter with Douglas Cameron of the award-winning breakfast-time AM Programme on London's LBC radio station. He originally joined the station as an airborne traffic reporter, later progressing to reading networked news bulletins for IRN. He won the Variety Club Award for 'Joint Independent Radio Personality of the Year' in both 1979 and 1984.[6]

From 1985–97, he returned to Radio 2, presenting many shows including Bob Holness Requests the Pleasure and Bob Holness and Friends, as well as covering various weekday shows for holidaying presenters. From the late 1960s until 1998, he also presented the request programme Anything Goes on the BBC World Service.[2]

"Baker Street"Edit

Holness was the subject of an urban myth,[7][8] claimed to have been initiated in the 1980s by broadcaster Stuart Maconie who, writing for the New Musical Express in a section called 'Believe It or Not', said that Holness had played the saxophone riff on Gerry Rafferty's 1978 song, "Baker Street".[9] (The actual performer was Raphael Ravenscroft.) Tommy Boyd, among others, has disputed Maconie's claim to authorship of the rumour.[10]

Television careerEdit

In 1962, Holness became the host of UK game show Take a Letter, was relief host of Thames Television's magazine programme Today in 1968, and from 1983 until 1994 presented the British version of Blockbusters, for which he is best known. In 1988 he starred in a celebrity special of Catchphrase and appeared again with his daughter, Carol, in a Christmas version of Family Catchphrase.

In 1995 he hosted Yorkshire Television's big-budget game show flop Raise the Roof before becoming the chairman of a revived Call My Bluff for the BBC. Holness appeared on one episode of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway in 2004, when he presented the last round of Ant and Dec's Blockbusters, with Ant as a contestant.[11]

Holness also had an occasional acting career in television shows including Thriller, Rex the Runt and The Impressionable Jon Culshaw.

Personal life, illness and deathEdit

Holness gave his support to many charities, including the children's charities Teenage Cancer Trust, Young People's Trust for the Environment and National Children's Home (now Action for Children), of which he was Vice-President from 1994.[12]

On 24 November 2002, he suffered a major stroke, following which a brain scan revealed he had previously suffered a number of transient ischaemic attacks over several years. He also suffered from hearing loss. He was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2005.[13] In the last few years of his life he suffered from vascular dementia. He was cared for by his family at home until the last two weeks of his life when he entered Denville Hall nursing home.[14] His family announced on 6 January 2012 that he had died earlier that day, in his sleep, aged 83.[5] He is survived by his wife, former actress Mary Rose (née Clifford), as well as their three children, Carol (known as Nancy Nova), Ros and Jon, and seven grandchildren.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Obituary: Bob Holness, unflappable and always dapper host of student daytime quiz favourite Blockbusters". 9 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Dennis Barker (6 January 2012). "Bob Holness obituary". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Bob Holness". London, UK: Telegraph. 6 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  4. ^ Obituary, The Times p. 78; 7 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "BBC News – Bob Holness, former Blockbusters host, dies aged 83". 6 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  6. ^ Hayward, Anthony (6 January 2012). "Bob Holness: Broadcaster and actor treasured for his role as the avuncular host of 'Blockbusters'". The Independent. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  7. ^ Lester, Paul (5 January 2011). "Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street: Booze, promiscuity and punk spirit". London, UK: Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Comedy Blog: HIGNFY Guest interview: Stuart Maconie". BBC. 23 May 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  9. ^ Maconie, Stuart (2004). Cider With Roadies (1st ed.). London, UK: Random House. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-09-189115-2.
  10. ^ "Why do we think Bob Holness was the Baker Street saxophonist?". BBC News. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  11. ^ Tarley, Rachel (6 January 2012). "Blockbusters host Bob Holness dies 'peacefully in his sleep', aged 83". Metro. wayback machine. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  12. ^ Dennis Barker (6 January 2012). "Bob Holness obituary". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  13. ^ "BBC News – Obituary: Bob Holness". 6 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  14. ^ daughter Ros. "Bob Holness dies peacefully aged 83". Retrieved 13 June 2012.

External linksEdit