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Christopher Leonard Trace (21 March 1933 – 5 September 1992) was an English actor and television presenter, notable for his nine years as a presenter of the BBC children's programme Blue Peter.

Christopher Trace
Christopher Trace.jpg
Christopher Trace on Blue Peter
Born(1933-03-21)21 March 1933
Died5 September 1992(1992-09-05) (aged 59)
EducationCranleigh School, Surrey
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
OccupationJournalist
Actor
Television presenter
Known forOriginal Blue Peter presenter with Leila Williams
ChildrenTwo

Early life and careerEdit

Trace was the youngest of three children born to Edith (née Morley) and Lawrence Archibald Trace. His two older siblings were Ann and David Morley Trace.

Trace was educated at Cranleigh School, a boarding independent school in the town of Cranleigh in Surrey, which he left early.[1]

After working as a farm labourer, he joined the British Army and trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[2] Trace received a commission in the Royal Regiment of Artillery of the British Army in 1953.[3] He was promoted to lieutenant in February 1955,[3] but resigned his commission in September 1956.[4] Trace then had a relatively undistinguished acting career – his greatest screen role being Charlton Heston's body double in Ben-Hur (1959).[5]

BroadcasterEdit

At the age of 25, Trace was the first male presenter of Blue Peter from its first programme, broadcast on 16 October 1958, and stayed with the programme until 24 July 1967. According to the BBC, he gained the job as presenter because he bonded with producer John Hunter Blair over their shared love of model railways.[5][6] During his time hosting Blue Peter, he was also a regular presenter on the BBC Schools programme Signpost from 1961 to 1965.

By 1967, the Blue Peter production team were beginning to find Trace hard to deal with and were looking to replace him on the show,[7] particularly when his wife divorced him for sleeping with another woman during a 1965 Blue Peter summer expedition to Norway.[8][9][10] The couple had two children.[6] Trace often threatened to resign and once the production team were happy that viewers had accepted John Noakes as a member of the team, Trace's next resignation was accepted.[11]

He became a writer and production manager for a film company named Spectator which failed after two years, losing him his life savings.[6][12] He was declared bankrupt in 1973,[13] then returned to the BBC, first on local television in East Anglia and then on the network TV programme Nationwide. In the 1970s, he worked as a presenter on BBC East's daily morning radio programme Roundabout East Anglia, a regional opt-out from the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.[14] He also appeared on local television as a presenter on BBC's early evening news programme Look East.

Later lifeEdit

By the mid-1970s, he had retired from the media, and briefly worked behind the bar of a pub near Norwich before becoming general manager of an engineering factory, where he lost two toes in an accident.[8] On Blue Peter’s 20th anniversary in 1978 he appeared on the show and the factory shut for the day so that the workforce could watch his appearance.[15] On the show, without warning anyone in advance, he announced that he wanted to give an Outstanding Endeavour Award. The award became an annual Blue Peter event.[5] In the 1980s he worked in the press office of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). In the 1990s, he briefly returned to the BBC to guest on and later host the nostalgia series Are You Sitting Comfortably? on Radio 2.

DeathEdit

Trace died in 1992 from cancer of the oesophagus while living in Walthamstow. Valerie Singleton and Biddy Baxter visited Trace in hospital just days before his death.[6]

QuotationsEdit

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography credits Trace with coining two phrases that have become prominent in British popular culture: the line "And now for something completely different", later taken up by, and usually attributed to, Monty Python, and "Here's one I made earlier", since adopted by nearly all subsequent presenters on Blue Peter.[16]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Christopher Trace". Cranleigh School, Surrey. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  2. ^ "No. 39809". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 March 1953. p. 1716.
  3. ^ a b "No. 40400". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 February 1955. p. 774.
  4. ^ "No. 40879". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1956. p. 5284.
  5. ^ a b c "BBC online Blue Peter trivia page".
  6. ^ a b c d Baxter, Biddy (7 September 1992). "Obituary: Christopher Trace". The Independent. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Blue Peter" 50th Anniversary Book: The Story of Television's Longest-running Children's Programme. Hamlyn ISBN 978-0-600-61793-8
  8. ^ a b Billen, Andrew (8 September 2003). "Putting the boot in". New Statesman. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  9. ^ "'The A-Z of Blue Peter". The Independent. 12 March 2005. Archived from the original on 7 March 2009.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Rampton, James. "Staying In: Sex, Drugs And Sticky-Back Plastic; Blue Peter Presenters Remember The Bad Old Days Of Children's TV, The Independent, 30 August 2003". Archived from the original on 15 February 2007.
  11. ^ Marson, Richard (21 September 2008). "Blue Peter" 50th Anniversary Book: The Story of Television's Longest-running Children's Programme. Hamlyn. ISBN 978-0-600-61793-8.
  12. ^ "BBC online biography of Trace".
  13. ^ Hewett, Richard (24 October 2002). "The curse of Blue Peter". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  14. ^ "BBC Radio Norfolk's 25th anniversary". BBC.co.uk. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  15. ^ "BBC online biography of Trace".
  16. ^ Ezard, John (8 October 2005). "Now something different - which was made earlier". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.

SourcesEdit

  • Alistair McGown, "Trace, Christopher Leonard (1933–1992)", Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography, online edition, Oxford University Press, Oct 2005; online edn, May 2006 accessed 10 June 2006

External linksEdit

Preceded by
none
Blue Peter Presenter No. 1
1958-67
Succeeded by
Peter Purves