Deryck Guyler, perhaps best known for playing cantankerous school caretaker Mr Potter in Please Sir, achieved a rare first for Merseyside in the 1940s.

The Wallasey entertainer was the first to use an authentic Liverpudlian accent on radio when he voiced the character of Frisby Dike, named after the Liverpool department store.

Eric Sykes actor Hattie Jacques actress and Derek Guyler actor in BBC television sitcom

Dike was part of comedian Tommy Handley’s famous wartime programme ITMA – It’s That Man Again – which ran from 1939 to 1949.

Tommy Handley centre holds back l to r Joan Harben, Derek Guyler Unknown male, Lind Joyce , Hattie Jacques, Unknown female Fred Yule and Jack Train.
Circa 1947

Handley himself was born in Toxteth and often worked with another Liverpool comedian, the irrepressible Arthur Askey.

Guyler, born in April 1914, found his way into ITMA after joining ENSA – the Entertainments National Service Association – during World War II. His background of acting at Liverpool Repertory Theatre made him a natural choice.

Derek Guyler of the BBC June 1949 O18911-002

After the war, Guyler took part in the 1947 ITMA Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He was also a member of the BBC Drama and Repertory company based in Manchester.

Before taking to the stage, Guyler attended Liverpool College and originally planned a career in the church. He saw wartime service in the RAF Police.

When ITMA finished, Guyler played a series of roles for the BBC. They ranged from appearing in King Lear with John Gielgud to creating sound effects for Children’s Hour!

Anna Massey actress with Sir John Gielgud in a scene from the play ” The Last Joke “

Many will remember Guyler in the title role of the radio series Inspector Scott Investigates, broadcast on the BBC Light Programme from 1957 to 1963.

Each half-hour episode consisted of Scott interviewing three suspects followed by a short musical interlude where the listener was invited to guess the perpetrator before the big reveal at the end of the show.

Guyler was involved in two Merseyside films in 1964 and 1965. He played a Police Sergeant in the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night and then the art professor in Ferry Cross the Mersey starring Gerry and the Pacemakers.

The Beatles peer from a train carriage window at Paddington Station, London, on the first day’s shoot of their film “A Hard Day’s Night”, 2 March 1964.

Guyler holds a unique theatrical record in that he has featured in every performance of The Mousetrap since it opened in October 1952. He made the recorded news bulletin that still features in the play at St Martin’s Theatre, London.

Eric Sykes worked with Guyler in his comedy show from 1960 to 1965 and again in the sitcom Sykes from 1972 to 1979. In the latter, Guyler played Constable ‘Corky’ Turnbull alongside Sykes’ screen sister Hattie Jacques.

But perhaps Guyler’s most well-known role was that of school caretaker Norman Potter in the ITV sitcom Please Sir which ran from 1968 to 1972.

Potter was proud of his military service – he was an ex-Desert Rat – and couldn’t take to the modern methods of new teacher Bernard Hedges (John Alderton) at Fenn Street school.

John Alderton actor with the cast of Please Sir – October 1970
Dbase MSI

Things came to a head when Form 5C adopted a gerbil, or desert rat, as a class pet and called it Norman!

Guyler is renowned for his life-long devotion to playing the washboard – something he learned in his schooldays. In 1990, he played on three tracks by recording artist Shakin’ Stevens as well as making appearances on the Morecambe and Wise Show.

Shakin Stevens waving outside the Birmingham Post and Mail
June 1980

In 1941, Guyler married Paddy Lennox – one of the three sisters in the variety musical act the Lennox Sisters. They had two sons.

Guyler emigrated to Australia in 1993 to be nearer members of his family. He died in October 1999. His wife Paddy died three years later and was buried with her husband.

*Hundreds of pictures from an unforgettable decade are packed into Clive Hardy’s fascinating book Around Merseyside in the 1960s. It’s available at £9.99 plus postage and packaging.

Just go to inostalgia.co.uk to place your order or ring the hotline on 01928 503777.