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Yes, What?

Intro | Characters | Episode List
 
   "Yes, What?" is an Australian radio comedy series, recorded in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It was originally known as "The Fourth Form at St Percy's". It is set in a school and features Dr Percy Pym , the school master, who was easily flustered, and incapable of controlling his rowdy students.
The cast of 'Yes, What?'   The class was improbably small, with only three students, aged fourteen: Bottomly, Standforth, and Greenbottle. Later in the series, after Greenbottle left, de Pledge joined the series. Later still, when Greenbottle returned, there were four students for a while.
   The show received its name from the habit of Greenbottle to frequently say, "Yes," to which Dr Pym would reply, "Yes, What?" from which Greenbottle would launch into some long explanation about something.
   The class never seemed to learn anything. There was always some distraction. Greenbottle was more often than not late. Just as Dr Pym was starting to get the class under control, Greenbottle would arrive with some lengthy excuse to delay the proceedings even further.
   Guests featured occasionally, such as Bottomly's girlfriend Daphne, Mr Snootles the caretaker, a policeman, a charity worker, a school inspector, and various others.
Frank McCarron as Mr Snootles and Rex Dawe as Dr Pym   The show was produced in the studios of radio station 5AD in Adelaide. The first thirty to fifty episodes were broadcast live to air, and were never recorded. Journalist Ray Polkinghorne once wrote that Rex Dawe had written 786 episodes, and Ralph Peterson (who played Bottomly) was quoted in 1974 as saying that there were about a thousand episodes made. But recent research puts the number at 520. Radio syndication company, Grace Gibson Productions has 260 episodes in circulation, and another 50 or so are known to exist. In August 1985, the Australian Film And Sound Archives announced that they "received several hundred 16 inch recordings of the schoolroom comedy series, Yes, What?..." "...Mortein Mosquito and Insect Sprays of Ermington NSW (owned by the firm Samuel Taylor) discovered the lost issues of Yes What when they recently moved premises." But there are some episodes that seem to be lost forever.
   The actors were paid two shillings per episode. Rex Dawe, who played the part of Dr Pym, also wrote most of the scripts and produced the show, receiving ten additional shillings per episode. These were the days before residuals. So although "Yes What" has been repeated hundreds of times on radio stations all over the world through all the decades right up to the present, the actors received only their original fees.
   Some of the early scripts were written by Maurice Chapman, and Ralph Peterson (who played Bottomly), wrote six of the later episodes.
   Recording techniques were primitive. In an interview with the Australian newspaper in 1966, Ralph Peterson said, "We used to stand in front of a huge microphone and bellow our lines into it. We had a total of about three sound effects, too."
   The series is very Australian in style and content, and many of the jokes would go over the head of a non-Australian. For an Australian, however, much of the humour is timeless.
   Although it was never mentioned in any interviews I've heard or read, the "Yes, What?" series was based on an English record series from around 1934, featuring Will Hay as a school master called Dr Twist, and called, "The Fourth Form At St Michael's". It even opens with the "Yes, What?" catch-cry, "Good morning boys - Good morning sir." And in 1937, the cast of "The Fourth Form At St Michael's" made a few feature films, the best known being "Good Morning Boys".
   The first episode of Yes What was broadcast on either Sunday June 30, or Sunday July 7, 1936. The series finished in 1940 when most of the cast joined the armed forces in World War Two. But there has not been a week since then when an episode hasn't been heard somewhere on Australian radio and indeed around the world.
Article from "Broadcasting Business",10th November 1938. Article from "Radio Pictorial of Australia",late 1930s.
Article from "Broadcasting Business",
10th November 1938.
See full size JPG file (218 kB)
or PDF file (1556 kB)
Article from "Radio Pictorial of Australia",
late 1930s.
See full size JPG file (115 kB)
or PDF file (3172 kB)


Compact Discs

   Nine Compact Discs have also been released on the Columbia label through Sony Music. All are double CDs:
Radio Revisited - "Yes, What?"
(Columbia 472832 2) featuring 10 episodes and interviews with Ralph Peterson (Bottomly), Jack Gardiner (Greenbottle), Jim Williams (Standforth), and Frank McCarron (Mr Snootles).
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
436 195 1.1 1 OPENING NEW CLASSROOM Opening new classroom.
227 20 1.1 3 SHOWGROUND At the showground (part 1 of 2)
228 21 1.1 4 SHOWGROUND At the showground (part 2 of 2)
287 233 1.1 5 THE FETE The fete.
416 191 1.1 7 HISTORY BO Burns the school down.
417 192 1.2 1
At the police station.
342 47 1.2 3 LATIN GB leaves
344 121 1.2 4 DE PLEDGE De Pledge's (Pickles') first day.
388 240 1.2 5 INSPECTOR The Inspector returns.
390 242 1.2 7
Morning tea
Radio Revisited - "Yes, What?" Volume 2
(Columbia 473945 2) featuring 12 episodes
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
236 28 2.1 1 HISTORY GB early; History test; 7+8=19.
281 137 2.1 2 LATIN Mr Snootals comes about the money Percy owes him.
289 8 2.1 3 WEIGHTS & MEASURES How many pounds in a ton; GB's essay on mushrooms.
257 38 2.1 4
Boys don't notice Percy; GB comes and goes; the others follow him; Boys pretend that Percy is an escaped lunatic. Policeman nearly arrests Percy.
265 130 2.1 5 GEOGRAPHY BO cleans the blackboard.
308 42 2.1 6
ST worried; GB early; Hide & Seek.
242 70 2.2 1
Eggs.
327 110 2.2 2 CHEMISTRY Mr Snootles - 'Hello'.
315 101 2.2 3 FRENCH Bucket over the door; 'The man is in the field'; Man/homme.
349 144 2.2 4 HISTORY PI talks like Snootals
357 148 2.2 5
Snootals still cleaning room; Asks for a pay rise.
360 151 2.2 6 GEOMETRY Book thrown at Percy; PI late; All books left at home.
"Yes, What?" Volume 3 - The Lost Episodes
(Columbia 486607.2) featuring 12 episodes that for a long time had been considered lost. The earliest episode on this disc is #53, one of the first to be recorded.
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
53
3.1 1 AFTER THE BALIFFS Boys' parents agree to guarantee the bank's overdraft
72
3.1 2 POETRY BO's birthday
81
3.1 3 GEOGRAPHY Countries in Europe; BO's pocket knife.
82
3.1 4 THE ZOO part 1 At the zoo; Includes a peanut seller.
83
3.1 5 THE ZOO part 2 BO in the bear pit; The zoo keeper; Car crash.
84
3.1 6 THE ZOO part 3 After the crash; In the hospital.
94
3.2 1 HISTORY Greenbottle feared injured in a road accident
95
3.2 2 SCHOOL CONCERT The School Concert
96
3.2 3 LATIN Fiasco; GB's aunty died yawning; Mensa; GB wants some water; GB's essay: The Life of King John
120
3.2 4
Snootles' mother-in-law's appendicitis
129
3.2 5 THE CURFEW BELL GB is not late for second time
130
3.2 6 SNOOTLES TEACHES Snootles' first lesson as assistant school master
"Yes, What?" Volume 4
(Columbia 488121.2)
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
267 1 4.1 1 CHEMISTRY Zinc.
272 2 4.1 2 CHEMISTRY / AUST HISTORY GB's dog which can pronounce its own name; Captain Cook.
270 3 4.1 3 CHEMISTRY Oxygen; GB comes in and goes out; GB's uncle's mousetrap.
274 4 4.1 4 HISTORY Early explorers of Australia; GB the deep thinker.
275 5 4.1 5 HISTORY Early explorers; Flinders; Robinson Crusoe's brother.
277 6 4.1 6 HISTORY Early explorers; Three Bears; GB teases BO about his name; BO hits GB.
278 7 4.2 1 LATIN Boys fighting; Amble; Annus.
279 9 4.2 2 LATIN Chaos; Cainine; Ego.
280 10 4.2 3 LATIN BO's birthday; Ammo; Cup of tea.
290 11 4.2 4 WEIGHTS & MEASURES Tadpoles; Toadstools & turnstiles; "As usual"; Mushroom pun; Pounds in a ton; 'Oh yes!'
292 12 4.2 5 WEIGHTS & MEASURES Crabs; Percy is ignored; GB is deeply troubled.
220
4.2 6 WEIGHTS & MEASURES BO: "Tough guy, huh?"; 4 gills, 1 pint, etc; GB's pillowcase; Jack & Jill; Water on the brain;
"Yes, What?" Volume 5
(Columbia 489204.2). 12 more episodes, including episodes in the bike shed after Bottomly blew up the classroom, and also including the opening of the new classroom by Mrs Greenbottle.
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
221 14 5.1 1 ENGLISH Relative pronouns; GB's auntie is 'physic'
222 15 5.1 2
Methostopheles
223 16 5.1 3 POETRY Ode to the Eagle; Ode to the Duck
224 17 5.1 4 POETRY To a Pine Tree; GB's essay on Keats
225 18 5.1 5 POETRY BO plans to clean the blackboard; Daisy the Beautiful.
209
5.1 6 AFTERMATH OF EXPLOSION Aftermath of explosion; first episode in the bike shed; Hives; Rickets.
210
5.2 1 CHEMISTRY Study of elements; Royal Commission joke; Butcher's phone number
211 93 5.2 2 CHEMISTRY Bottomley lets down Percy's tyres; Ammonia
211 93 5.2 2 CHEMISTRY Bottomley lets down Percy's tyres; Ammonia
212
5.2 3 CHEMISTRY ST has done his homework; GB is early for a test on elements and symbols.
217
5.2 4 OPENING OF NEW CLASSROOM Mrs Greenbottle opens the new classroom
515 49 5.2 5 GEOMETRY GB early; GB in the cupboard; accidental laughter at end
226 19 5.2 6 POETRY ST does homework about Shelley; Jocular vein
"Yes, What?" Volume 6
(Columbia 494324.2). Interestingly, Episodes 286, 510 and 512 are not in the normal syndicated radio collection.
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
246 74 6.1 1 MATHS Two towns; Oysters.
286
6.1 2 MATHS Talk about tomorrow's fete; GB brings jumble stall items; ST imitates Snootles
487 218 6.1 3 HISTORY The House of York; Guy Fawkes.
510
6.1 4 GEOMETRY Books opened at page 92; start work immediately; vertex; What for / what four / what floor; GB is a British subject
512
6.1 5 GEOMETRY ST is alone; ST offers to play the piano; BO late because it was his father's fault; GB is poorly having been bashed up by Aunty Rita
513
6.1 6
The violinist.
306 66 6.2 1 HISTORY Richard the First; 'How do you mean sir?'; Richard the lion tamer; Start again.
312 68 6.2 2 GEOGRAPHY India; BO nearly cleans the board; Ganges River; GB's Grandma; Conjugating verbs; Machine gun, train & cow noises.
313 100 6.2 3
Cow noises; Light Brigade; Lady Godiva; GB's uncle's impersonations.
332 114 6.2 4 ENGLISH Infinitives; Infinity; Rhubarb; subjunctives
486 217 6.2 5 LATIN Veni vedi veci; Poker school; Julius Caesar; Christopher Columbus.
488 219 6.2 6 HISTORY William of Apple; House of York; William the Conjuror
"Yes, What?" Volume 7
(Sony/BMG 88697326792A)
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
230 23 7.1 1 HISTORY House of Tudor
232 24 7.1 2 HISTORY House of Tudor; No buts; Revision mirror; Monstrosity.
234 26 7.1 3 PE TEACHER Boys play cricket in the classroom; P.E. Teacher 'Oop lads'.
235 27 7.1 4 HISTORY Percy at the window; Attempted history test; 'Oop lads'.
237 29 7.1 5 HISTORY History test; GB carried away.
238 30 7.1 6 FRENCH Test abandoned; GB's excuse list; French: 'What hour is it?'
239 31 7.2 1 FRENCH French idioms; Dead Sea; La biblioteque
240 32 7.2 2 FRENCH Sheperdess; Poetic licence
252 33 7.2 3 PHYSICS - SOUND Vibration; Conjugations; Guitar & bagpipes & cow.
253 34 7.2 4 ENGLISH Figures of speech; Shakespeare; Uncle Tom's Cabin
254 35 7.2 5 ENGLISH Figures of speech; Metaphors & synonyms; Megaphone.
255 36 7.2 6 ENGLISH Figures of speech; 'He runs like a hare'; GB dreamed that today was tomorrow.
"Yes, What?" Volume 8
(Sony/BMG 88697326792B) Released July 2008
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
258 125 8.1 1 GEOGRAPHY BO in trouble for yesterday; America; Hindus; Spanish.
259 39 8.1 2 GEOGRAPHY Countries of Nth America; 'The Tyrant'; Clive of India.
260 127 8.1 3 GEOGRAPHY Rivers of Nth America; Mississippi 4200; GB donkey noises; Grandma Bluejacket
268 132 8.1 4 CHEMISTRY Zinc; The Orange Orchard incident
282 138 8.1 5 LATIN 'The consul warned Caesar'; GB's cow Nellie
291 140 8.1 6 WEIGHTS & MEASURES A man and his potatoes; Centipede / centimetre;
293 13 8.2 1
ST alone; BO late because of hives; goosflesh; pills/peas shooter; clinic
294 141 8.2 2 WEIGHTS & MEASURES 'A man weighs 7 stone'; Hillbilly talk.
296 57 8.2 3 GEOMETRY Theorem 15; Hiccups.
297 58 8.2 4 GEOMETRY Brains; Haircut; Timetables; Theorem 15; 'Therefore the triangles are congruent'
298 59 8.2 5 GEOMETRY Theorem 15; BO's pigeon.
299 60 8.2 6 GEOMETRY Parallel lines; One's breakfast; Circles.
"Yes, What?" Volume 9
(Sony/BMG 88697326792C) Released July 2008
EPISODE GIBSON SONY CD VOL SONY CD TRACK LESSON DESCRIPTION
442 274 9.2 2 PHYSICS Arc lamps; GB early; Boys in trouble for last lesson.
443 275 9.2 3 PHYSICS Percy at the window; Light advances in a straight line.
473 292 9.2 4 TROY WEIGHT Mr Snootals; Alarm clock
489 220 9.2 5 HISTORY BO gets in trouble; Percy the butcher; Kings of England; The Two Princes.
490 221 9.2 6 HISTORY House of York.
300 61 9.1 1 GEOMETRY Definition of a circle; Euclid.
301 62 9.1 2 GEOMETRY Definition of a circle; GB is 'sore oppressed'.
302 63 9.1 3 GEOMETRY Definition of a circle; BO's hives; Percy leaves early; Boys fight; GB's Uncle Tootlewhistle
361 152 9.1 4 GEOMETRY "Big hearted BO"; Definitions and plurals.
362 153 9.1 5 GEOGRAPHY Oceans
399 267 9.1 6
Percy starts early; Snootals in classroom; Greenwich mean time.
400 272 9.2 1 CHEMISTRY Symbols of elements; GB locked out; Daphne waiting for BO.

These CDs used to be available in Australia at ABC Shops, but when I last checked on August 22, 2013, none of these CDs were available. But I did find "Yes, What?" Volumes 4-6 (Columbia 5022732000) CDs at Sanity retailing for AU$34.99 (excluding postage).

The good news is that Grace Gibson Productions, the company which owns the syndication rights to "Yes, What?" has released to the general public two CDs containing 20 MP3 files each. Last time I checked on 27th December 2013, Volume 1 and Volume 2 were available for AU$29.95 each, with a possibility of more to come.


Book

   Additionally, a very comprehensive book about "Yes, What?" has been released, called: "Yes, What? The Story of The Fourth Form At St. Percy's", written by Vern Sundfors and Bob Hawker. It contains everything you could possibly want to know about "Yes, What?" and then some!
   The book is well written and also contains many photographs of the actors. Included is a synopsis of each of the known episodes.
The last time I checked (10th October 2004), the book was available for $25 plus $7 for post and packing by writing to:
Bob Hawker
PO Box 109
Highett VIC 3190
Australia

Listening to Episodes

    A couple of people whose names are unknown have uploaded some episodes to YouTube. You can get there directly from this link or just go to www.youtube.com and type in yes what into their search field.
Last time I looked (July 2011) one episode came up from that search, but many more appear as links on the side of the web page.
It remains to be seen how long they will remain there.
Once the copyright owners find it, no doubt they will request that YouTube remove them.

Episode Listing

    I have a list of many of the episodes with brief synopses.

Intro | Characters | Episode List

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© Copyright 2014 Andrew Host.