Leeds nostalgia: Leeds cleaners stop to contemplate moment in TV history

24th November 1966

The time is 6.30 am today in a Leeds office and two cleaners, Mrs. Annie Burke (kneeling) and Mrs. Lily Backhouse, watch a great moment in TV, live transmission for the first time, of pictures direct from Australia via the satellite
24th November 1966 The time is 6.30 am today in a Leeds office and two cleaners, Mrs. Annie Burke (kneeling) and Mrs. Lily Backhouse, watch a great moment in TV, live transmission for the first time, of pictures direct from Australia via the satellite
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November 24, 1966: the time was 6.30am and in a Leeds office, two cleaners, Mrs Annie Burke (kneeling) and Mrs Lily Backhouse, take a brief moment out of their day to watch a great moment in TV history.

While Mrs Blackhouse, duster still in hand, leans in to gaze at the screen in its wood-panelled box on legs, her colleague Mrs Burke seems to pause briefly from her task, perhaps to ruminate on the implications of the moment. One could almost imagine them continuing about their business the moment after the camera shutter had completed its motion, as neither seems particularly engrossed in the events.

So what was the occasion? Was it an address from US President Lyndon B Johnson, or even our own Prime Minister Harold Wilson (born in Huddersfield, incidentally), or perhaps something to do with the space race?

No, rather it was something a little more down to earth (albeit on the other side of the earth) - it was the first time a live transmission of pictures had been made possible direct from Australia via a satellite.

In 1966 a pint of Bitter cost £0/1/10d (£0.0916 today), the average wage was about £20 a week, although most earned far less and even footballers and doctors only pulled in £100 a week. If you wanted to buy a house in 1966, you would be looking at about £360 (around £60,000 today).

They were indeed momentous times. November 1966 was the month when the Beatles began recording Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band and Gemini 12, the 10th manned spacecraft, successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.

The picture might have been taken just 50 years ago but it looks as though it’s almost from an alternative universe given the level of technology we are used to today. Notice the old typewriter sitting on the edge of a desk, another relic from the pre-digital past.

It is sobering to wonder what technology will be like in another 50 years.

Leeds nostalgia: Chef attacks Leeds man with rolling pin in August 1947