Famous Derbyshire people - Tim Brook-Taylor

Tim Brooke-Taylor. Photo: Hattie Miles

Tim Brooke-Taylor. Photo: Hattie Miles - Credit: Archant

We look at the life of the Buxton-born comedian who found fame with The Goodies.

Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

One of the lasting images of TV in the 1970s was that of Twinkle, the monster white kitten, toppling the Post Office Tower and emerging from under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the popular BBC comedy series, The Goodies.

Buxton-born comedian and actor Tim Brooke-Taylor will probably be best remembered as an essential member of that madcap comedy team for 12 years, between 1970 and 1982. But he was equally well-known for being an hilarious panellist and co-writer under chairman Humphrey Littleton in the long-running BBC radio quiz show, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, for almost 50 years.

Timothy Julian Brooke-Taylor was the son of solicitor Edward Brooke-Taylor and games teacher Rachel (née Pawson) and was born in 1940. His education did not get off to the best of starts as he was expelled from his primary school at the early age of five and a half. He then transferred to prep school and, later, Winchester College.

After teaching at a couple of schools, he entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read economics and politics before reading law. It was at the famous Cambridge University Footlights Club that Brooke-Taylor met and befriended other up-and-coming comedians, including John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden. He also became active in the Pembroke College drama society, the Pembroke Players.

It was at Cambridge where Brooke-Taylor first became involved in performing and writing comedy sketches, and he became president of the Footlights in 1963. Their revue, A Clump of Plinths, was so successful during its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run that the show was renamed as Cambridge Circus and transferred to London’s West End before being taken to both New Zealand and Broadway in September 1964.

Most Read

After becoming more widely known for his work on BBC Radio with I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, he moved into television with At Last the 1948 Show, working with his old Cambridge friends, John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

In 1968 Brooke-Taylor was a cast member and writer on the television comedy series Marty starring Marty Feldman. At around the same time, he made two series of Broaden Your Mind with Graeme Garden, with Bill Oddie joining them for the second series. The show was a string of comedy sketches, some coming from I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, and loosely linked by a weekly theme.

The success of Broaden Your Mind led to the commissioning of The Goodies, also with Oddie and Garden. First transmitted on BBC2 in November 1970, The Goodies was an immediate success, and was broadcast for 12 years by both the BBC and, in its final year, by London Weekend Television. It spawned many spin-off books and successful records, including Oddie’s hit single The Funky Gibbon in 1975. The show also picked up international recognition in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Brooke-Taylor married Christine Wheadon in 1968 and they had two sons, Ben and Edward. He lived by the River Thames in Cookham Dean, Berkshire, and was made an OBE in the 2011 Birthday Honours List for his services to light entertainment.

Brooke-Taylor sadly became a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020, when he died aged 79 of complications arising from the disease.

He retained strong connections to his home county and remained throughout his life an avid Derby County FC supporter and was even a director at the Rams in the 1980s.