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London mysteries: Willie Rushton’s blue plaque

Posted at 5:30 pm, July 12, 2012 in Secret London

London mysteries Willie RushtonEach week we solve one of London’s great mysteries (as submitted by you, the reader). This week Michelle Cross from Camden asks ‘on my way to work, I always notice a blue plaque dedicated to the comedian Willie Rushton in Mornington Crescent tube station in Camden. Why is it there, and what does it have to do with the co-founder of Private Eye?

Well Michelle…

The answer can be found by listening to an episode of ‘that antidote to panel games’, BBC Radio 4’s comedy programme,  ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.’ The popular show has been broadcast since 1972, but in 1978, a new element was introduced: the perplexing game of ‘Mornington Crescent’. Without revealing any of the rules (we couldn’t explain them if we tried) the premise of the game is that players must name various London Underground stations in a particular sequence which will finally lead them to ‘Mornington Crescent’.

Radio nerds should travel to www.mornington-crescent-rule.fsnet.co.uk for an explanation of the rules, which if you read very carefully and concentrate hard and don’t have a job and family to attend to, might, just possibly, make sense after days of contemplation, although they won’t.

Few fans can match the grasp of the game displayed by the show’s stars: Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer and Willie Rushton, who was a panellist and favourite on the show for 22 years, right up until his death from a heart attack in 1996.

Since his death, Rushton’s spot has been deemed irreplaceable and has only been occupied by temporary panellists.

Mornington Crescent station itself was subject to reconstruction for most of the 1990s, but when it was rumoured to be closing for good, a backlash (mainly constituting ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ fans) ensured it reopened in 1998. In 2002, a blue plaque honouring Rushton was erected there. The ceremony was attended by 200 fans along with Rushton’s fellow panellists.

Kate Samuelson

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