This I Believe
Pickles, Wilfred, 1904-1978
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Wilfred Pickles was born a Yorkshireman. His father was a builder, and the family wanted Pickles to carry on the trade, but he became interested in radio. Today his voice on the BBC is familiar, not only to Britons, but to listeners in many other parts of the world, and by the way of many kinds of programs. He began broadcasting in 1939 as an announcer. The news was somewhat heavy that year, and so he became a commentator. He has acted, written books, read poetry, and more lately, turned comedian. But he has some serious comments on his personal beliefs.
I am a broadcaster for the BBC. I bring to the microphone the ordinary folks. I present the people to the people. And since my
program gives me the chance to drop in on so many parts of our Islands and mix with the people, I have come to believe resolutely that the everyday behavior of the men and women who rarely if ever make the headline news has a marked influence on national and world affairs. It’s a steady, unspectacular process. It’s the patient, plodding service to family and society given by millions of the sort of folk you would never turn to look at in the street.
These are the kind of people I meet. We get war talk, bomb talk, and military conscription over much of the civilized world; and we have the agitators who seem to be able to find expression only in urging strikes; and the warmongers, criminals, and those battening characters of our new age, the “spivs.” All this is bad enough; but what is worse, it is big news. We may as well stop trying? Not on your life. Civilization
has never been without a motive for carrying on campaign, pestilence, war, or mass injustice. There are the little people with simple hopes, fears, and those embarrassing moments that involve white lies and broken suspenders and unexpected visitors. These are the people on whom my faith depends.
Then there are the scientists. Some may work on the Atomic Bomb, but others burn the midnight current on Atomic Energy research in a drive to enrich humanity. And who would dare say that pilots prefer to drop bombs than to hasten supplies to beleaguered settlements, flooded villages, and stranded explorers. What about the voices on the air too? Misused they may have been in war and by some in peace, but they are taking education to the fireside, fun to the blind and the crippled; they throw a thousands-of-miles-long lifeline to sailors and airmen, and inexorably contribute to world understanding.
If only we would take the spotlight off the horrors and shortcomings for a moment and glorify the people who remind us that there is nobility in the human race. If only we could be reminded oftener that we have men and women in Britain daily risking their health, their lives, in research into diseases: cancer, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever. I give my faith a jog sometimes by thinking of the men and women who man the hundreds of orphanages all over this country, places where no child is ever refused a home and where the love is often greater than a mother's. In the common people, I find those clear aims and ideals that are denied to our muddled geniuses, whose vision has misted by theories. I like to listen to Francis Thompson:
Go sons, and come not back from your far way.
And if men ask you why ye smile in sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve,
For your hearts know today.
Tell them ye smile,
For your eyes know tomorrow.
The people are tomorrow.
That was Wilfred Pickles, an entertainer, actor, and writer for the British Broadcasting Corporation, a warm-hearted Yorkshireman, with a belief in plain people.