Legendary radio quiz Hold Your Plums that became a Scouse institution

Billy Butler and Wally Scott, BBC Radio Merseyside Presenters. February 10, 1993
Billy Butler and Wally Scott, BBC Radio Merseyside Presenters. February 10, 1993 -Credit:Mirrorpix

A legendary quiz on a radio show which became a Scouse institution almost didn't go by its iconic name.

Today, tributes have been paid to Liverpool legend Wally Scott, who was a firm favourite name in Merseyside. Known for the likes of The Billy and Wally show, with Billy Butler, Wally died yesterday morning, April 30, 2024, after a long illness.

In his career, Wally worked on Radio City, Radio Merseyside, Magic FM and briefly on Liverpool Live, but is well remembered for the famous radio quiz show, Hold Your Plums, with DJ Billy Butler. Back in 1995, former editor at the Liverpool ECHO Arthur Johnson interviewed the pair about the show's history and success.

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Billy came up with the Plums idea back in 1984. Arthur was features editor of the ECHO at the time and had signed him up as a weekly columnist.

Wally started in journalism on the Bootle Times and moved over to the spoken word when he became sports editor at Radio City. He then started looking after Billy’s show on City and Billy slowly introduced Wally to the show’s listeners.

Billy Butler and Wally Scott, BBC Radio Merseyside Presenters. February 10, 1993
Billy Butler and Wally Scott, BBC Radio Merseyside presenters. February 10, 1993 -Credit:Mirrorpix

In October 1995, Wally told the ECHO: "I didn’t like having to actually take part in the programme at first. Somehow it just didn’t seem right.

"The bosses at City didn’t like it either. I was told off quite a few times, but Billy being Billy took no notice.

"In those days producers were never heard, but gradually I was doing more and more and now I love it. I love working with Billy or Little Billy (Billy Maher who stands in for BB) but I would not do it on my own."

In the 80s, Billy strode across to the old Vincent’s Wine Bar in Old Hall Street and announced he had the idea for the iconic show. Arthur previously wrote, "You’ll never get away with it. You couldn’t have a show on Radio Merseyside called Hold Your Plums."

The quiz radio show invited members of the public to phone in and answer quiz questions. But the hilarious answers also really made it what it was.

But Billy revealed how the name almost didn't make the cut. He previously told the ECHO: "After I had left Radio City and moved back to Merseyside, I had to leave behind a quiz show called Heads Or Tails and I was determined to come up with an idea that would beat it.

Party organised by The Liverpool Echo and Gold Crown Foods Ltd, who own Mantunna Tea, and held for 100 Merseyside people born on the 29th February, who only truly celebrate their birthdays once every four years. Picture shows "one year olds" Emma and Paul Davison and "two year olds" Elizabeth and Nicholas Parkes put out the cake candles watched by DJ Billy Butler, Wally Scott, Emma, and Echo marketing editor Arthur Johnson (centre). February 29, 1988

"I had this format of a fruit machine game for the radio and the title suddenly struck me. Everyone said the BBC would not approve it particularly as the shows were listed in the Radio Times.

"In the end I went on to the boss of the station, Ian Judson, so much that he said he would put it forward in the Radio Times listings, but said that the title would have to be dropped if the magazine refused to print it."

The title went into print and the rest is history. Billy Butler and Wally Scott’s programme gained a cult following and is still remembered fondly today.

Cassettes of the Sunday show were sent all over the world, with videos of the programme also hitting the shops. Billy and Wally also had stage shows selling out at clubs and theatres all over the region.

The double act made generations laugh in the city and in the 90s reflected on what made their friendship so special. At the time, Billy said: "We don’t try and be anything other than what we are and I think that people who listen know that it has not been scripted."

You can pay tribute to Wally Scott in the comments section below.

Radio Merseyside's Billy Butler and Wally Scott in the studio. June 16, 1994
Radio Merseyside's Billy Butler and Wally Scott in the studio on June 16, 1994 -Credit:Mirrorpix

Wally added: "We are just the same off the radio as we are on it. The sort of things we talk about are the things we are talking about in the butty bar or in the pub."

Over the years, Billy collected thousands of old papers, magazines, photographs and records. Every Saturday in the ECHO, Billy and Wally used to look back at a different subject.

The first of Billy and Wally’s Mersey Memories was of the extraordinary days of all-in wrestling at the Liverpool Stadium in 1995. To celebrate his life and legacy on Merseyside, the ECHO delved into the archives to find wonderful photographs of Wally Scott through the years.

In a tribute to his long term friend and colleague, today Billy Butler wrote on Facebook: "It is with deep regret and much sadness that I have to announce the passing of my close friend and colleague Wally Scott who passed away peacefully yesterday morning after a very long illness.

"Wally was my friend and work mate for over 40 years on radio and TV he had careers in journalism with one of Liverpool's biggest news agency's he also worked on Radio City, Radio Merseyside, Magic FM and briefly on Liverpool Live with me. He was an inspiration to work with and a huge influence on my career.

"We never had a cross word and we had the best chemistry together always laughing. And as well as our radio shows we did over 60 Billy and Wally TV shows together and 58 sold out Pontins shows as well as many theatre shows at the Empire, Floral Pavilion, Philharmonic and not forgetting our pantomimes together, where Wally would live in fear of my antics!

"I am so grateful for having met him and having him in my life and I will miss him so dearly. Sleep well Wally. Condolences to his life long partner Val."

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