Johnny Morris

Johnny Morris OBE (20 June 1916 – 6 May 1999) was a children’s television presenter for the BBC.

Born Ernest John Morris in Newport, Wales, a farmer by trade, he was discovered telling stories in a pub. He made his first broadcast in 1946, and soon had a regular radio show, Pass the Salt, made for the BBC’s West Region.

He first appeared on television as The Hot Chestnut Man, a short slot in which he was shown sitting in front of his hot chestnut stand. Whilst roasting the chestnuts, he would tell a humorous yarn, often ending with a moral, in his West country accent.

In 1960 he narrated the Tales of the Riverbank series of stories about Hammy the Hamster, Roderick the Rat, GP the Guinea Pig, and their assorted animal friends along a Canadian river. The show used slowed-down footage of real animals filmed doing humanised things such as driving a car or boat, and living in houses. No animation or puppetry was involved.

He was best known for Animal Magic (1962-1984, filmed in part at Bristol Zoo Gardens), a programme on which he would carry out a comic dialogue with the animals, whom he also voiced. He presented more than 400 editions.

Morris was also well known by British children in the 1970s for his narration of The Railway Stories.

In June 2004, Morris and Bill Oddie were jointly profiled in the first of a three part BBC Two series, The Way We Went Wild, about television wildlife presenters.

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