Bill Oddie

Bill Oddie

Infobox Person
name = Bill Oddie

caption = A display featuring a Bill Oddie cut out
image_size =
other_names = William Edgar Oddie
birth_date = Birth date and age|1941|07|7|df=yes
birth_place = Rochdale, Lancashire, England
known_for = "The Goodies", Ornithology
occupation = Actor, writer, composer, musician, comedian, artist, ornithologist, conservationist, television presenter
yearsactive = 1960s-present
spouse = Jean Hart (divorced)
Laura Beaumont
children = 3 daughters — Bonnie,
Kate Hardie and Rosie

William Edgar Oddie, OBE (born 7 July 1941) is an English actor, writer, comedian, natural history presenter and musician. He became famous as one of the "The Goodies".

A birdwatcher since his childhood in Birmingham, Oddie has now established a reputation for himself as an ornithologist, conservationist and television presenter on wildlife issues. Some of his books are illustrated with his own paintings and drawings.

Oddie's wildlife programmes for the BBC include: "Springwatch" / "Autumnwatch", "How to Watch Wildlife", "Wild In Your Garden", "Birding with Bill Oddie", "Britain Goes Wild with Bill Oddie" and "Bill Oddie Goes Wild".



After attending Halesowen Grammar School (now The Earls High School, Halesowen) then King Edward's School, Birmingham, Oddie studied English Literature at Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, where he appeared in several Cambridge University Footlights Club productions. One of these, a revue called "A Clump of Plinths", was so successful during its run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that it was renamed "Cambridge Circus" and transferred to the West End in London, then New Zealand and Broadway in September 1964. Meanwhile, still at Cambridge, Oddie wrote scripts for TV's "That Was The Week That Was".

His first television appearance was in Bernard Braden's "On The Braden Beat" in 1964. Subsequently, he was a key member of the performers in the cult BBC radio series "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again" (ISIRTA; 1965), where many of his musical compositions were featured. Some were released on the album "Distinctly Oddie" (Polydor, 1967). He was possibly one of the first performers to parody a rock song, arranging the traditional Yorkshire folk song "On Ilkla Moor Baht'at" in the style of Joe Cocker's hit rendition of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" (released on John Peel's Dandelion Records in 1970 and featured in Peel's special box of most-treasured singles), and singing "Andy Pandy" in the style of a brassy soul number such as Wilson Pickett or Geno Washington might perform. In many shows he would do short impressions of Hughie Green.

In one song on "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again", Oddie performed "What a Wonderful World" with a voice fully reminiscent of Louis Armstrong. During the course of the song, the rest of the cast attributed the gravelly quality of his voice to a sore throat. In the background, during the rest of the song, it is possible to hear the cast dispense cough medicine, then call for a doctor, the arrival of the doctor and his decision that Oddie should go into hospital, the trip to hospital in an ambulance, and the operation extracting his tonsils. After this, the sound of his voice changed to a sound closer to that of Harry Secombe. He thanked the cast for curing him.

On television Oddie was co-writer and performer in the comedy series "Twice a Fortnight" with Graeme Garden, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Jonathan Lynn. Later, he was co-writer and performer in the comedy series "Broaden Your Mind" with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden, for which Oddie became a cast member for the second series.

Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden then co-wrote and appeared in their television comedy series "The Goodies". With long hair and a poster of Che Guevara in his corner, Bill portrayed the rebel, to Brooke-Taylor's patriotic conservative and Garden's boffin. The Goodies also released records, including "Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me"/"The In-Betweenies", "Funky Gibbon", and "Black Pudding Bertha", which were hit singles in 1974/5. They reformed, briefly, in 2005, for a successful 13-date tour of Australia. Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden also voiced characters on the 1983 animated children's programme "Bananaman", in which Oddie voiced the characters of "Crow", "Chief O'Reilly", "Doctor Gloom", "Eric" and "The Weatherman".

In the Amnesty International show "A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick)", Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden sang their hit song "Funky Gibbon". The trio also appeared on "Top of the Pops" with the song. Together with Garden (who is a qualified doctor), Oddie co-wrote many episodes of the television comedy series "Doctor in the House", including most of the first season and all of the second season. He has occasionally appeared on the BBC Radio 4 panel game "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", on which Garden and Brooke-Taylor are regular panellists. In 1982 Garden and Oddie wrote, but did not perform in, a 6-part science fiction sitcom called "Astronauts" for Central and ITV. The show was set in an international space station in the near future

Natural history

Oddie has hosted a number of very successful nature programmes for the BBC, many produced by Stephen Moss, including:

*"The Great Kenyan Bird Safari"
*"Favourite Walks"
*"Wild Weekends"
*"The Bird Business"
*"Flight to Eilat"
*"The Big Bird Race"
*"Oddie in Paradise" (1993)
*"Bird in the Nest" (two series)
*"Birding with Bill Oddie" (three series, 1997, 1998 and 2000)
*"Bill Oddie Goes Wild" (three series, 2001, 2002 and 2003)
*"Wild In Your Garden" (2003)
*"Britain Goes Wild" (2004)
*"Bill Oddie's How to Watch Wildlife" (two series, 2005 and 2006; also on DVD)
*"Seven Natural Wonders" (London edition) (2005)
*"The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs" (2005; also on DVD)
*"Springwatch" (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) and "Autumnwatch" (2006 and 2007)
*"Bill Oddie In Tiger Country"
*"Bill Oddie Back in the USA"
*"Bill Oddie's Top Ten Birds" (2007, BBC4)
*"Bill Oddie's Wild Side" (2008)
*"100 years of wildlife films

On its first evening of broadcast, "Britain Goes Wild" set a record for its timeslot of 8pm on BBC Two of 3.4 million viewers, one million more than the Channel 4 programme showing at that time. It also created a run on nest boxes for and bumble bees, bird baths and bird feed from suppliers. "Britain Goes Wild", soon renamed "Springwatch", became a wildlife broadcasting phenomenon, with viewers at some times shooting up to 5 million.


He played the drums and saxophone and appeared as Cousin Kevin in a production of The Who's rock opera Tommy at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London on 9 December 1972. He has also contributed vocals to a Rick Wakeman album, "Criminal Record".

Oddie took part in the English National Opera production of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera "The Mikado", in which he appeared in the role of the "Lord High Executioner", taking over the role from Eric Idle. During the early 1990s, Oddie was a DJ for London based jazz radio station, 102.2 Jazz FM, but was dismissed after criticising the management on air after they told him he was playing too much jazz on his show. [ [ PeopleSpeak ] ]

In 2007 Oddie appeared on the BBC series "Play It Again". [cite web | url = | title = Play It Again: Bill Oddie grapples with the electric guitar | publisher = BBC ] In the episode he attempts to realise his dream of becoming a rock guitarist. Initially teacher Bridget Mermikides tries to teach him using traditional methods but he rebels: instead he turns to old friends Albert Lee, Dave Davies (The Kinks) and Mark Knopfler for advice and strikes out on his own. He succeeds in the target of playing lead guitar for his daughter Rosie's band at her 21st birthday party, and even manages to impress his erstwhile teacher.

Other television and audio appearances

Oddie appeared as the hapless window cleaner in the Eric Sykes' comedy story "The Plank" in 1967.

He also presented the live children's Saturday morning entertainment show Saturday Banana (ITV/Southern Television) during the late 1970's.

In the late 1980s he was a presenter of the BBC TV show Fax (A show about 'facts').

In the 1990s he became better known as a presenter of birdwatching, and later wildlife related programmes such as "Springwatch". Although he remains almost unknown to US audiences, in 1992 he was a guest star in the US comedy television series "Married with Children" for a 3-part episode set in England. [ [ "Married...With Children."] — BBC Guide to Comedy (Retrieved on: 30 July 2007)]

He was the compère of a daytime BBC gameshow, "History Hunt" (in 2003); and has appeared in the "Doctor Who" audio drama "Doctor Who and the Pirates". In 2004, he appeared in the BBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?", in which he looked into his ancestry. In 2005, he took part in "Rolf on Art" — the big event at Trafalgar Square.

In the fictional world of comedy character Alan Partridge, Oddie is an unseen presence in Alan's life.

In 2006 Oddie appeared in the BBC show "Never Mind The Buzzcocks". [ [ Jupitus comments on Oddie's appearance on "Never Mind The Buzzcocks"] ] and also appeared on the topical quiz show "8 out of 10 Cats". Bill also is the voice behind many "B&Q" adverts throughout 2006/2007. On 25 May 2007, Oddie made a cameo appearance on Ronni Ancona's new comedy sketch show, "Ronni Ancona & Co".

He hosted the genealogy based series "My Famous Family", broadcast on UKTV History in 2007.

In 2008, Oddie was a guest on Jamie Oliver's television special "Jamie's Fowl Dinners", talking about free-range chickens.

Conservation and birdwatching

Oddie's first published work was an article about the bird life of Birmingham's Bartley Reservoir in the West Midland Bird Club's 1962 Annual Report. [ Bartley Reservoir article from West Midland Bird Club's archive] ] He has since written a number of books about birds and bird watching, as well as articles for many specialist publications including "British Birds", "Birdwatching Magazine" and Birdwatch. He became president of the West Midland Bird Club in 1999, having been Vice-President since 1991, and is a former member of the council of the RSPB. Oddie is also a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports.

In "serious" ornithological writing, Oddie's name is usually given formally, as "W. E. Oddie".

Personal life

Early life

Oddie was born in Rochdale on 7 July 1941 to Lilian and Harry, who also had a daughter, Margaret Jean Oddie, but she died when 5 days old on 21 January 1940. Oddie lived at Oak Tree Crescent, Quinton, Birmingham from about age 6 to 15, brought up by his father, Harry, and his father's mother, Emily. Oddie has no memory of his mother, Lilian, living at home. As a child she worked in a cotton mill under harsh conditions. She suffered from a chronic mental illness, perhaps manic depression or schizophrenia, and abandoned Oddie at an early age. She a was a long-term inpatient in Barnsley Hall Hospital, Bromsgrove, for more than 20 years, having been first admitted as a voluntary patient at the age of 36 years. When Harry was 17 years old his father, Wilkinson Oddie, died of heart failure on 23 February 1927, a post-operative death, after an operation for carcinoma of the left tonsil, which used chloroform as an anaesthetic. Oddie developed a hobby in bird spotting, and his father encouraged school education.cite episode |title=Who Do You Think You Are? with Bill Oddie |url=
series=Who Do You Think You Are? | serieslink=Who Do You Think You Are? |network=BBC |station=BBC Two |airdate=2004-10-12


Oddie is married to Laura Beaumont, with whom he has worked on a variety of projects for children, including film scripts, drama and comedy series, puppet shows and books. They have a daughter, Rosie, and live in Hampstead, London.

Bill Oddie also has two daughters from his first marriage (to Jean Hart), Bonnie, and the actress Kate Hardie, and a grandson, Lyle.


Oddie is known throughout the industry for his mood swings and often truculent behaviour, which contrasts sharply with his 'loveable' public image. He himself has often acknowledged that he has been a life-long sufferer of clinical depression. [ [,,1885499,00.html 'I couldn't move. I was catatonic' | | Arts ] ]


In 2001, Oddie became the third person to turn down the "red book" and declined to appear on This Is Your Life. He changed his mind a few hours later though and agreed to appear on the show. On 16 October 2003, Oddie was made an OBE for his service to Wildlife Conservation in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. He played down the event, choosing to wear a camouflage shirt and crumpled jacket to receive his medal. In June 2004, Oddie and Johnny Morris were jointly profiled in the first of a three part BBC Two series, "The Way We Went Wild", about television wildlife presenters. In May 2005, he received the British Naturalists' Association's Peter Scott Memorial Award, from BNA president David Bellamy, "in recognition of his great contribution to our understanding of natural history and conservation". [ [ Bill Oddie to receive Peter Scott Memorial Award] ]


(incomplete list)
*"Bill Oddie's Colouring Guide to Birds" (Piccolo, 1991)
*"Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book"
*"Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book" (paperback with additional material)
*"Bill Oddie's Gone Birding"
*"The Big Bird Race" (with David Tomlinson; Collins, 1983)
*"Follow That Bird!"
*"Gripping Yarns"
*"Bird in the Nest"
*"Bill Oddie's How to Watch Wildlife"
*"One Flew into the Cuckoos Egg" (Autobiography)Bill Oddie also co-wrote the Springwatch & Autumnwatch book with Kate Humble and Simon King.

Co-written with the other members of The Goodies:
*"The Goodies File"
*"The Goodies Book of Criminal Records"
*"The Goodies Disaster Movie"

Co-written with Laura Beaumont:
*"The Toilet Book (or 11 & 1/2 minutes a day and how not to waste them)" (Methuen, 1984, ISBN 9780413569103)


*"Bird in the Yorkshire Museum", Michael Denton; North Yorkshire County Council, 1995. ISBN 0 905807 10 3 (foreword)
*"Bird Brain of Britain", Charles Gallimore & Tim Appleton; Christopher Helm, 2004. ISBN 0-7136-7036-3 (foreword)
*"Blokes and Birds", Stephen Moss; New Holland Publishers. ISBN 1-84330-484-8 (foreword)
*"The New Birds of the West Midlands", Graham and Janet Harrison ( [] ; West Midland Bird Club, 2005) (foreword)



*cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | year = 1980 | title = From Fringe to Flying Circus — Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960-1980 | publisher = Eyre Methuen | location = London | id = ISBN 0-413-46950-6
*cite book | last = Hewison | first = Robert | authorlink = Robert Hewison | year = 1983 | title = Footlights! — A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy | publisher = Methuen | location = London | id = ISBN 0-413-51150-2

External links

* [ Bill Oddie's family history at the BBC website for the programme "Who Do You Think You Are?"]
* [ Bill Oddie Goes Wild] — on BBC's Science and Nature website
*imdb name|id=0643919|name=Bill Oddie
* [ In-depth interview, The Telegraph, 28 April 2005]
* [ Gigrin Farm chapter from Gripping Yarns]
* [ Oddie on UKTV]

NAME= Oddie, Bill
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Actor, writer, composer, musician, comedian, ornithologist, conservationist, television presenter
DATE OF BIRTH= 7 July 1941
PLACE OF BIRTH= Rochdale, Lancashire, England

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