Daphne Oxenford


For millions of young children in the 1950s and 1960s, Daphne Oxenford was one of the calm voices heard regularly on BBC Radio’s Listen With Mother, a mixture of stories, songs and nursery rhymes.

After the equally calming signature tune, the berceuse from Faure’s Dolly Suite, Oxenford and the other presenters began the programme with a question that became a catchphrase: “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” She was with Listen With Mother for 21 years.

With another, but very different, programme she enjoyed an association that lasted for 26 years. What the Papers Say, a Granada Television production, was a fast mixture of quotes and headlines from the previous week’s newspapers, read by Oxenford and others in a wide range of voices and accents.

In her early years, she understudied the earthy and eccentric music hall veteran Nellie Wallace. She was then drawn towards revue, appearing with the elegant and sophisticated comedienne Joyce Grenfell in Tuppence Coloured (1947-48), which ran at the West End’s Globe Theatre, now the Gielgud, for more than 300 performances.

After marrying in 1951, Oxenford went to live near Manchester and appeared regularly at theatres in the city, most notably in the farce The Happiest Days of Your Life (1955), in which she played the games mistress, Miss Gossage, a part Grenfell portrayed in the cinema adaptation.

A complete change of direction came in 1960 with the arrival of Coronation Street. From the first episode, she played a spinster, Esther Hayes, who had a criminal brother, Tom. Oxenford stayed with the soap for two years, returning from time to time until 1972, notching up 66 appearances in all.

She was rarely out of work on television, appearing in the original version of John Mortimer’s autobiographical A Voyage Round My Father, and enjoying work in such sitcoms as Man About the House, To the Manor Born and Fresh Fields. Above all, she relished working with the much-missed Les Dawson on BBC Television’s The Dawson Watch and BBC Radio 2’s Listen to Les.

Daphne Oxenford, who was born on October 31, 1919, died on December 21, 2012, aged 93.