Tickle on the Tum

Small Voice Calling > The Voice > Tickle on the Tum

“Look down there’s Tickle Town and there’s the River Tum.”


Following the success of ‘Alphabet Zoo’, Granada TV engaged Ralph McTell to write and perform songs for another children’s programme, ‘Tickle on the Tum’. Residents of Tickle Town would pop into the local post office to tell their gossipy news, which Ralph would illustrate with a thematic song. The story-teller customers were played by well-known actors of the day, including:

  • Tim Healy as Barney Bodger the bargain builder
  • Billy Connolly as Bobby Binns the dustman
  • Nerys Hughes as Bunny Brown the pet shop owner
  • Joan Sims as Connie Caper the policewoman
  • Penelope Keith as Dora the school bus driver
  • Bill Oddie as Dr Dimple
  • Kenny Lynch as Mike the milkman
  • Susan Wooldridge as Miss Marker the teacher
  • Billy Dainty as Roland Crust the baker

Wikipedia says Ralph and his songs featured in three series comprising 79 episodes broadcast between November 1984 and March 1987. Many of the songs were reworked for several episodes, and a few ‘Alphabet Zoo’ songs were reprised. Only 27 songs from the series have been officially released, and a similar number have been uploaded to YouTube; which suggests there are a few gems still to be discovered in the Granada TV vault or on old Betamax tapes in someone’s attic.

The programme itself continued for another season without Ralph, whose decision to quit bemused Wizz Jones: “I thought he was mad to pack up the TV role he had created. Once you’ve got your face known to people, you’re there. It could have led to all sorts of things for him”.  (Hockenhull, Chris. ‘Streets of London’, p. 109.) Whilst Hockenhull is generally disparaging about Ralph’s venture into children’s TV, he does generously concede that “…the care and craft that he put into the numerous editions of Alphabet Zoo and Tickle on the Tum has to be commended… he went about the projects with the same levels of seriousness and effort that were a feature of his regular composing”. (Ibid.)

Songs A to Z

Titles in Italics have not yet been released on a Tickle album; those in [square brackets] were borrowed from Alphabet Zoo.

Bessie and Barney
Bessie’s Washboard Blues
Bunny Brown She Had a Shop
Bunny Brown’s Petshop
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz (The Fly Song)
Cat in the Well
Chicken, Chicken Banjo
Christmas is Coming
Come on you Rovers
Connie Caper’s on  Patrol
Dots of Colour
Dora the Driver
Dr Dimple aka Freckles and Spots
[Edna the Elephant]
Farmer Field
Feathers in your Pillow
Feet in a Bowl
Five Balloons
Freddie the Fireman
Holding Hands
How Do You Make a Cow Laugh?
I Like Rubbish
I Love a Surprise
I Love my Bicycle
It Could Have Happened to Anyone
Keeping the Night at Bay                     
[Kenny the Kangaroo]
Lily the Lollipop Lady
Mike the Milkman
Mr Robinson
No More Beans for Dora
[Ollie the Otter]
[Peter the Parrot]
Right There on Your Nose
Roland Crust
Rosie Moon
Tap, Tap, Tap with the Hammer
Teacher’s Lost Voice
The Counting Song
The Money Tree
The Pigeon Song
The Puddle Expert
The Puppy Dog Song
The Things You Wish Yourself
Tickle on the Tum
Tickle Post
When Santa Got Stuck up the Chimney
Willie Wok

Recordings and Issues

Cassette ‘Tickle on the Tum – Stories and Songs’ – Released 1984 – St Michael 1361/5605 [Note 1].
7″ single ‘I Like Rubbish’ b/w ‘Five Balloons’ – Released 1986 – Mays ING13.
LP ‘The Best of – Tickle on the Tum’ – Released 1986 – Mays TPG008.
7″ single ‘The Things You Wish Yourself’ b/w ‘Keeping the Night at Bay’ – Released 1986 – Mays ING14.
Track ‘I Like Rubbish’ on ‘The Journey’ box set CD3 – Released 2006 [Note 2].
Track ‘Keeping the Night at Bay’ on ‘The Journey’ box set CD3 – Released 2006 [Note 2].
Track ‘Keeping the Night at Bay’ on ‘The Definitive Collection‘ – Released 2007 [Note 2].
DVD ‘Tickle on the Tum – The Complete Series One’ – Released 2010 – Revelation PAR61487.
Download single ‘The Things You Wish Yourself’ – Released 2010 [Note 3].
Track ‘The Things You Wish Yourself’ on ‘Songs for Six Strings 6th – E’ CD – Released 2016 [Note 4].


1. Six stories read by different actors and six songs by Ralph.
2. Original 1986 recording.
3. New 2010 recording.
4. Live recording.