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Bill Oddie

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Title: Bill Oddie  
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Subject: Doctor in the House (TV series), Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, The Goodies
Collection: 1941 Births, Alumni of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Birdwatchers, British Bird Artists, British Ornithologists, Comedians from Birmingham, West Midlands, English Autobiographers, English Comedy Writers, English Illustrators, English Male Comedians, English Male Radio Actors, English Male Television Actors, English Male Voice Actors, English Naturalists, English Nature Writers, English Radio Writers, English Television Composers, English Television Presenters, English Television Writers, Gilbert and Sullivan Performers, Living People, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People Educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, People from Rochdale, People with Bipolar Disorder, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds People, Writers from Birmingham, West Midlands, Writers Who Illustrated Their Own Writing
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bill Oddie

William Edgar "Bill" Oddie OBE[1] (born 7 July 1941) is an English writer, composer, musician, comedian, artist, ornithologist, conservationist and television presenter. He became famous as one of The Goodies.

A birdwatcher since his childhood in Quinton, Birmingham,[2] Oddie has established a reputation as an ornithologist, conservationist, and television presenter on wildlife issues. Some of his books are illustrated with his own paintings and drawings.[3] His 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.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Comedy 2.1
    • Natural history 2.2
    • Music 2.3
    • Other television and audio appearances 2.4
    • 2013 Australian tour 2.5
  • Personal life 3
    • Family 3.1
    • Depression and bipolar disorder 3.2
    • Political views 3.3
  • Honours 4
  • Bibliography 5
    • Contributions 5.1
  • Discography 6
    • Albums 6.1
    • Singles 6.2
  • In popular culture 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Oddie's father was assistant chief accountant at the Midlands Electricity Board.[4] His mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and during most of his youth lived in a hospital.[5] He was educated at Lapal Primary School, Halesowen Grammar School (now The Earls High School, Halesowen) and King Edward's School, Birmingham, an all-boys independent school, where he captained the school's rugby union team.[6] He then studied English Literature at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.



Whilst at Cambridge University Oddie appeared in several Footlights Club productions. One of these, a revue called A Clump of Plinths, was so successful at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 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 and appeared briefly in TV's That Was The Week That Was.[7]

He appeared in Bernard Braden's television series On The Braden Beat in 1964. Subsequently, he was a key member of the performers in the 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 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.

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. 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 1974–75. They reformed, briefly, in 2005, for a successful 13-date tour of Australia.

Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden voiced characters on the 1983 animated children's programme Bananaman.[8][9][10]

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". They 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.[11]

Natural history

Oddie's first published work was an article about the birdlife of Birmingham's Bartley Reservoir in the West Midland Bird Club's 1962 Annual Report[12] (he is first credited in the 1956 report, in which reports of his bird observations are tagged with his initials "WEO"[13][14]). He has since written a number of books about birds and birdwatching, as well as articles for many specialist publications including British Birds, Birdwatching Magazine and Birdwatch.

He discussed bird song recordings with Derek Jones in an August 1973 BBC Radio 4 programme called Sounds Natural.[15]

In the autumn of 1976 Oddie was involved in the successful identification of Britain's first ever record of Pallas's Reed Bunting on Fair Isle, Shetland.[16]

One of Oddie's first forays in the world of television natural history was as a guest on Animal Magic in December 1977.[17] Another early natural history radio appearance was in October, as the guest on Radio 4's Through My Window, discussing the birds of Hampstead Heath.[18]

In 30 July 1985, he was the subject of a 50-minute Nature Watch Special: Bill Oddie – Bird Watcher, in which he was interviewed by Julian Pettifer[19] at places where he had spent time birding, including Bartley Reservoir, the Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve at Upton Warren, RSPB Titchwell Marsh and Blakeney Point.[13]

Oddie has since hosted a number of successful nature programmes for the BBC, many produced by Stephen Moss, including:[20]

On its first evening of broadcast in 2004, Britain Goes Wild set a record for its timeslot of 8 pm on BBC Two of 3.4 million viewers, one million more than the Channel 4 programme showing at that time. Britain Goes Wild, renamed Springwatch the following year, became a wildlife broadcasting phenomenon, attracting up to 5 million viewers.

He became president of the West Midland Bird Club in 1999,[21] having been Vice-President since 1991,[21] and is a former member of the council of the RSPB. Oddie is also a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports[22] and a vice-president of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.[23] He practised as a bird ringer, but allowed his licence to lapse.[13]

In 2003 Oddie set up a half-marathon to raise money for various wildlife charities in his birth-town of Rochdale.[24] Celebrities who have participated in the event include Ray Mears, Catherine Jenkins and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

In 2011, Oddie featured as an investigator in Snares Uncovered: killers in the countryside.[25] The film carried out an expose of snaring in Scotland and was commissioned by animal protection charity OneKind. During the investigation, Oddie discovered over 70 snare traps and several stink pits.


Oddie wrote original music at Cambridge University for the Footlights and later wrote comic songs for I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again. He also wrote a number of comic songs for The Goodies, most of them performed by Oddie.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Oddie released a number of singles and at least one album. One of the former, issued in 1970 on John Peel's Dandelion Records label (Catalogue No: 4786), was On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at,[26] performed in the style of Joe Cocker's With a Little Help from my Friends. The B-side, Harry Krishna, featured the Hare Krishna chant, substituting the names of contemporary famous people called Harry, including Harry Secombe, Harry Worth, Harry Lauder, and Harry Corbett, as well as puns such as "Harry [Hurry] along now", "Harrystotle [Aristotle]" and ending with "Harry-ly [I really] must go now". Both tracks appear on the compilation CD Life Too, Has Surface Noise: The Complete Dandelion Records Singles Collection 1969–1972 (2007).

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.

In 2007 Oddie appeared on the BBC series Play It Again.[27] 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 (of 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.

In November 2010, he agreed, along with fellow members of The Goodies, to re-release their 1970s hit The Funky Gibbon to raise funds for the International Primate Protection League's Save the Gibbon appeal.

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 1970s. In the late 1980s he was a presenter of the BBC TV show Fax (a show about 'facts').

In 1981 he appeared as a Telethon celebrity in New Zealand, hosted by TV1.[28] He voices Asterix in the UK dub of the 1989 animated film Asterix and the Big Fight (an animated adaptation of the books Asterix and the Big Fight and Asterix and the Soothsayer, novelized as Operation Getafix).

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.[29]

In 1997–98 he appeared on the Channel 4 archaeological programme Time Team, as the team excavated a Roman villa site in Turkdean, Gloucestershire.

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 – he was visibly moved by its revelations. In 2005, he took part in Rolf on Art – the big event at Trafalgar Square and in September that year was also a celebrity guest along with Lynda Bellingham on the ITV1 programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

In 2006 Oddie appeared in the BBC show Never Mind The Buzzcocks,[30] and also appeared on the topical quiz show 8 out of 10 Cats. He was also 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. He also recorded a voice for Lionhead Studios' Fable II.

He also appeared on Would I Lie To You? in 2011 where he revealed that he was saved from drowning by Freddy from popular children's series Rainbow and Rod, Jane and Freddy while on holiday in the Seychelles.

Bill Oddie performing live at the Astor Theatre in Perth, Western Australia, 27 June 2013.

In February 2015, Oddie appeared in The Keith Lemon Sketch Show as the narrator of the sketch Ed Sheeran Watch.

He appeared as a contestant on a celebrity edition of Fifteen to One in August 2015.

2013 Australian tour

Oddie undertook an Australian tour during June 2013 in all of the mainland states capital cities – Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth – in a series of one-off shows, "An Oldie but a Goodie". A video message from Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden was shown during the performances.[31] Oddie made personal appearances on both The Project and Adam Hills Tonight TV shows during the tour.

Personal life


In 1967 Oddie married Jean Hart,[32][33] and from this marriage he has two daughters, Bonnie Oddie and Kate Hardie, an actress, as well as three grandchildren, Lyle, Ella, and Gracie.

In 1983 he married Laura Beaumont-Giles,[34] 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, born in October 1985,[35][36] and live in Hampstead, North London. Rosie Oddie is a musician, also using the name Rosie Bones.[37]

Depression and bipolar disorder

Oddie has suffered from depression for most of his life and was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2001.[38] On 11 March 2009 it was reported that he had been admitted to Capio Nightingale psychiatric hospital in Marylebone, to deal with his depression. His then agent David Foster said: "Bill gets these bouts every two or three years where he gets down for about two weeks and recovers. He sometimes goes into hospital or takes a break or has a change of scenery to recharge his batteries."[39] In January 2010 Oddie spoke to the media, revealing that he had in fact had two separate stays in different hospitals, only being discharged "in time for Christmas". He said that he was dealing with depression and bipolar disorder, describing the period as "probably the worst 12 months of my life". Oddie stated that he was planning to meet with BBC executives to discuss his return to television work.[40][41]

His illness meant that Oddie did not appear in the 2009 and 2010 series of Springwatch, although he made a guest appearance in the penultimate episode of the latter. He subsequently claimed he was dismissed from Springwatch and that this had caused the depressive illness.

Oddie presented the charity Bipolar UK. He revealed that as a consequence of his bipolar disorder he had attempted suicide during one of his depressive episodes.[42] On the UK TV program Who Do You Think You Are? he attributed his depression and bipolar disorder as an adult to his minimal and painful relationship with his mother.

Political views

Oddie supports the Green Party.[43] In October 2014, on the BBC's Sunday Morning Live, he stated that he wanted a limit on the number of children that British families can have, saying that he was "very often ashamed" to be British, whom he called "a terrible race".[44][45]


In 2001, Oddie became the third person to decline to appear on This Is Your Life. He changed his mind a few hours later 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."[46][47] He is a recipient of the RSPB Medal.[48]

On 30 June 2009, he was proposed for inclusion in the Birmingham Walk of Stars, with the public invited to vote.[49]


(incomplete list)

  • Bill Oddie Unplucked: Columns, Blogs and Musings ISBN 9781472915313 (Bloomsbury, 2015)
  • Bill Oddie's Introduction to Birdwatching (Subbuteo Books, 2002)
  • 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 978-0-413-56910-3)




Year Title Label Cat No.
1967 Distinctly Oddie Polydor 582 007


Year A-side B-side Label Cat. No.
1964 Nothing Better To Do Traffic Island Parlophone R 5153
1965 The Knitting Song Ain't Got Rhythm R 5346
1966 I Can't Get Through Because She Is My Love R 5433
1969 Jimmy Young Irish Get Out Decca F 12903
1970 On Ilkla Moor Baht'at Harry Krishna Dandelion
S EPC 3793

In popular culture

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

He has also been referenced, often humorously, by the hosts of Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson even used a mask with Oddie's face to escape speed cameras while racing the Nissan GT-R against the Bullet train in Japan in Episode 4 of Top Gear's 11th series. James May also raced in Finland against an Oddie lookalike who won the race.


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56963. p. 12. 14 June 2003.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Interview Sunday Times Money p14, 29 March 2015
  5. ^ The One Show, 13 February 2012
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Astronauts at the British Comedy Guide
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^
  15. ^ Radio Times entry for
  16. ^
  17. ^ Radio Times entry for
  18. ^ Radio Times entry for
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^ BTCV - Who we are
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Married...With Children." – BBC Guide to Comedy (Retrieved on: 30 July 2007)
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Hampstead marriage register 1967 Oct–-Dec vol. 5b p1372
  33. ^
  34. ^ Camden marriage register 1983 Jul–Sep vol.14 p1900
  35. ^ Camden birth register 1985 November vol. 14 p1828
  36. ^ (mentions Rosie's birth "the night before Halloween")
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Bill Oddie at the Internet Movie Database
  • Bill Oddie at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Who Do You Think You Are?Bill Oddie's family history at the BBC website for the programme
  • Bill Oddie Goes Wild – on BBC's Science and Nature website
  • , 28 April 2005The TelegraphIn-depth interview,
  • Gripping YarnsGigrin Farm chapter from
  • Oddie on UKTV

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