Thursday, 25 June 2009

1978: Arthur Braithwaite And Sam Pearson - "Oh Aye"...

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, actor and comedian Max Wall took roles in several soap operas. In 1978, he was Harry Payne - a friend of Elsie Tanner's in Coronation Street; in 1982 he was Uncle Wally in Crossroads - Walter Soper - Arthur Brownlow's cousin; and his brief stint in Emmerdale Farm in 1978 saw him cast as Arthur Braithwaite, Sam Pearson's old acquaintance.

In 1982, with Emmerdale Farm's tenth anniversary celebrations making the news, Toke Townley (Sam Pearson) was interviewed about his memories of ten years of working on the show - and his funniest recollection by a country mile was this tale of a scene with himself and Max Wall in 1978, which unexpectedly consisted entirely of "oh ayes". Here's how Toke told the tale back in 1982:

"It was wonderful to act with him [Max Wall] because he's a such a marvellous actor, as well as being a superb comedian.

"But, there was one time we were out filming out in the snow, bitterly cold, and I came up to him and I forgot what I had to say, and he forgot what he'd got to say, and so we filled in. We didn't stop, like all old actors, you know, the rule is 'don't stop, whatever happens', so we just went and said 'oh aye'.

"And then Max said 'oh aye'... then I said 'oh aye'..."

Oh aye...

And so on!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Emmerdale Farm in 1972 - In Which ITV Regions Was It Shown?

I had a recent enquiry from a friend about the early showings of Emmerdale Farm: how many ITV regions originally took the series, he asked? Well, I'm not absolutely sure, but the newspaper pictured above shows the following ITV regions were taking the show in the 1:30pm slot in November '72:

Midlands (ATV),Westward, London (Thames), Anglia, Granada, Southern, HTV Wales & West, Yorkshire and Channel.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Peggy Skilbeck - Soap Life After Death...

Jo Kendall as Kay Munro here being helped out at The Waggoners' pub by Ben Woodhouse (David Valla).

The tragic sudden death of young mother Peggy Skilbeck in 1973 left husband Matt and the Sugden family reeling. With the death of Jacob in 1972 still fresh in the family's minds, the new decade was bringing more than its fair share of woes. The grim saga would continue with the deaths of the Skilbeck twins and Matt's Auntie Beattie, hit by a train when Beattie's car stalled at a level crossing in 1976, and the sudden end of Joe's relationship with Kathy Gimbel in 1977 - her father, Jim, shot himself.

For Jo Kendall, who played Peggy, there was soap life after her Emmerdale Farm character's death with the role of Kay Munro in the BBC Radio Two serial Waggoners' Walk. Kay, wife of Jack, worked with her husband at the Waggoners' pub.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Seth Was Scarce...

I've just received an e-mail from Tina requesting "lots and lots" of material on Seth Armstrong. I'm afraid that isn't possible on this blog.

Stan Richards debuted as Seth in May 1978 - the character was taught to read by local teacher Mr Moeketsi. Originally, Seth was supposed to be a five minute wonder, many characters used to pass through the series and this was going to be just such another.

But new producer Anne W Gibbons (June 1979-October 1983) decided to build up the regular cast and Seth was, of course, a wonderful addition.

In the storyline, he became gamekeeper at NY Estates' Beckindale holding circa 1979/80, but it wasn't until he became a regular at The Woolpack in mid-1980 (before that his local was The Malt Shovel) that Seth became a full-time character.

The 1979 TV Times special The Secrets Behind Emmerdale Farm, doesn't even mention the character.

Any 78/79 material on Seth I discover will, of course, be posted here.

In the meantime, may I direct you to the 1980s blog - which contains lots of Seth goodies? Beckindale Bugle is here.

Amos Brearly - 1973, 1976 and 1980 - The Pivotal Years...

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread... Here's an early YTV Emmerdale Farm publicity photograph, featuring the one and only Ronald Magill as Amos Brearly.

Mr Magill auditioned for the role of Woolpack landlord in 1972, sporting Edwardian style sideburns - which he'd grown for a play he was appearing in at the time. The Emmerdale Farm production team was delighted with them and asked him to keep them.

In 1972, Amos was touted as being a gossip, and was a dour, one might even say sour, little man, who wore scruffy clothes (holes were happily accepted) and ran a frankly scruffy village boozer.

But like all good soap characters, Amos evolved. I have been watching large numbers of Emmerdale Farm episodes, and can now earmark three years as being pivotal in the character's development - 1973, 1976 and 1980.

In 1973, Amos gained a business partner at The Woolpack in the shape of recently retired businessman Henry Wilks. Kevin Laffan, creator of Emmerdale Farm, spotted the rapport between Ronald Magill and Arthur Pentelow and decided to put them together in the series. This not only gave viewers a fun on-screen relationship to enjoy, but, in Ronald Magill's opinion, impacted on Amos' dress sense. Aping Henry, Amos began to dress more smartly.

It must be said though that Amos was rather quieter in the 1970s than in the 1980s. He was still fad-ridden, prickly and tremendous fun to watch, but also had lots of commonsense and tended to be dour.

In 1976, The Woolpack relocated due to subsidence problems with the original building, and Amos had smart new premises to run. It was around this time that he also became Beckindale correspondent on The Hotten Courier. Oh, the prestige! He puffed himself up like a peacock.

1980 was the final pivotal year in Amos' character development, but as that doesn't fall in the 72-79 era covered by this blog, I've written it up at the Beckindale Bugle, the Emmerdale Farm 1980s Blog - the article can be found here.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Never Boring...

Boring? Nay lad/lass, Beckindale had plenty of drama from 1972-1979. Here, we see Amos and Henry reading a 1979 "TV Times" special magazine - "The Secrets Behind Emmerdale Farm", which contained a short story by Kevin Laffan, the show's creator, about Amos being held by armed robbers who planned to murder him.

There is a daft idea doing the rounds that Emmerdale Farm was boring and largely ignored by TV audiences before the plane crash storyline of 1993. OK, people say, maybe things were a bit more interesting from 1985 onwards, but from 1972-1984 it was constant tea making, sheep and cows in fields, and men wiping their feet on Ma's mat before sitting down to some good old Yorkshire nosh.

That's nonsense.

Emmerdale Farm arrived (in some lucky ITV regions) on 16 October 1972, in an obscure lunchtime slot, and was immediately hard hitting. Jacob Sugden was dead. He had not been a great husband or father and now he was dead. The very first episode covered his funeral.

In following 1972 episodes, we saw the family dealing with the return of prodigal son, Jack - who had apparently been leading a racy 1960s lifestyle in London. It was the arrival of a friend of Jack's to visit Beckindale which almost caused my mother to switch off the show, never to watch again. Jack was seen exchanging banter with his chum about incest! Incest! On lunchtime telly in 1972! My mother went red with rage and switched off immediately. She'd dismissed much telly from the mid-1960s onwards as "filth" and now this "filth" was spreading to daytime!

The incest banter was penned by Kevin Laffan, the show's creator, who apparently rejected scenes of adultery and road accidents in the mid-1980s as too graphic and shocking and resigned as a writer of the show in disgust!

Back to 1972, and fortunately, within a week or two, my mother had decided to give Emmerdale Farm another chance, and it didn't blot its copybook again.

The next big storyline was the murder of Sharon Crossthwaite, a grim knee trembler of a saga (it woz batty Jim Latimer wot did it) and the death of Old Trash, a tramp. Trash fell from a window and this was actually quite graphically depicted if my memory serves me well. I recall, as a kid of eight or nine, being quite startled by it.

Meanwhile, Peggy Skilbeck had died suddenly, and a couple of years later the Skilbeck twins and Matt's Auntie Beattie Dowton were also dispatched when Beattie's car stalled at a level crossing and was hit by a train.

Vaguely Acorn Antiques style nonsense pervaded at times - Alison Gibbons had killed her family with the central heating and the vicar's son was arrested for gun running in Athens!

Jim Gimbel shot himself dead in shame over his daughter "living over't brush" and Amos and Mr Wilks were held at gunpoint by two teenage runaways. When Sam Pearson found himself being held at gunpoint by the same two miscreants, my little sister was highly distressed. To see the old man enduring this brought a lump to my throat, and I was thirteen at the time!

And the 1972-79 era went out in a blaze of misery as Wendy Hotson was raped.

The show was much slower than the Emmerdale programme now. And there was much more tea drunk. And farmhands philosophised (particularly if Kevin Laffan had written the episode!) and there were lots of sheep and cows. But not many pigs.

Still, plenty happened to keep us interested. I must admit, I found the show more natural and true to life without the relentlessly philosophising farmhands and with the inclusion of more graphic gritty detail from the mid-1980s onwards, but Emmerdale Farm from 1972-79, and indeed in the early 1980s, was not one big lesson in tea making and sheep shearing - far from it!

And as for the show not being "in the public eye" before 1993, as one Wikipedia writer recently stated, ratings of 12.5 to 15 million viewers in 1978, when the show was still not fully networked at prime time, would seem to disprove that statement.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Souvenirs From The Early Days...

In the beginning, Amos Brearly was touted as being nosey, but he was also dour, a lot quieter than in the 1980s (he grew progressively more animated as the years went on!), and no natty dresser. It would seem that, sartorially, he was highly influenced by Henry Wilks, who moved into The Woolpack in 1973.

Annie Sugden was grimmer in the early days - far more terse than in later years - having endured a difficult marriage to Jacob, the departure of son Jack to London after an argument with his father, and many financial worries.

The two photographs above date from around 1972-1974. Note that Emmerdale Farm is written in the style of lettering which accompanied the opening sequence of the very early series.

Publicity photographs of soap actors and actresses supplied to viewers by TV studios in the 1970s were always in black and white. The switch to colour prints came in the early 1980s.

The jotting above reads:

"Arthur Pentelow (Emmerdale Farm)"

"Dear Fraser,

Greetings to you from "Emmerdale Farm". I regret to say "Henry Wilks' " writing is no better than mine but I hope you will find some good in it.


Arthur Pentelow "

This was supplied by Mr Pentelow for Pete Murray's Open House (remember the 1940s big band style opening jingle and the "bing bongs"?!) for reasons I know not. If anybody does know, please drop me a line!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Cast In 1979

Beginning on 16 October 1972, Emmerdale Farm had become popular enough to warrant a couple of TV Times "special" publications and the beginning of a long series of novels based on the show by the decade's end.

Above, we see the cast in 1979 - as pictured in a TV Times special, The Secrets Behind Emmerdale Farm.

Featured within was series creator Kevin Laffan's thoughts on each character...

Annie Sugden - Sheila Mercier

Annie Sugden (née Pearson) came to Emmerdale as Jacob Sugden's bride. Ocasionally her feelings about a not totally happy marriage have been allowed to show. For the late Jacob was more a dreamer than a farmer, and it caused his wife much heartache.

Nonetheless, she never doubted the love they had for each other and, despite Jacob's faults, she vigorously defends his memory. Annie has been called shrewd, warm-hearted, capable - but her greatest virtue, apart from her common sense, is her complete and unswerving loyalty to her family and friends.

Joe Sugden - Frazer Hines

As the younger son, Joe lived for years in the shadow of his brother, Jack. Beneath the outward easy humour, which is part of his defensiveness, there is a fiery ambition. When Joe eventually recognises it, a surprising strength of purpose should emerge in him.

If Joe has a secret Archilles' heel, it is women - who might wound him in the future.

The Rev Donald Hinton - Hugh Manning

The Rev Donald Hinton lives alone in Beckindale with only his books and his beloved butterfly collection for company. Although it may sound obvious, Hinton is a deeply religious man. His piety doesn't always show, but he is secretly zealous for the spiritual wellbeing of his flock. He is undogmatic and believes that awakening people to the love of God is more important than Church ritual.

Henry Wilks - Arthur Pentelow

A tough, self-made businessman, Henry Wilks bought a house in Beckindale to live out an easy retirement and start a completely new life as a financial advisor to a farm and a partner in a pub. At one time it seemed his daughter Marian would marry Jack Sugden, but the romance foundered.

Although he tries to keep it secret, underneath his tough exterior Wilks has a soft heart. How else could he survive in a house shared with Amos Brearly?

Amos Brearly - Ronald Magill

The dour and contradictory licensee of The Woolpack Inn enjoys a popularity among the inhabitants of Beckindale that is founded on the traditional Yorkshire love for a "tyke".

Amos makes no bones about his likes and dislikes. He is, as Wilks has remarked, "his own man". Yet the world fascinates Amos, who has a logical mind but the soul of a poet. If he has a secret, perhaps it is that deep down he would like to be a married man with a family.

Sam Pearson - Toke Townley

Sam Pearson, Annie's father, is nobody's fool. He has lived a long life in close contact with the soil, and it colours everything he does. Sam is a staunch believer in God, but distrust religious attitudes as much as he dislikes modern farming technology. He has the innate conservatism of his rustic forbears. But his secret is that he has developed a simple, natural philosphy which appeals to the countryman in all of us.

Dolly Skilbeck - Katharine Barker

After her troubled and difficult childhood, Dolly Acaster came to Beckindale to work at The Woolpack. Her sunny nature managed to penetrate even the dour cockles of Amos Brearly's heart.

When Annie fractured a wrist, Dolly turned up at the farm to help - and romance with Matt Skilbeck blossomed. Their wedding was a great event in the village.

Matt Skilbeck - Frederick Pyne

When God created man, he must have had in mind the Matt Skilbecks of this world. Patient, kind and enduring, he embodies all the qualities we associate with an honest nature and good heart. His secret is that he is completely content with life. He began life as an orphan and has faced troubles and sorrows that would have broken many men. Annie loves him as a son and hopes that, with Dolly, he will find the happiness he deserves.