Friday 21 July 2017

Everything you didn't know about former Blue Peter daredevil, John Noakes

The former presenter died aged 83 following a battle with Alzheimer’s.

By Francesca Gosling

Blue Peter action man John Noakes joined the show in 1965, going on to become the longest-serving Blue Peter presenter ever with a stint lasting 12 and a half years.

From white water rafting, free fall parachuting and submarine escape training, to a failed bid to sail around the world, here are some of the most memorable moments from the children’s show’s resident daredevil.

:: The veteran presenter fell foul to the antics of Lulu the elephant when she ran amok and trod on his foot during a live studio session in 1969. The baby elephant butted presenters and made puddles on the floor, causing John to slip up in the mess.

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:: John climbed Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square to chat to the cleaners in 1977. He used ropes and wooden ladders to make the bold ascent, remarking at the top: “It’s a long way up really isn’t it?”. Peter Purves, who co-presented Blue Peter with Noakes, told the BBC following his death: “I used to go rock climbing. I loved all that stuff, but I’ll tell you something, I could not have climbed Nelson’s Column the way he did. It was a remarkable thing he did. And he just did it. And virtually no protection. It was an extraordinary thing.”

:: The presenter’s loyal sidekick was his on-show border collie Shep. The pair were inseparable, and John’s catchphrase “Get down Shep” became a regular refrain on the show as he tried to calm the excitable animal. The catchphrase inspired a single of the same name by novelty act The Barron Knights.

:: John carried out a number of parachute jumps in the late 1960s and early 1970s, entering the Guinness Book Of Records after a five mile high free fall parachute drop with the RAF Falcons. He successfully completed the jump in May 1973, becoming the first civilian in Britain to make a five mile high free fall; the first outsider to join the Falcons and the first TV presenter in Britain to talk to a camera while falling through space.

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:: John recalled fancying the Princess Royal after she went on safari in Kenya in 1971. In an interview with the Radio Times to mark Blue Peter turning 50, he said: “When she came to the studio, she had beautiful eyes and nice long hair over her shoulders, and Val (co-presenter Valerie Singleton) said: ‘I think she fancies you’. “I said: ‘Yeah, and I fancy her’.”

:: To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Blue Peter, Noakes proved he still had a head for heights as he was sent up a skyscraper to examine a giant billboard featuring a picture of John and Shep, taken 20 years previously.

:: In 1982, John and his wife set off to sail around the world for a real life adventure. The couple got caught up in a wild storm off Casablanca, and were rescued from their wrecked boat by a Japanese tanker. They later decided to settle in Majorca.

:: John and other ex-presenters took part in a series of games for Blue Peter’s 40th birthday show. During a pancake tossing competition, the contents of his pan somehow disappeared into the roof space of the studio while the rest of the guests looked on bemused.

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