Bill Oddie

Template:Infobox Biography

William Edgar (Bill) Oddie, OBE, MA (Cantab.) (born July 7, 1941 in Rochdale, United Kingdom) is a comedy writer and performer, author, composer and musician. A birdwatcher since his childhood in Birmingham, Oddie has now established a reputation for himself as an ornithologist, conservationist and television presenter on wildlife issues. Some of his books are illustrated with his own paintings and drawings.


Early life

On a 2004 episode the BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are?, Oddie was invited to investigate his family history. The programme revealed that Oddie was raised primarily by his father after his mother was placed into long term psychiatric care suffering with bipolar disorder; and that his mother had had one miscarriage and then lost another child, a girl, after five days. It was suggested that Oddie's grandmother had prevented his mother from attending to the girl, who was crying. His mother subsequently found the child dead. Oddie speculated that his mother would have felt that his grandmother (whom she lived with) was to blame for the death of her daughter and that this psychological trauma may well have contributed to her mental ill health. "It undemonised her", he later added.

Comedy and music

After attending King Edward's School, Birmingham, Oddie studied English Literature at Pembroke, Cambridge, where he appeared in several Footlights productions, one of which, Cambridge Circus, transferred to the West End, New Zealand and Broadway. While still at Cambridge he wrote scripts for TV's That Was The Week That Was.

Subsequently, he was a key member of the performers in the cult BBC radio series I'm Sorry, I'll Read that Again (ISIRTA; 1965), where many of his compositions were featured. Some of these were released on the album Distinctly Oddie (Polydor, 1967). He was possibly one of the first performers to parody a rock song, arranging the traditional Yorkshire folk song "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" in the style of Joe Cocker's hit rendition of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", and singing "Andy Pandy" in the style of a brassy soul number such as Wilson Pickett or Geno Washington might perform. In many shows he would do short impressions of Hughie Green.

Oddie was a member of 1970s BBC TV trio The Goodies, in which he starred with ISIRTA colleagues Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor (also veterans of Cambridge Footlights). He portrayed the rebel, to Brooke-Taylor's conservative and Garden's boffin, with long hair and a poster of Che Guevara in his corner. The Goodies also released records, including "Funky Gibbon", a chart hit single in 1975. They reformed, briefly, in 2005, for a 13-date tour of Australia.

The three have worked together since the demise of the Goodies, including the 1983 series of short animated programmes called Bananaman that parodied comic super-hero adventures. Bill Oddie voiced the characters of Crow, Chief O'Reilly, Doctor Gloom, Eric and the Weatherman.

He was the compere of a daytime BBC gameshow, "History Hunt" (2003).

He plays the drums and saxophone and appeared as Cousin Kevin in a production of The Who's rock opera Tommy at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London on 9 December 1972. He has also contributed vocals to a Rick Wakeman album, "Criminal Record".

Conservation and birdwatching

Oddie's first published work was an article about Birmingham's Bartley Reservoir in the West Midland Bird Club's 1962 Annual Report. He has since written a number of books about birds and bird watching, as well as articles for many specialist publications including British Birds, Birdwatching Magazine and Birdwatch. He became president of the West Midland Bird Club in 1999, having been Vice-President since 1991 and is a former member of the council of the RSPB.

He has hosted a number of very successful nature programs for the BBC, including:

On its first evening of broadcast, Britain Goes Wild set a record for its timeslot of 8pm on BBC Two of 3.4 million viewers, one million more than the Channel 4 programme showing at that time. It also created a run on nest boxes for wild birds and bumble bees, bird baths and bird feed from suppliers, likened to the Delia power phenomenon created when Delia Smith mentioned the tools and ingredients she was using on her cooking programme Delia's How to Cook. Oddie presented an update later in 2004.

Most of the recent series have been produced by Stephen Moss.

Marriage and children

Oddie is married to Laura Beaumont, with whom he has worked on a variety of projects for children, including film scripts, drama and comedy series, puppet shows and books. They have a daughter, Rosie, and live in London. He has two daughters from his first marriage (to Jean Hart), Bonnie and the actress Kate Hardie, and a grandson, Lyle.


In 2001, Oddie became only the third person to turn down the "red book" and decline to appear on This Is Your Life. He relented some time later.

On 16 October 2003, Oddie was made an OBE for his service to Wildlife Conservation in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. He played down the event, choosing to wear a camouflage shirt and crumpled jacket to receive his medal.

In June 2004, Oddie and Johnny Morris were jointly profiled in the first of a three part BBC Two series, The Way We Went Wild, about television wildlife presenters.


(incomplete list)

  • Bill Oddie's Colouring Guide to Birds (Piccolo, 1991)
  • Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book
  • Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book (paperback with additional material)
  • Bill Oddie's Gone Birding
  • The Big Bird Race (with David Tomlinson; Collins, 1983)
  • Follow That Bird!
  • Gripping Yarns
  • Bird in the Nest
  • Bill Oddie's How to Watch Wildlife


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