Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The What-A-Mess books, written by Frank Muir and illustrated by Joseph Wright, tell the tale of an Afghan hound whose real name is Prince Amir of Kinjan. His favourite things are eating his wicker basket and chasing the cat-next-door. Just like The Simpsons, W-a-M hasn't aged a jot since the first episode, although he has had a half birthday. Joseph's illustrations are mini stories within stories, with trippy creatures and aliens doing their best to make sense of the strange world around them.bunny

1977 - What-a-Mess
Published by Ernest Benn
The puppy's first adventure, where he asks the universal question: Who am I?
"When I find something as short and fat as I am - that will be what I am!" Unfortunately the first thing WaM sees is a very short, extremely fat bee.

1978 - What-a-Mess The Good
Published by Ernest Benn
Where WaM decides to heroically rid the world of ants. Well, three of them anyway. His hunt takes him on a rampage through the garden and house. And then the family walks in...

1979 - Prince What-a-Mess
Published by Ernest Benn
The puppy gives himself a make-over, which includes his unusual grooming method of running full tilt through the rose garden for that nice, even comb. Strangely, the family is not impressed.

1980 - Super What-a-Messturtle
Published by Ernest Benn
A spoilt doggy, Poppet, arrives for the holidays and makes WaM's life miserable. He must team up with the cat next door to defeat this new, evil foe.

1981 - Frank and Polly Muir's Big Dipper
Published by Heinemann
Includes the story What-a-Mess and his half birthday. He decides to surprise the family at breakfast by leaping gracefully onto the table ... but it doesn't quite go to plan.

1981 - What-a-Mess and the Cat-Next-Door
Published by Ernest Benn
It's a different cat. More evil. She persuades WaM to tear down a pine smelling weed that has popped up in the lounge room, and it's Christmas Eve...

1982 - What-a-Mess in... (the four seasons)
Published by Ernest Benn in hardcover and Carousel in paperback.what-a-mess

  • Summer: There's a heat wave, and the puppy isn't coping, until he decides to dig a hole down to Australia.
  • Autumn: The slush and rain and slippery leaves are too much for Prince Amir of Kinjan, so he decides to hibernate.
  • Winter: WaM gets caught up in the excitement of the season and concocts a rather huge wish list.
  • Spring: That nasty Cat-Next-Door from 1981 is back with more advice about crawling through thickets and climbing trees.
1983 - What-a-Mess at the Seaside
Published by Ernest Benn
In which our hero travels to the beach and is saved from drowning by the Archbishop of Canterbury... sort of. (Released in the US as "What-a-Mess at the Beach".)

1984 - What-a-Mess Goes to School
hedgehogPublished by A&C Black
WaM is sent to school to learn a few tricks. He's destined to fail, until his friend Cynthia, a hedgehog, turns up.

1986 - What-a-Mess has ...(four square meals)
Published by A&C Black in hardcover and Picture Corgi in paperback

  • Breakfast: The puppy has been left on his own for the day with his food laid out, but he's scoffed the lot and now he's hungry again. He faints near the front fence and scares a passer by ... who drops her basket of food.
  • Lunch: He hasn't eaten for nearly eight minutes and he's starving. The cat-next-door teaches him how to hunt.
  • Tea: The Archbishop of Canterbury calls in but there's no food. No food, that is, until someone brings some home cooking around for the charity sale. (Check out the Back To The Future inspired illustrations by Joe Wright.)
  • Supper: He gives his last bit of saved milk to Cynthia the hedgehog. Luckily, the family is back and they've got a new basket for him. A new basket which smells delicious ...
1989 - What-a-Mess Goes on Television
Published by Walker Books
A quite lengthy adventure, which naturally involves WaM on tv, but only for three and a half minutes. Along the way WaM's mother tells exciting stories about WaM's noble and courageous ancestors.
1990 - What-a-Mess and the Hairy Monster
Published by Doubleday in hardcover and Picture Corgi in paperback.
The final complete adventure, where the friends WaM has met over the years all come together in one volume. United they conquer their fears of the hairy monsters that lurk in dark places.

1990 - What-a-Mess Annual 1991
Published by World International Publishing.

1990 - What-a-Mess Colouring Book
Published by World International Television. Information courtesy Polly Muir who, despite having several grandchildren, has an incredibly rare uncoloured-in copy!

What-a-Mess Animated TV Series
There was an American and British cartoon series of What-a-Mess. The British version stuck pretty much to the original feel of the books, based on Joseph Wright's illustrations and was narrated by Frank Muir. However, the American version apparently featured a karate chopping side kick (urrrgh) and Frank made guest appearances as an Old English Sheepdog, so the less said about that the better.

The UK series has a very cute theme song, which includes the lines: "A tangled heap of unpleasantness, good grief, What-a-Mess!"

The British version was produced by Bevanfield Films for Central Independent Television, adapted for television by Tim Forder.
The episodes are as follows...

wam tv pic01 What-A-Mess goes to the Seaside
02 What-A-Mess goes to School
03 Prince What-A-Mess
04 Super What-A-Mess
05 What-A-Mess keeps Cool
06 What-A-Mess and Cynthia the Hedgehog
07 What-A-Mess has a Brainwave
08 What-A-Mess and the Cat-Next-Door
09 What-A-Mess and Little Poppet
10 What-A-Mess goes Camping
11 What-A-Mess The Beautiful
12 What-A-Mess goes to Town
13 What-A-Mess goes to the Vetman

1990 - Frank Muir's What-a-Mess
Published by Ladybird. (Based on the television episodes of the same name.)
These were written by Tim Forder, "based on Frank Muir's original concept and story". Illustrated by Nigel Alexander who also stayed fairly close to the style of Joseph Wright's original illustrations. This series stayed true to the original books. They were sold in supermarkets for around £1.30 and are much shorter adventures than the originals (which makes them perfect for reading in the car because kiddies can finish them before motion sickness sets in). For those with no trivia threshhold, they are known as series 908.

What-A-Mess Goes Camping
What-A-Mess and Little Poppet
What-A-Mess Goes to the Vet
What-A-Mess The Beautiful
What-A-Mess has a Brainwave
What-A-Mess Goes to Town
what-a-mess & doggie

What-a-Mess has also been printed in Japan (Frank's name ends up as something like "Furanke Mueeru") Israel, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa and France, where he is known variously as O-Schreck-lass nach (German) Wat-een-Troep (Dutch) Bollie-Blaps (Afrikaans) and Okeloreurrr! (French).

The Collected Works of Frank Muir

The following is a chronology of Frank's accumulated radio and television works in book form, as well as his 'original' books.

All publishers listed are the 1st, but many have been reprinted in paperback by different publishing houses. Description of Frank's myriad ties are entirely subjective!

1972 - Call My Bluff
by Frank Muir and Patrick Campbell
published by Eyre Methuen.
Based on the popular BBC television game show, the book is set out in a game format, giving the reader the choice of three definitions for words such as gavage, grimthorpe and queach. Cover has Frank wearing a dusky pink bow tie.

1973 - You Can't Have Your Kayak and Heat It
stories from 'My Word!'
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
A compilation of Frank Muir and Denis Norden radio scripts from the My Word! days. My Word was a panel game devised by Edward J Mason and Tony Shryane.

1974 - Upon My Word!
more stories from 'My Word!'
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
Rear cover has a rather pensive looking Denis and an altogether mysterious and somewhat devious looking Frank (chewing the end of his glasses and wearing a black bow tie). Either that or he swallowed the hinge off his specs just as the picture was being taken.

1975 - Christmas Customs and Traditions
by Frank Muir. Research by James Muir. Picture research by Philippa Lewis.
published by Sphere Books. (US version, "Christmas Customs and Traditions Around the World", published in 1977 by Taplinger Publishing Co.)

1976 - The My Word! Stories
From the popular BBC radio programme
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
A combined paperback edition of "You Can't Have Your Kayak and Heat It" and "Upon My Word!" Front cover has caricatures of Denis and Frank (in oversized strawberry pink bow tie). Rear cover has photo of both, Frank in Salmon pink bow tie.

frank pic
1976 - The Frank Muir Book
an Irreverent Companion to Social History
by Frank Muir
published by Faber and Faber.
372 pages complete with index, it has quotes for all occasions. It's a good dipping book that doesn't have to be read in any chronological order. Features a photo of Frank on the front with glam pink bow tie, surrounded by a wallpaper pattern of white bow ties on pink background. (Published in the US as "An Irreverent and Thoroughly Incomplete Social History of Almost Everything".)

1978 - Take My Word For It
more stories from 'My Word!'
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
Yet another compilation of as-yet uncompiled explanations of familiar expressions and phrases. Another caricature by Michael Terry, Frank in peach-pink bow tie. Includes "The workers have nothing, Toulouse, but their jeans".

1978 - Frank Muir Goes Into ...
by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Robson Books.
A compilation of the anecdotes from the BBC Radio 4 series of the same name, which itself was a compile of archive material BBC wanted to cobble together with a different theme each week. The book was a collaborative effort by Frank Muir and Simon Brett. As Frank put it, "he did 90 per cent of the work and I did 10 per cent, (well, he's younger)."
It includes observations on marriage, family, class, food, parties, hobbies and pets. Features a dashing picture of Frank on the cover, complete with lolly pink bow tie.

1979 - The Glums
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Robson Books.
A compilation of the radio and tv scripts, complimented with replica 1950s advertisements and newspaper articles to get you in that quaint, rosy, contented 50s mood - Bile Beans anyone?
Includes classics such as The Job Interview:

ETH: "Now don't take offence, Mr Glum. All I'm saying is, these clothes are going to spoil Ron's chances tomorrow. I mean, just look at them."

MR GLUM: "What's wrong with them? I admit there's a few egg-stains on the lapel ... and a bit of soup on the tie ... and come to that, his pullover ain't exactly lacking in calories either. Though he may not be smart, Eth - you got to admit he's nourishing!"

In a disturbing break with tradition, inside photo of Denis and Frank has Denis in specs with rounder frames and Frank in black bow tie. Well, it is a black and white photo. They are obviously still honing their skills and trademark appearances. (Audio cassette also released.)

1979 - The Second Frank Muir Goes Into...
by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Robson Books.
The menu includes optimism, pessimism, nostalgia, superstition, pride and fear. He saves the best for last - lust. Cover has Frank almost climbing out of the book ... the turned page is obscuring the tie, which must have been cream pink.

1980 - Frank Muir on Children.
From Prodigies to Pests: a Complete Guide
by Frank Muir
published by William Heinemann Ltd.
Inspired by the Yorkshire Television series of the same name, cover photo of Frank (in rose pink tie) with two rug rats (Sally and Jamie perhaps?) Includes anecdotes and yarns from famous scribes. Plus, what anthology on children would be complete without one of Hilaire Belloc's cautionary tales.

frank & dennis pic

1980 - Oh, My Word!
more stories from 'My Word!'
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
Denis is now wearing the square-style frames, but Frank, oh dear, he's wearing a tweedy looking check tie! This is the fourth collection of My Word anecdotes, such as "Beware of sheikhs sharing lifts", and "It's a wee doll wrapped in a mystery inside an enema".

1980 - The Third Frank Muir Goes Into...
by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Robson Books.
Plush pink bow tie in cover photo, the third book goes into books, cinema, tv, radio, poetry and criticism.

1981 - A Treasury of Christmas
Stories, traditions and pastimes of the Christmas festival
by Frank and Jamie Muir.
published by Robson Books. (Original addition published in 1975 by Sphere Books as "Christmas Customs and Traditions".)

1981 - The Fourth Frank Muir Goes Into...
by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Robson Books.

1982 - Book at Bathtime
by Frank Muir
published by William Heinemann Ltd.
Frank's foray into the realm of toilet humour is a volume specially written for, and about, the bathroom. He was apparently inspired after reading a survey that found most people preferred to read in the bathroom instead of a library. Includes gorgeous cartoon of Frank in the bath with fairy floss pink bow tie. (Published in the US as "An Irreverent and Almost Complete Social History of the Bathroom".)

1982 - Frank Muir Presents the Book of Comedy Sketches
edited by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Elm Tree Books / Hamish Hamilton.
An hysterical and historical look at comedy sketches through the years. Includes sketches by Frank and Denis.

1983 - The Complete and Utter My Word! Collection
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
Full transcripts of the BBC radio series. Includes; "Maud, bored and dangerous to gnaw", "Crate irks packed Asians", "Clarity shall cover the multitude of gins", "Dressed in a little brie for Thora T", "The lambs are going ahhh to Oliver Yarrop", "I was dizzy, late and sick of an old Persian" and "Harp's strings hit colonel in the Shuman Test". No pics, but silhouettes of bow ties to indicate which stories were told by Frank, and heavy rimmed glasses for Denis' yarns.

1983 - Chambers Words for Crosswords and Wordgames.
publisher unknown.

1989 - You Have My Word!
A fifth collection of stories
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen.
Includes such cherished epithets as "Oban confectionary's good for the soil", "One's mower into the bridge dear friends, one's mower," and "Muir in Surrey, Den in Ongar". Frank wearing blush pink bow tie.

Oxford Book of Humorous Prose pic1990 - The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose
From William Caxton to PG Wodehouse - A Conducted Tour by Frank Muir
by Frank Muir
published by Oxford.
If you need something heavy to flatten a photo or press flowers, this 1162 page bible, fully cross referenced, will do the trick. Another dipping book, with great moments of literature from the earliest days of print, it allows the reader to become incredibly well read without having to put in the hard yards, because Frank has already done it. Inside back cover pic has Frank in open neck pastel pink shirt with no tie.

1991 - The Complete, Utterly Ultimate My Word! Collection
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
publisher unknown.

1992 - The Pengiun Book of Comedy Sketches
edited by Frank Muir and Simon Brett
published by Pengiun Books.
Revised and updated version of "Frank Muir Presents the Book of Comedy Sketches". Includes sketches by Frank and Denis.

1992 - Frank Muir Retells Goldilocks and the Three Bears
published by Conran Octopus and illustrated by Graham Philpot. (Audio cassette also released, read by Frank Muir.)

Walpole Orange pic1993 - The Walpole Orange
by Frank Muir
published by Bantam Press.
A Whimsical old style romantic novel. His first and only foray into the novel form. In these times of grunge lit and ultra realism, The Walpole Orange stands out as a gorgeous piece of whimsy with a bit of a stab at the gossip industry and its failure to understand the establishment. Well crafted with a neatly dovetailed ending, it satisfies and leaves you with a smile on your face. Features photo on the back of Frank, with baby pink bow tie. (Audio cassette also released, read by Frank Muir.)

1993 - Frank Muir retells Jack and the Beanstalk
published by Conran Octopus and illustrated by Graham Philpot. (Audio cassette also released, read by Frank Muir.)

1993 - Frank Muir retells The Three Little Pigs
published by Conran Octopus and illustrated by Graham Philpot. (No audio cassette was produced for this title.)

Kentish Lad pic1997 - A Kentish Lad
by Frank Muir
published by Bantam Press.
Frank's life, as he remembered it. As he explained to me while he was writing it, there's plenty from the early years because there are not many people left around to argue about the details, but the more recent stuff was 'open to challenge' by others. Instead of sticking with the chronology, he switches half way through the book to a series of anecdotes, which is altogether satisfying and funny. Features great photo of Frank with chrysanthemum and melon pink bow tie. (Audio cassette also released, read by Frank Muir.)

1998 - The Utterly Ultimate My Word! Collection
by Frank Muir and Denis Norden
published by Methuen Plays/Drama. (A re-issue of the 1991 version.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sharing personal memories

What perfect timing. Just today I got a wonderful email from Keith Rainbow - which only goes to reinforce the need to have a blog rather than the website. Much easier to update.

I was just watching one of Frank's few forays as a film actor ("Innocents in Paris", 1953, in a brief scene with Jimmy Edwards) and was prompted to view your delightful site. There are lots of tributes to Frank's literary abilities, but here's a very simple story illustrating what a thoroughly nice man he was too.
I was working in Broadcasting House, London, and happened to pass him and a high-up BBC Producer, walking along a basement corridor. Following the general rule that BBC staff should not bother the celebrities without good reason, I just nodded to them as I approached. As expected, the high-up Producer totally ignored me, but Frank looked my way, flashed that incredible Muir smile, and said hello.
I had never met him before, and as the engineers were usually regarded as "invisible", it really made my day, I can tell you! He was the very essence of the witty English gentleman, and the loss of his talents as a creative and accomplished wordsmith is a very sad loss to British literature and entertainment.
- Keith Rainbow
Keith then added a PS in his next email:

Ordinary staff often encountered "celebrities" while carrying out duties the Beeb, but I recollect that very few were as highly regarded as Frank.

Frank Muir - biography


Frank Herbert Muir was born February 5, 1920 in his Grandmother's pub in Ramsgate. He remembers telling his first joke at age six. His parents made sure he attended a decent school, but at 14 his father died and Frank headed off to work - in a carbon paper factory. He joined the RAF at the outbreak of World War II, but the only thing he shot were photographs. He was sent to Iceland for his training as an air force photographer. It was during those RAF years that he began tinkering with writing scripts and comedy skits. "Merciful memory has obliterated the details," Frank said.
B&W frank pic
His career as a professional writer began in 1945 when he was paid for a script. Inspired, he honed his craft to suit the tastes of audiences (mostly armed services personnel) and made a leap to the BBC, which let just about anybody, especially ex-servicemen, on the air in those days.

In 1947 an insightful BBC figure, Charles Maxwell, took Frank and a man called Denis Norden to lunch to see if they could "knock out a show" together. The two bonded and would go on to write the memorable Take it From Here, My Music, My Word!, Bedtime with Braeden,Whack-O! and The Glums over the next 50 years. He was also a regular on Call My Bluff, where he often competed against Patrick Campbell. His humour was never really based on the "put down" variety, and was instead a gentle punning style that made you laugh and groan. Sometimes you just had to smile at how clever he was.

In 1949 he married Polly McIrvine and they later had two children, Jamie and Sally.

In the late 1970s Frank created the What-a-Mess books for children (but enjoyable on so many levels) which were illustrated by Joseph Wright.

He produced a swag of anthologies, one novel in the mid 1990s and his well received autobiography, A Kentish Lad, which managed to oust books about the recently departed Princess of Wales in the best sellers list. The BBC, which had given Frank his first audiences, originally declined to broadcast sections of A Kentish Lad on Radio 4 because it was "too literary". Nothing could be further from the truth, the book has plenty of pictures!

Frank died soon after the release of A Kentish Lad, in January 1998, but his demise did little to dull the public's thirst for his unique wit. Within a year, the paperback edition of A Kentish Lad sold over 100,000 copies.

If you would like to discover more about Frank, read on. Then head down to your local bookshop and demand they re-stock the Muir section and immerse yourself in nostalgia and laughs.

So why did I start this tribute page?

I knew Frank Muir as the author of the What-a-Mess books, about the fat, scruffy Afghan hound whose real name was Prince Amir of Kinjan. Most know him as the other half of Denis Norden, from the radio days of My Word! and My Music.
Frank & Ebony pic
In the early 1980s my father bought me the What-a-Mess book as a present. He had an asthma attack while he tried to read it to me because he laughed so hard. So, after dad recovered, we wrote to Mr Muir, who was kind enough to write back. Little did he realise what he was getting himself into, because I kept writing to Frank, and he kept writing back. Finally, in Christmas 1994, my husband Stephen and I flew to the UK from Australia and met Frank for a gorgeous lunch at the Groucho Club, in London. He was a tall, healthy avuncular type and we got on like a house on fire. He had given up wearing his bow ties at that stage. Apart from being witty and charming, he paid for lunch.

In October 1997, Frank sent me a copy of his autobiography, A Kentish Lad. On the inscription he wrote: "To Ebony, my very favourite piece of Australia, with simply bucketfuls of love, Frank." The book got rave reviews in all the UK papers, which was a fitting tribute. If you'd like to know more about Frank, then get a copy of his book and enjoy. You probably need somewhere quiet, or you'll draw a few strange looks as you smirk, snigger and snuffle. On the other hand, read it on public transport and share the love.

Lastly I would like to thank the Muir family. In April 1999, Frank's wife Polly opened up his collection for us help make this tribute as comprehensive as possible. It was with deep sorrow that we learned from Sally Muir that Polly died in October, 2004.


Here are some of the anecdotes I have received (some are from years ago). If you would like to share your memories, please add your comments in the section below.

Dear Ebony,
I have always loved Frank's personality and his writings. I also enjoy rereading his anthology of humour, The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose. However, each time the question pops up in my mind: why is Kurt Vonnegut not in that book? He seems to me a most likely candidate for inclusion for all the reasons mentioned on p. xxxiii except (3) regarded as hilarious many years ago but now monumentally unfunny and perhaps (6) if Frank did not like his prose.
Could it be that either this author slipped by him or that he failed to leave a mark on our omnivore?
Yours sincerely,
Paul Mercken
Bunnik, The Netherlands

Good point Paul. Let's ask the comedy fans...who else should have been included in the book, but wasn't? Also, if the book was published today, instead of 1990, who should have made the cut? Ben Elton? Doug Grant and Rob Naylor? Jennifer Saunders? And that's just the UK. What about Bill Bryson or Kathy Lette? Have your say in the comments section. - Ebony
Dear Ebony
I just dropped by your Tribute Page when I was trying to get information about My Word! for an essay I am writing (having failed to find the relevant facts on the BBC site). Not only did I find what I wanted on your site, but I was also so impressed with it that I just wanted to let you know I think it is a worthy tribute to a very funny and obviously very sweet man.
Congratulations on a fine piece of work.
I love the website. Did you know there were several series of Frank Muir Goes Into.... between 1973 and 1979. Usually they were in four or six parts, and the late Alfred Marks was also in all of the shows. Later series were produced by John Dyas (1973/4) and Richard Edis thereafter. The programmes were recorded (usually at lunchtimes!) in the Paris Studio Lower Regent Street London SW1 very near to Piccadilly Circus, before a studio audience, the sound clips from old shows and records played in at the appropriate spot. Incidentally, Take It From Here was also recorded at the Paris, as we called it (it had originally been an underground cinema and was ideal dfor use during wartime), as was later (1977 onwards) recordings of My Word. Hope this might be of interest
Regards, Alan
My name is Adam and I am 12 years old and I have started to read my Mum's book, A Kentish Lad. I think it is great and very interesting. Some of the words are difficult to understand but my Mum explains them to me. I can't wait to read more.
Dear Ebony

Thank you for such a lovely tribute to Frank Muir. I grew up in England knowing his work well and loving him to bits for his good natured, well bred bumbling style. I used to adore watching him on Call My Bluff and could never see the twists coming in his challenge to fit a story to a line - my favourite was "More in Surrey than in Ongar".

I live in France and my only link with the UK, apart from lots of internet friends, is the BBC and I never miss one of Frank's broadcasts, even if it is a repeat that I have heard many times before.

You must have loved him very much and I am so pleased that you could share that special relationship you had with me.

Blessings to you - Ailsa

Just visited your site!
It was great and a truly fitting tribute to a great man. Some great stuff I hadn't seen before!
Ben Hyde
Frank's great nephew (Grandson of Frank's brother Chaz)

Thanks for your tribute site - I used it to settle a question (from a friend) about who was Frank's first opposing captain in Call My Bluff - Patrick Campbell !
I'm 34 now, but remember fondly of looking forward to the programme as a child and being very intrigued by this true English gentleman with a great moustache and that pink bow tie !
They threw away the mould .....
Best Regards
Unlike some other fortunate people here, I did not meet Mr Muir in person. He really did have a gift, one that he used very generously. I think that the first joke I ever told anyone was stolen from My Word - about a man heating a kayak, no less. I became quite popular at my primary school, being asked to tell and retell the complex tale.
I have just been loaned a copy of 'A Kentish Lad', and I am looking forward to reading it. I hope it doesn't include a the heated kayak story - I'd feel guilty on behalf of my younger self for no doubt mangling the best bits of the yarn. I have listened to My Word for years and I was very sorry to hear of Mr Muir's death. However, he continues to entertain and delight through his books and the radio shows - he might have said that it's a case of 'The Ghost of Mr Muir".

Tim Simpson
Adelaide, Australia

I have always had a great affection for good old fashioned English humour and Frank is up there with just a handfull of the best. Frank's way with words and his unique way of turning a simple situation into the most amusing and witty observations you could imagine, will be very sadly missed but not forgotten.

Mark Weston
Devon, UK

marvelous site, congrats. It's nice to know there are other Frank Muir afficionadoes out there. Like Jo Lemass (see below) I to listen to "My Word" on radio national at 5:30 on Thursdays. I do my listening in the cab I drive and its amazing the number of people who get in and recognise the voice and just sit quietly, enjoying someone they haven't heard in years.

Christopher Basten, taxi driver,
Sydney, Australia.

(PS I am looking forward to after the olympics)

Hi Ebony,
I met Frank a couple of times when he was running to be Rector of St. Andrews University in Scotland. I was a student there and campaigned for him, even though the competition, in the form of Graeme Garden (from The Goodies), was pretty worthwhile too. (The result) was very close. Closer than any other race. Frank followed such notables as John Cleese and Alan Coren in the job, and probably did a better job than any of them. In particular, I remember he was a frequent visitor, sometimes with actor friends in tow to put on a performance.

I met him when he went for tea at a girls' hall of residence. He was very polite and gracious, as you would expect and charmed all the young ladies present.

I also have a signed copy of an anthology he edited, "The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose." My mother got him to sign it in Edinburgh and sent it to me here in North Carolina. It says: "To Gavin, Frank Muir. P.S. Keep the English sense of humour going, please!" I have forgiven him the "English" part.

Best Regards,

Gavin Sinclair,
North Carolina, USA

Dear Ebony,

Every morning I walk with my black labrador, but on Thursdays I have the great pleasure of walking and listening to My Word. I walk in local cemetery which is very up hill and down dale (and good for the thighs) and think I must look such a sight laughing so much that tears rolling down my face - what a wonderful way to start the day!

Cheers, Jo Lemass
Queensland, Australia

Dear Ebony,

I like your site - you've put it together very well, and it does the great man credit!

I've been a Muir fan for years, and heard most of his My Word! and My Music broadcasts the first time round. I met him once, if you can call popping into an Oxford St bookshop and finding Muir anddenis & frank Norden, signing books, a meeting! They weren't particularly busy, and I was stony broke, so the opportunity of buying a signed copy of You Can't Have Your Kayak and Heat It passed me by! I pointed out that I already had both their My Word!books, so Frank suggested that I slip my copies across the table and they would sign them anyway!

John Welford
Leicestershire, England

Dear Ebony,

I thought I would drop you a line and tell you how wonderful I think your tribute to Frank is.

I worked for Sally, Frank and Polly's daughter for a few years and had the greatest fortune of meeting Frank and Polly. He was a great man in all sorts of ways and we miss him dearly. Unbelievably, it is almost a year since he died, hence the net search for information on him because he's in my thoughts at this time of year. I'm sure he would have been thrilled at this tribute, in his normal modest manner.

What amazed me at the time of his death was that everyone, and I mean everyone, had at least one funny story to tell concerning Frank. I think this more than anything is the greatest tribute to a man who strived to make people laugh.

For me, it was his abiding interest in gadgets of all shapes and sizes, and his eagerness to demonstrate them that made me laugh. I was given the most professional demonstration of a gadget that could peel and core apples all at the same time. He was the gadgets biggest salesman, and I'm sure had the company that made them been aware of his undying enthusiasm for their contraption, they would have been extremely flattered, if a little bewildered ... Frank's memory lives on, especially on the best gadget of all - the internet.

Best wishes,
Nicole Lloyd-foxe
Bath, England

What the heck, I created this website, I can put in my own anecdote. The following is from a letter Frank sent to me, dated 19 July 1996. Apart from his usual salutations and snippets of news, it included this:

"... Do you mind odd children's jokes about rabbits? Polly and I had our 47th wedding anniversary yesterday and our driver told us of a rabbit who walked into the butchers shop and said, "Can I have a lettuce?"
The butcher said, "Not here mate. Go across the road to the greengrocers, he'll give you one." Which the rabbit did.
But next morning he was back at the butchers, "can I have a lettuce?"
"No," said the butcher, "I told you, go across the road and ask the greengrocer." This went on all week. On Friday the butcher, fed up with the rabbit, said. "If you come in here again asking for a lettuce I'll nail your ears to my chopping block!"
The next morning the rabbit came in as usual. "Got any nails?" he asked.
"Course I haven't!" said the butcher, "This is a butchers shop!"
"Can I have a lettuce?" asked the rabbit."

Ebony McKenna
Melbourne, Australia

Dear Ebony,

I thought of another 'Frank memory' after my last e-mail, and it illustrates Frank's modesty quite well.

When A Kentish Lad was still in draft form, I was very privileged to have a chance to read it. I read it in one go, unable to put it down, and immediately wrote him a letter glowing with praise. I told him how often I had laughed out loud, and at what bits, and said that for a dour person like myself the only other writer that had that effect on me was Bill Bryson, (a humorist of great skill for sure, but nowhere near as clever as Frank). The next time we met he thanked me for my 'kind' letter, saying it would probably be the first and last of it's kind. He also thanked me for 'the great compliment of comparing me to Bill Bryson. He's someone I have striven to write like all my life'.

How unbelievable is that? And how do you think Mr Bryson would feel if he knew? I think he would be flattered beyond belief.

I'm just so glad he's being honoured on your web page, (which is, by the way, a very good web site - I lived in Melbourne myself for a couple of years and it's always nice to see pictures of my old home town!).

Best wishes,
Nicole Lloyd-foxe
Bath, England

Share what you're reading

This looks interesting - it's called Library Thing and it's a place where readers can come together and share their love of reading. 850,000 members and growing!

You can create book clubs to talk about authors and book series.

I could get totally lost there!

Welcome to the new Frank Muir memorial blog

To all people called Frank Muir, who are currently alive, may I extend my sincere apologies for giving you a big fright. You are still alive and well. I hope. However, you share a name with a famous dead bloke. Who happened to be dead funny and clever.

Frank Herbert Muir was born February 5, 1920 and died January 2, 1998.

You can read the details here on the Wikipedia page.

I created the Frank Muir Tribute Page many years ago - around 1999 in fact - as a way of paying respects to a wonderful gentleman who brought laughter to millions. Frank and his partner in comedy, Denis Norden, were responsible for such brilliance as the My Word! and My Music radio programs on BBC. (Or as the Brits spell it, programmes)

In the coming months I will be doing some nifty cutting and pasting from the tribute onto this blog. That way, the fans can come together on this blog and share their stories without me having to update the website each time. A website that has been sadly neglected* because I've been selfishly following a writing career.

I'm sure Frank would understand.

*last updated circa 2002?