Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Penny for the Guy 1948

A COMMON AND probably ritualised adult complaint about children collecting penny for the Guy was the lack of effort put into making the Guy. This would always be contrasted with claims of superior build quality from the complainant’s own childhood.

The recording presented here (BBC catalogue number 825675) was made on the 1st of November 1948 and features the broadcaster Audrey Russell interviewing children from the Cobden House flats in Arlington Road, Camden.

Children collecting penny for the Guy

The older boy heard in the recording is named in the catalogue notes as Ronnie Mahoney, and the younger boy simply as Peter. A small girl and boy also speak briefly, but neither are named. Ronnie explains that the Guy is made from old clothes, including a pair of his brother’s trousers, which his brother doesn’t yet know about.

Penny for the Guy is now an almost extinct practice in London, following into obscurity other juvenile begging traditions such as constructing miniature wayside shrines from oyster shells.

The photograph above shows children collecting in Caernafon, Wales, and was taken by Geoff Charles in 1960. It is reproduced here under the terms of its National Library of Wales Creative Commons licence.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Penny for the Guy 3:00