Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Emmerdale Farm Book Of Country Lore

Browsing through the local newspaper archive on a work-related project yesterday afternoon, I came across this rather faded announcement from November 1988. Spot the flaws! Amos Brierley? A few incorrect spellings of our favourite landlord's surname have appeared in Emmerdale Farm-related publications over the years. And this Cambridge bookshop also goofs. The correct spelling, of course, is Brearly.

And Ronald Macgill? Of course it was Magill.

And what on earth was the Emmerdale Farm OF COUNTRY LORE? Had the ad's writer been on the sherry?!! Insert the word "Book" between "Farm" and "OF" and you get a much clearer idea!

Despite the errors, it's an interesting ad to have - I hadn't realised that Ronald Magill had helped to publicise James Ferguson's book. I'm sure Cambridge wasn't his only port of call. Did any readers of this blog buy a copy of the book signed by Mr Magill?

The Emmerdale Farm Book Of Country Lore was based on the premise that Sam Pearson, who had died in late November 1984, had left behind a book, an incomplete work, detailing the various doings and sayings of country folk. He left the book to his eldest grandson, Jack, who set about tying up the loose ends and getting it published.

A photograph of actor Toke Townley as Sam Pearson appeared on the back cover and the book served as a tribute to his memory and that of the character he played.

The book was split into sections covering various topics, and featured Jack, Joe and company reading through Grandad Pearson's work and seeking out and exchanging pearls of wisdom from many years ago. There was something of an emphasis on Yorkshire, naturally, but the book was written to sell countrywide, so items of interest to people living in other English counties - and elsewhere in the UK, were included.

A taste of the book - Matt and Jack on counting sheep!

Copies of this book sometimes appear on eBay and if you are interested in folklore and Emmerdale Farm in the late 1980s I highly recommend it. It's just the thing to take to bed with a nice mug of Horlicks on dark winter evenings!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Remember '88?

Archie Brooks has a surprise for some friends and it's Mrs Bates last day as Alan Turner's secretary - TV Times, 21 January, 1988.

Amos and Mr Wilks square up...

... for the battle of beers - 3 March, 1988. Does anybody have details of these episodes? I'd love to know more!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

1987: Kathy And Jackie - An Engagement Is Announced

TV Times, 14-20 November, 1987 - Kathy Bates and Jackie Merrick - young love!

Background storylines for the Jackie and Kathy engagement episodes included a break-in at the deserted Crossgill farmhouse, leading to Matt discovering the deceased owner's last will and testament - leaving the farm to him, and rumblings of concern as closure loomed at Hotten Market - NY Estates had decided to sell it. Auctioneer Sandie Merrick tried to placate angry farmers, but Eric Pollard grabbed the opportunity to do a little gentle stirring.
Meanwhile, Annie Sugden organised a celebratory get-together for the Sugden and Bates families. Young Nick Bates did not take the engagement seriously, but his mother told him that she was taking it seriously and his sister needed his support.

Two page spread about love on the farm. Interesting reference to Joe's relationships with "upper class" women - from first wife Christine Sharp, to vicar's daughter Barbara Peters, to local vet Ruth Pennington, there seems to be some truth in it!

Conclusion of the article looking at love in Beckindale.
To end on, do you know how actress Malandra Burrows (Kathy Bates/Merrick in Emmerdale Farm) came by her unusual and rather impressive christian name? Malandra revealed in an interview back in the early '90s that it was derived from her parents' names - Malcolm and Sandra!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Screen Captures Request

I've had an e-mail from Tom requesting some larger screen captures of Amos, Mr Wilks and Walter. A pleasure, Tom - above we see Amos and Mr Wilks in 1983. Amos had been out the night before to a licenced victuallers' "do" and is suffering from a hang... er, sorry, I mean "nervous exhaustion". Mr Wilks' offer of a delicious full English breakfast is not appreciated.

1983 again - a typical evening at the Woolpack.

A final visit to 1983 (for this post!) - Walter soaks up the happy atmosphere at the Woolpack. Al Dixon stepped into this role c. 1980 and appeared until 1985. He is still fondly remembered.

1985: The Newcomer...

February 19, 1985 - a big night for soap opera as EastEnders began. Like Brookside, this show was an attempt to portray late 20th Century life in a gritty, upfront manner and never to flinch from realistic portrayals of issues. For the first few years I found both new soaps very interesting indeed - very refreshing. As the 1990s got underway, the issues began to dry up, the final taboos were broken and, in my very humble opinion, Brookside and EastEnders headed into sensationalism valley, having unfortunately contaminated the other soaps along the way.

Happily, for some years yet it would be business as usual in Beckindale, with Amos and Mr Wilks presiding over a full bar at the Woolpack. Note: in February 1985, Emmerdale Farm was still being being broadcast at 5.15pm in the London area.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Some Recent E-Mails...


I like this, it's cool. Good to find out back history and you tell it well. Any chance of more up to date stuff, too? After all, if you like the 1980's, Viv Hope (Deena Payne) wears really '80's clothes!! Or she did last time I watched. I followed Emmerdale up to 2006 and I'd love to see you give it the same treatment you have the 80's.

Sorry, Collin, writing a general blog on Emmerdale is something I can't get my head round, and as the '80s were my favourite era, I'll stick with them. Thanks for the kind words.


I do remember some of the things you write about. Especially Alan and Caroline in their office and Seth marching in and out, sciving off work! The Emmerdale memories you feature remind me of My Little Pony, Rubik's Cube and the ZX Spectrum! And wearing really garish clothes with shoulder pads and things. I was at school. And guess what? THEY ARE the happiest days of your life! Keep up the good work!

I'm glad you like it. As for garish '80s gear, I dabbled in the New Romantic scene, then was a Miami Vice clone for several years mid-way through the decade...

Let's face it, there's fun fashion, then there's plain embarrassing fashion! Still, it gives me a laugh when I look back at it all!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Archie Brooks - '80s Man Activist

Archie's caravan was destroyed by Nick Bates in the Emmerdale Farm tractor. YIPIS stood for "Yorkshire Independence Party And International Socialists".

An e-mail from Carol...

The best Emmerdale Farm character in the 1980s was Archie Brooks, played by Tony Pitts. He was politically aware and a bit of an activist - highly involved in the anti-nuclear protests of 1987, and an "80s Man" or "New Man" too. He was determinedly non-sexist and in the early '90s helped Nick care for baby Alice.

He reflected the concerns of a lot of young people in the '80s and was a breed of youngster that was involved and politically active. It's absolute trash the way people try to dismiss the '80s as being simply greedy. They were a very polarised and turbulent era. These days, of course, apathy rules and youngsters would rather have an ipod than social/political justice, and insist they are far more caring than '80s youngsters whilst doing nothing to justify it.

Please can you do a write-up of one of Emmerdale's most original and true-to-life characters, who truly reflected the era he lived in?

It was fitting that the character was killed off when the show turned completely stupid and insensitive with the plane crash of December 1993.

I agree that Archie, who made his debut in November 1983, was a great character, Carol, he was a huge favourite of mine - and yes, there were a lot of Archies around in the 1980s. A very well-written and acted character. A quote from Emmerdale Farm - The Official Companion by James Ferguson, 1988:

The realistic behaviour and speech which Tony uses is based upon his own twenty-one-old brother, who is chairman of the Socialist Workers' Party in Sheffield.

The character is nowadays too often overlooked. Thanks for writing!

From the Sun, January 1983. Read more about the '80s/New Man here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Double Acts

Weird and Wonderful - Mr Wilks and Amos in 1986.

Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s was home to some delightful double acts. For almost five years of the decade, Sam Pearson and Annie Sugden continued with their father and daughter routine up at the farmhouse. Annie cared deeply for her father, though sometimes this manifested itself as nagging - like the time she discovered his underwear was so old it was falling to pieces.

Sometimes Sam could be a grouch to Annie - usually if he had something on his mind - dark deeds at the allotments perhaps (what was Seth up to?!) or if somebody was behaving in a way Sam considered as being "against the Bible".

Grouching, nagging and all, the two were always wonderful to watch.

Over at the Woolpack Inn, the 1980s were a golden era for Amos Brearly and Mr Wilks. The characters had matured into a beautifully oddly-matched twosome and the '80s saw Amos becoming pottier than ever. He took up golf. He started a local magazine called The Beckindale Bugle. He fancied himself as Member of Parliament for Halifax. He took up bee-keeping. He became interested in antiques. He became interested in the local badger population. He... well, he did all sorts of things!

Whilst Mr Wilks was Amos' friend and business partner and shared many of his scenes within the serial, to a lesser degree Seth Armstrong also formed a double act with Amos. Seth settled down to become a regular character in the 1980s, and it wasn't long before he had learned how to wind up the Woolpack's bewhiskered landlord whenever he wanted.

Seth also formed a bit of a double act with Alan Turner, NY Estates' Beckindale manager, who arrived in 1982. The wily gamekeeper was more than a match for Mr Turner who, underneath all his clever talk, was very insecure and not terribly bright. "Get out, Seth!" Alan would thunder, quite regularly, after Seth had wound him up to the maximum. But as with all the best double acts, the antagonism masked a grudging fondness between the two characters.

Seth became a great pal of Jackie Merrick, who worked with him briefly in the early '80s. The partnership of the canny older man and the troubled young lad worked well and provided some great scenes for the show.

Amos and Walter were another double act. When Al Dixon stepped into the role in September 1980, he quickly became a familiar sight at the Woolpack - and remained absolutely silent throughout all Amos' chunterings, fads and occasional chidings. But when Walter joined a mass boycott of the pub in 1983, Amos was devastated!

Silence was golden - Amos and Walter in 1983.

Next on the list comes the aforementioned Alan Turner and the very excellent Mrs Bates of NY Estates. When Mrs Bates arrived as Alan's secretary in 1984, nobody could guess that something quite magical was going to happen. But it did. I relished the scenes with these two characters - Mrs Bates saw through Alan's bluster each and every time, and became "clued in" to the silly, selfish, cowardly, but far from malicious little man inside him.

And on occasion she helped to bring out a good side to Alan Turner that many of us knew was there, but which needed some encouraging.

Self preservation, cowardice and bullying were three of Alan Turner's less likable traits. But he was never really a "JR" type. Mrs Bates saw through to the benevolent wally lurking underneath and was amused.

And then of course there was Matt and Dolly. The later years of the decade saw the couple hitting stormy waters and their marriage ending, but for over half the 1980s, the two were good, solid ordinary characters, not particularly colourful, and not particularly exciting. Their presence added believability to the show.

In a district which had its fair share of larger-than-life characters, Matt and Dolly represented Mr and Mrs Average and were, I always thought, tremendously likable. I recently watched some scenes showing the Skilbecks on a caravan holiday in a 1986 storyline. Nothing exciting happened. The dialogue wasn't peppered with wit. But Jean Rogers and Frederick Pyne kept any hint of "nod off" factor out of the scenes. I was sorry to see their partnership end.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

1985: Viewing Figures Hit A New High, Jenny Runs Amok And Amos Takes Up Bee Keeping...

From the TV Times, 6-12 July, 1985. Some interesting soap predictions can be found under 2000 - a watch-this-space odyssey.

The serial is heading for greater days yet. In September, after its summer break during which some regions will see selected repeats of programmes, all ITV regions will finally be showing the same episode on the same day...

Synopsis for 9 July 1985.

Amos the bee-keeper!

Alan Turner on horseback and the programme synopsis for 11 July 1985.

Seth and Jenny.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Meg Armstrong

That well known Beckindale poacher-turned-gamekeeper Seth Armstrong lived in Demdyke Row, and was married to long suffering Meg.

I don’t know when Meg first appeared, but I note that in episodes I have on DVD from 1980 and 1983 she was played by Ursula Camm. Meg was a practical, down-to-earth Yorkshire woman, faintly down-trodden, but always dutiful when it came to Seth - whose idea of heaven came in a pint pot at the Woolpack bar.

Meanwhile, Meg would be keeping his tea warm in the oven and sitting home alone watching the telly.

In 1983, Meg could take no more and Seth was rattled by her sudden demands that he appreciate her a little more and treat her a little better. So rattled was Seth that he even attended church with Meg one Sunday.

A fine sermon on marriage from the Rev Hinton had no impact at all. Having attended church for Meg, Seth considered his duty done, and was shocked when Meg gave him a ultimatum in front of the assembled regulars in the Woolpack: either go home with her for his dinner, or she’d FINISHED with him - he’d be locked out.

Seth called Meg’s bluff and ended up sleeping rough for several nights, cadging breakfasts from Annie Sugden up at Emmerdale Farm. Finally, a dressing-down from stand-in vicar Edward Ruskin, Beckindale’s permanent vicar some years before, persuaded Seth to take stock. He took Meg a bottle of something nice home and peace was declared, although Meg also declared the end of her doormat existence by taking a holiday abroad with a friend.

The next encounter with Meg in my Emmerdale Farm DVD collection occurred in 1986 when Amos and Mr Wilks took her on to clean and help out behind the bar at the Woolpack. This Meg was a different woman - literally. Actress Ruth Holden, formerly Ena Sharples’ daughter, the down-trodden Vera Lomax in Coronation Street, stepped into the role.

Meg’s character changed too - she was jolly, but bossy, obsessed with cleanliness and her Christian faith. This Meg shocked Woolpack regulars by putting no smoking request notices on the pub tables and sometimes refusing to serve them drinks if she thought they were drinking too quickly. She also called a halt to the dominoes tournament with the Malt Shovel when things got acrimonious (thanks to Seth cheating, it later turned out).

Best of all, she called Seth “poppet”!

Obviously, she couldn’t stay at the Woolpack: she washed Mr Wilk’s best pipe, absolutely ruining it, and made the place smell terrible with her various cleaning concoctions, containing such fragrant delights as spirit of camphor and ammonia!

Amos was too scared of her to ask her to leave but after the dominoes debacle Meg took matters into her own hands and resigned!

"That's quite enough out of you, poppet!"
Meg Armstrong appeared only rarely in the Emmerdale saga. The character died in 1993.

Seth Armstrong

A signed photograph of Stan Richards as Seth from the 1980s. Did you know that before the 1980s signed photographs of UK soap stars issued by individual TV companies were always black and white? It was several years into the 1980s before they were updated to colour!

Seth Armstrong was originally supposed to be a one story character. In the 1970s many characters (some of them Beckindale locals) were brought into the series just for one story-line and never seen again. And then came Seth in 1978. He was originally a temporary bit-part. But then actor Stan Richards, who played Seth, was asked back for a few more story-lines. The character became a full-time regular in mid-1980.

"Seth was supposed to be a five episode wonder, but I soon realised his potential," said Stan Richards in the Sunday People article from April 1985, pictured above. Fortune was on both Seth and Stan's side as Anne W Gibbons, Emmerdale Farm producer from 1979 to 1983, decided to build up the cast of regular characters and Seth became a fully fledged Beckindaler, bedding down in the 1980s to become one of the show's best-loved characters.

In 1980, Amos Brearly commented disapprovingly on Seth's loyalty to the Malt Shovel, the Woolpack's rival pub. But that was soon to change, and Seth became a Woolpack regular. There was much sport to be had there. Amos soon found himself wound up left, right and centre by the wily gamekeeper!

When Alan Turner was appointed manager of NY Estates' Beckindale holding in 1982, it was fun, fun, fun! He and Seth soon became one one of the funniest double acts in soap history!

And, as with the redoubtable Mr Brearly, it was Seth's skills as a wind-up merchant that provided a lot of the laughs (for the viewers and Mrs Bates, not for Mr Turner!) at NY Estates.

Friday, 11 January 2008

1989: From Emmerdale Farm To Emmerdale

The year when Emmerdale Farm became Emmerdale. June 22 1989, Emmerdale Farm...

Alan Turner discovers that Seth is as wily a businessman as he is a gamekeeper. And Joe is giving an answer to Denis Rigg.

Emmerdale Farm became Emmerdale on 14 November, 1989. This clipping from the Sun is dated Nov 23...

Down-trodden Matt Skilbeck, seen here in happier times (1987) with wife Dolly and son Sam, gets a letter from Dolly's solicitor. Meanwhile, Pete Whiteley is in for a nasty surprise.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Amos In 1980

Amos and Mr Wilks in the 1980s.

Click on each illustration for a readable view.

Ah, 1980! The year of Solidarity, Ronald Reagan (his election in the USA did far more to shape the decade than the election of Mrs T in the UK in 1979 - more here), the vexing question of whether we were going to the Moscow Olympics or not, the arrival of the first personal stereos in the UK (costing nearly £100 and known as the Sony Stowaway - more here), the release of the Rubik's Cube, which hit Britain just before Christmas (though in very short supply - more here), the ZX80 (more here) and the craze which caused us all to sit down, do a weird rowing dance and chant "Oops Upside Your Head..."

Pretty average year.

On the telly, we were fascinated by Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World.

Riffling through some old newspapers from 1980, I was interested that various synopsis for Emmerdale Farm indicate that it was a very eventful year for Amos Brearly. Do you know who Enid Pottle, the newcomer to Beckindale that took an interest in his poetry in January, was?

What was causing the strange noises at the Woolpack in March?

Who was Amos' mystery lady in November?

And can you tell me who was the unexpected visitor at the Woolpack in December?
I was watching at the time, but I've slept since then!
All material/information about Amos' 1980 "doings" gratefully received!

25 Years Ago - The Way Things Were - Gossip From Beckindale 1983 - Part 2...

TV Times, 19-25 February 1983. The synopsis for the episode of Emmerdale Farm broadcast on 22/2/ reads:

Jackie Merrick seems keen to settle in at Emmerdale. But he soon realises he has much to learn.

What were the details of this storyline?

When Jackie found an old butter churn in one of the outbuildings at Emmerdale Farm, he thought it might make a nice ornament. But Dolly, who was already making her own wool, was fired with the ambition to use it...

Annie exclaimed at the find "It's Granny Sugden's old churn! Where'd you find that?"

She pointed out that if the churn was to be used, it would need a stand.

Jackie set to work without consulting Matt, who happened upon the lad working on the stand some time later. He expressed concern at the lack of proper carpentry joints, and the use of nails instead of screws. But Jackie shrugged Matt's doubts off.

That night at the farmhouse, Pat, Dolly and Matt assembled...

... for the grand entrance of the butter churn, complete with Jackie's new stand.

Jackie gave his audience a brief demonstration...

... and the stand fell apart.

Jackie was furious - after all his work! - but Matt offered to help him make a new stand.

And the following day that's just that what they did.

Unknown to Jackie and Matt, Jack happened upon the scene and was glad to see his son was finally settling in at the farm.