The Lessons

How many lessons? How many Yes, What? episodes were there in total?

The short answer is 520.

The wrong answers are 400, 500, 586, 740, 786, 900 and 1,000 episodes. Yet all of these figures were published  somewhere at some time.

Lost lessons

“Live” lessons

The wrong figure of 586 episodes is interesting. That could be the known 520 disc sides plus a number of live broadcasts made in the previous year on a then weekly schedule. The players remember “about 50” unrecorded. We calculated about 50 from newspapers. Four years later a SAD staff rep claimed there were 120 “live” broadcasts. Perhaps
nobody kept an actual count. 

Speculation had it that the first 50 scripts were re-enacted for recording. Ralph Peterson rejects this.

In chapter 9 we argued that acetate recordings might have been made and later transferred to pressings for sale. In this event there would be no “lost” lessons before disc number 1. This now seems unlikely, given the broadcast reviews in Radio Call.

Disc number 1 was heard on 3DB in January 1959. Greenbottle was elderly (as if a copy of Moore Marriot’s Harbottle), and Percy was doing his best to sound like Will Hay. The lesson roved over about four school subjects, and at the end, Percy thought they’d better sing Song of Australia. Next lesson it was a truly flat rendition of Advance Australia Fair (or vice-versa). The pace is slower. Percy says “Yes, Whutl” with a “u”.

These first recordings, pulled from air after a week in the 1950s, had none of the magic we love. Any broadcasts made even earlier would likely be disappointing. Dawe himself rated them as unsatisfactory, as strings of howlers unconnected into a proper story. 

Given that, there is no point in wishing for these lost “live” broadcasts to bounce off a distant star and come back to us. In any event we can only account for discs.

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