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02 June 2017

Blue Peter daredevil loses battle with Alzheimer’s

Much loved television presenter John Noakes has died at the age of 83 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. The national treasure was the longest-serving host of children’s show Blue Peter, and was a household name in the 1960s and 1970s.

Noakes was famous for the phrase "Get down Shep!" as he tried – often in vain - to control the show's excitable Border Collie.

In 1977 he climbed Nelson’s Column without a safety harness for an episode of Blue Peter. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.” Nothing, that is, but a 52-metre drop to the slabs of Trafalgar Square.

Coate Water Care Managing Director Chris Smith admits to collecting Blue Peter badges as a lad. As he puts it: “They don’t make television presenters like Noakes any more!”.

His daredevil attitude stood Noakes in good stead, as did his empathy with animals, and not just Shep the impetuous border collie. There was also the famous incident with Lulu the baby elephant in 1969. When Lulu defecated on the studio floor and her handler slipped over in the mess, Noakes revelled in the ensuing chaos. “Ow, he’s trod on my foot,” he yelled, adding, “Oh dear – now I’ve trod right in it!”

It is hard to explain the significance of Blue Peter during the golden age in which Noakes was its lord of misrule. There were only three TV stations and no dedicated children’s network, so Blue Peter was culturally central to its viewers in a way no kids’ TV show could be now. At the peak of its popularity, eight million watched every show.

In June 2015 Noakes went missing near his home in Mallorca. He had apparently fallen into a storm drain and was dehydrated after being outside with no water for hours. His wife Vicky confirmed at the time that he had Alzheimer's and had been suffering with it for a number of years. Two years later Noakes would finally succumb to dementia at Son Espases Hospital in his beloved Palma de Mallorca, the couple’s home since 1982.

“It’s really sad news,” says Chris Smith, “and yet further evidence, if any was needed, that even the boldest and the best can be brought down by Alzheimer’s. That’s why Coate Water Care are committed supporters of charities like Alzheimer’s Research UK, because the only way to finally beat this terrible condition is through research.”

To discuss residential care for people living with dementia, or to arrange a visit to one of our exceptional care homes, please contact our ‘Welcome Team’ Michelle or Geraldine (01793 821200).