The Sunderland girls who high-kicked their way to the TV spotlight

They were the fab five from Sunderland and they were about to make their television debuts in August 1971.

Friday, 17th August 2018, 12:16 pm
Updated Friday, 17th August 2018, 12:20 pm
Rosslyn Babes at Sunderland Empire in 1979.

But who remembers how these Wearside 10 to 13-year-olds did when they appeared on Junior Show Time?

If you’ve got the answer, it will be music to our ears.

Pictured are, back row; Sheila Wyness and Hazel Wilson. Front row; Beverley Pattinson, Janet Lovell, and Susan Smith.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The girls in the picture are Sheila Wyness, 12, Hazel Wilson, 12, Beverley Pattinson, 10, Janet Lovell, 13, and Susan Smith, 11, and they were all members of the Rosslyn Babes.

Our story in 1971 explained: “Five Sunderland girls will have the chance to see themselves on television. They will be doing a three-minute song-and-dance routine on Junior Show Time.

“Although it will not be the first time children from this troupe have been on television, it will be the first appearance for these girls.”

The show was recorded in Leeds in June 1971 and the five girls from Wearside spent two days there while the recording was in progress.

But they were in the dark – as our story at the time explained: “None of them have seen the results of their act so they are looking forward to the show as much as all their friends and relations.”

To give you an idea of what else was on telly at the time, other highlights included Where The Jobs Are, and The Tuesday Western on ITV; The Flashing Blade, Z Cars, the Andy Williams Show on BBC 1; and Collector’s World on BBC 2.

So how did they do?

Get in touch and tell us more by emailing [email protected]

And who remembers some of the other great performances by the Rosslyn Babes down the years?

They had been a big part of the Wearside entertainment scene since the late 1940s, all through the 1960s and 1970s and well into the 1980s.

It all started for the Babes when they were formed by Sunderland-born Mary Harbord of Rosslyn Street.

Their first professional appearance was in Bernard Delfont’s production of Dick Whittington at the Lewisham Hippodrome in 1944. Appearances at theatres in London, Stockport, Barnsley, Harrogate, Margate, Maidstone, Keighley followed as well as at venues in Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead.

In 1957, they featured in Hop O My Thumb, at the Palace Theatre, Newcastle. And that same year, they were in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire Theatre.

In 1967, the Babes were starring in a television show. They came second in the Hughie Green TV programme Opportunity Knocks with a performance which consisted of a routine filled with high-kicks.

Here they are, pictured rehearsing for a performance in West Park College of Further Education in 1967. They were planning to do a routine which they had done previously on Opportunity Knocks.

Then came their starring role on Junior Show Time in 1971 and the success just kept on coming.

In 1980, the Rosslyn Babes had two troupes which were both made up of teams of 12.

In 1980, the troupes were due to appear in the Sunderland Empire Pantomime, “Sinbad the Sailor” which stars Carl Wayne and Avril Angers. The Babes were presenting a speciality number, precision tap dancing and other routines.

They were trained by Miss Mary Harbord, who founded the Babes who have always been popular with audiences in Sunderland.

That same year, the girls showed they were big-hearted fundraisers too when they raised £465 for the Echo Laser Appeal. The money was raised by a sponsored time-step dance sequence. One ‘babe’, Debra Turley, did 650 time steps.

The largest single amount raised was £32 by Sharon Willis and Sarah Hilton.

By 1982, the Babes were performing at the Sunderland Empire production of Cinderella. The star of the show was Don Estelle, of ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’.

Although the Babes eventually folded in the late 1980s, the memories live on and former members keep in touch with each other by holding reunions and through social media.