Hertbeats Talk February 18th.
John Willan The first Camelot National Lottery Draw Master.
John Willan was known as the man with the white gloves and was the first Camelot Draw Master, a position he held for eight years. He gave Hertbeats members a very entertaining talk.
I must first mention the white gloves. At one charity dinner a pair were auctioned for £800.
John comes from Cumbria and was a tutor at Oaklands College in St Albans for 32 years teaching horticulture and management. One of his students was Alan Titchmarsh.
He was headhunted by the BBC in 1994, he said he knew nothing about the lottery business and was told that nobody else did either. John with other members of Camelot were sent to other countries to see how they managed their lotteries and we got the feeling they were not very impressed with some of them.
Everything had to be right and meticulous plans were made. The balls were specially made and had to be weighed to make sure they were all the same weight. When the show was on the road the machines, whose names were Guinevere, Lancelot and later Merlin, had to be locked away in a police pound overnight for security. In one theatre the stage sloped and quickly material had to be found to level up the machines.
John said that people probably thought he only had to work two lottery evenings a week but with all the preparation needed especially in the early days when they moved round the country he was working a 50 hour a week. At one show there was trouble with the machine and of course everything was live, they could not fix the problem quickly so the lottery was delayed for two hours.
John worked with many television stars – Noel Edmonds (the first National Lottery presenter), Anthea Turner, Eammon Holmes, Carol Smillie and somebody he had many laughs with was Brian Conley.
Another person he had a great time with was Ken Dodd who gave him a tickling stick.
On the night that Ken was on the show everybody was told they had to get all the lottery equipment out of the theatre by 10pm and they were big machines to move. I don’t think Ken was told as he was still telling jokes at midnight. So the Camelot team had a very late night or should I say early morning.
To mark his retirement from the National Lottery his colleagues organised a presentation. What better for a horticulturist than to have a rose named after you. Alan Titchmarch his old student presented it to him at the Chelsea Flower Show – a bright pink hybrid tea rose called “John Willan”.
Donation of Memorial Painting
The following is a transcript of an article featuring Hertbeats which was on page 13 of the September 2019 issue of ‘Forum’ – Harpenden Town Council’s quarterly newsletter.
Harpenden Town Council were privileged to receive the gift of a pastel painting from Mr Brian Gibson, the Life President of Hertbeats, the St Albans and District Cardiac Support Group.
The pastel painting of the War Memorial on Church Green was part of an original series by the artist Peter Coombs and was previously presented to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit at St Albans City Hospital by Marilyn Hudson (former Life Vice President of Hertbeats) in memory of her husband John.
Due to a major refurbishment at the hospital, the pastel was returned to Hertbeats and Mr Gibson thought it would be appropriate for it to be donated to the Town Council in Harpenden, where the Hudsons did so much good work. Past Town Mayor for 2018-19, Councillor David Heritage, received the painting from Mr Gibson at an informal presentation and the painting now hangs in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Hall.
Hertbeats was formed in 1997 and provides advice, information and help to cardiac patients and their families within the St Albans, Harpenden, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield areas. It is also an informal social group for patients and ex-patients.