Bob Holness

Bob Holness

Holness in 1989
Born Robert Wentworth John Holness
(1928-11-12)12 November 1928
Vryheid, Natal, South Africa
Died 6 January 2012(2012-01-06) (aged 83)
Pinner, Middlesex, England[1]
Cause of death Vascular dementia
Nationality British
Education Ashford Grammar School
Alma mater Maidstone College of Art
Occupation Television and radio presenter
Years active 1955-2006
Home town Ashford, Kent, UK
Television Take a Letter,
Raise the Roof,
Call My Bluff
Spouse(s) Mary Rose Clifford (1955-2012; his death)
Children Ros

Robert Wentworth John "Bob" Holness (12 November 1928 – 6 January 2012) was an English radio and television presenter and occasional actor. He is best remembered as the presenter of the British version of Blockbusters.

Early life

Holness was born in Vryheid, Natal, South Africa.[2] When he was seven,[3] his family moved to the UK, initially to Herne Bay, Kent where his grandfather Nathaniel was brought up, then later to Ashford, Kent. After attending Ashford Grammar School (now The Norton Knatchbull 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. In 1955, he received his first job as a radio presenter. He married Mary Rose Clifford in 1955, whom he met in South Africa.

In 1956 he became the very first actor to portray James Bond in a radio production of Moonraker.[2][3][5] The couple returned to the UK in 1961. His daughter, Ros, was a member of the band Toto Coelo.

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

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 career

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.

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]

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

Personal life, illness and death

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, and began to use a hearing aid in 2003.[13] He was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2005.[14]

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 House nursing home.[15]

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 also


  1. "Obituary: Bob Holness, unflappable and always dapper host of student daytime quiz favourite Blockbusters". 9 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 Dennis Barker (6 January 2012). "Bob Holness obituary". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Bob Holness". London, UK: Telegraph. 6 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  4. Obituary, The Times p. 78; 7 January 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 "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 0-09-189115-9.
  10. "BBC News - Why do we think Bob Holness was the Baker Street saxophonist?". 5 January 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  11. Tarley, Rachel (6 Jan 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. Petty, Moira (22 February 2007). "Bob Holness had ninety mini strokes and then he was hit by the big one". London, UK: Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  14. "BBC News - Obituary: Bob Holness". 6 January 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  15. daughter Ros. "Bob Holness dies peacefully aged 83". Retrieved 13 June 2012.

External links

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