Wednesday, 30 April 2008

1989: The Final Episode Of Emmerdale Farm...

9 November 1989, and the countdown is progressing to the final episode of Emmerdale Farm - episode number 1402.

The old opening pictures had a timeless, blurry, retro quality - even at the time of their first appearance... summer days of hard work, glorious countryside, and lovely sunsets. All very Cider With Rosie...

It was generally accepted that the farmhouse in the famous sunset scene (I found it odd that the show always began with a sunset!) was Emmerdale. But it certainly wasn't Lindley Farm, the real life location. The range of outbuildings attached to the house is missing and there appears to be a smaller house/bungalow to the left. Does anybody know where this footage was shot?

Scene One, and at the Woolpack, Amos Brearly and Henry Wilks are in a state of high anxiety: they are waiting for news of Jack Sugden and Mr Wilk's daughter, Marian. Mr Wilks is hoping that she is coming back from Italy to live in England.

Says Henry, who has been trying to phone Annie Sugden, but has found the line engaged: "Think I'll go up to Emmerdale - might as well wait there as anywhere else."

At Emmerdale, Annie is trying to contact Jack: "I must've rung him twenty times today! Where is he?" she asks Kate.

"I'm sure he must've been delayed, that's all," says Kate.

"I don't know what to think!" says Annie.

Kate advises her to put the phone down: "He might be trying to contact you."

"Maybe you're right," Annie agrees, replacing the receiver.
Jack isn't in Italy. He's in Beckindale, at Kathy Merrick's house in Demdyke Row with his son Robert. Marian is not with him. As is so often the case, Jack seems oblivious to the concerns of his family and friends.

Having established that he is back for good ("Looks like it," says Jack) Kathy suggests that he phones Annie or Henry.

"Yeah, I know I should, but I'd sooner see them face to face," Jack replies.

"They went to the airport you know, they're not going to be very happy with you," Kathy tells him.

"Well, maybe that's where they were when I tried to phone them," says Jack. He says he'll go round soon.

Kathy tells Jack she can look after Robert whilst he does that - she has to help her mother pack.

"Pack? What for?" asks Jack. "Eh, it's not the honeymoon, is it?"
It's a sad day for Caroline Bates as she packs to leave for Scarborough with her mother.

Alan Turner wants to help, but only succeeds in irritating Alice, Caroline's mother.

"Why don't you go to work, Alan?" suggests Mrs Bates. "We're not going to be leaving until five 0'clock."

Alan agrees, and asks if there's any chance of Caroline meeting him for a "bite of lunch".

"I'll try, but I doubt it," says Caroline.

"I feel sorry for him in a way," she tells her mother after Alan has left. Alice is more concerned about finding her second pair of slippers.
At Emmerdale Farm, Kate and Joe Sugden spot Rachel Hughes just leaving for school. After recent upsets, Kate asks her if she's sure she's all right to go. Rachel says that she is. Joe offers her a driving lesson after school, but she says she's going to tea with her father at Home Farm.

"When did she see her dad?" Joe asks Kate.

"Yesterday," Kate replies.

Joe does not sound happy: "You never said!"

Rounding the corner of the farmhouse garden wall, Rachel sees Matt Skilbeck with Pete Whiteley. She steels herself and walks towards them.
Joe points out that he's supposed to be using the land rover but Kate tells him she has to get up to Crossgill - the organic mustard she is growing is full of slugs.

Joe is amused at the idea of Kate digging them out. He offers to give her a lift to Crossgill, but says that's all he can offer in the way of help!

Matt Skilbeck and Pete Whiteley are discussing an ailing sheep. Matt goes to get a thermometer.

Rachel is left to face Pete.

"Why did you run off like that yesterday?" asks Pete.

"How can I be friends with you and Lynn after...?" Rachel replies.

"It doesn't mean to say we have to avoid each other," says Pete.

After an uneasy silence, Pete asks Rachel if she wants a lift to school. Rachel refuses and walks away.
At Crossgill, Joe watches as Kate digs through the soil: "Oh look - it's totally infested!"

Joe suggests that she cuts her losses and starts again in the spring. Kate refuses, and Joe tells her: "You won't get rid of them without pellets!"

"Look, I've started off organic and that's the way I'm going to stay!" says Kate.

Joe tells her she's wasting her time. "We'll see!" Kate replies. Joe wishes her good luck and leaves her to it.

Joe hasn't walked far when he sees David Hughes, Kate's ex-husband, approaching. There is a strained atmosphere between the two men, who wish each other good morning.

"Come to see Kate, have you?" asks Joe.

"Is that all right with you?" replies David.

"Fine by me," says Joe.

David asks Kate what she's doing: "I'm trying to get these wretched slugs out of my organic vegetables."
"Why don't you just poison them?" asks David.

"It's organic, David, you've got to dig them out by hand," says Kate.

Kate asks if David will help her: "Joe thinks I'm wasting my time!"

"Well, I would, but... er..." David can't think of a reason - but he doesn't help.

Kate and David discuss Rachel. Kate tells him it looks like she's involved with "some bloke".

When David questions her further, she tells him she doesn't know anything.

"Look, Kate, I don't want some village idiot mucking up her chances of going to college," says David.

Kate tells him she's tried to talk to Rachel, but it's difficult without upsetting her. David says it looks like he'll have to talk to her, and Kate tells him to "go easy on her".

David asks when he's ever upset Rachel? "Now look, we used to be close. I'd like it to be like that again."

Kate looks sceptical.
Jack strolls into the sunlit farmyard at Emmerdale.

"Don't worry, love - he's bound to get in touch soon!" Henry tells Annie in the farmhouse as he prepares to leave.

"I hope so!" says Annie.

Out in the yard, Annie and Henry discover Jack. Mother and son embrace. "Where the hell have you been?" asks Henry. "Where's Marian and Nicolo?"

"We waited hours at the airport - we were worried stiff," says Annie.

"I'm sorry, I just didn't have enough money for the shuttle flight," Jack explains.

Jack tells Henry that Marian won't be returning.

"Why, what's happened?" asks Henry.

"Let's go inside, shall we?" says Jack.
In the farmhouse, Henry is puzzled: "She said in her letter, she definitely said, she'd be coming home!"

Jack is temporarily sidetracked and exclaims at the decorating which is underway: "Joe been spending some of his money then?"

"For heaven's sake, Jack, never mind about this - what's happened?" asks Annie.

Jack explains that he gave Marian an ultimatum: he'd borrowed money from his landlord and booked tickets for the day before and told her that if she didn't turn up he was returning home without her.

"She wrote to me!" says Henry.

Jack says that he was surprised about that - "For a moment I really thought she was going to leave Paolo. Anyway, she didn't show up."

"So you left her!" Henry accuses.

"No - I didn't, Henry!" says Jack. "I decided to give her a chance to make the second flight. She didn't show up for that either. There was no answer at the villa. By this time I was getting a bit fed up. Eventually I flew into Manchester and then got a train. I'm sorry, Henry!"

Henry says he'll phone Marian and give her a piece of his mind. Jack says there's no point, he's been in touch with the nanny - and Marian, Paolo and the children are holidaying in Capri.

"Well, that's that then," says a devastated Henry. He adds that he'll take care of Jack's expenses - "You did your best, lad!" - and leaves.
Annie asks Jack what he'll do now. Jack says that Kathy is putting him up at Demdyke Row for a day or two, but after that he doesn't know.
Annie tells Jack that she's sorry things haven't worked out for him, then embraces him: "Welcome home!"

And the ad break commences...

Part two, and Caroline meets Alan in the Woolpack. Alan asks her what she's going to do for money and tells her he won't let her go short. Caroline says she can't very well keep drawing money if she's not working. "Let's just see how it goes, shall we?" says Alan.

Caroline says she really doesn't see how she can go on being a partner in the business. Alan tells her no one can foretell the future. He suggests that in a few months she might be back and everything back to normal.

"I doubt it," says Caroline. "I was expecting to be married by Christmas."

Alan tells her that just because she'll be in Scarborough doesn't mean that they shouldn't see each other and one day maybe think of setting the date.

"We were doing a little bit more than think about it, weren't we?" asks Caroline.

Somewhat bitter, she leaves him. "I'd better get back. And don't worry if you're not there to say goodbye - it won't matter."
At Demdyke Row, Jack and Kathy talk.

“Is Annie upset?” asks Kathy.

“Oh, you know Ma - she copes. It’s Henry that’s choked. There’s nothing he wants more than to have Marian and the kids over here.”

Jack tells Kathy he’s given up on Marian. “There’s been times these past three months I didn’t know what I was doing. Especially after Jackie…”

Jack struggles to explain his feelings: “Sounds like I’m blaming him. But I don’t mean that.”

Kathy is puzzled: “Blaming him?

“After the funeral all I wanted to do was to get home. Back to Beckindale. I think I might’ve put too much pressure on Marian - pushing her to come back. It’s funny, but I wanted to see you before I saw Ma and the others. Because of Jackie.”

Kathy is touched. “I’m glad you did. Do you think you'd ever try with Marian again?”

“She’s lived the good life too long, You don’t understand how she lives over there. Servants, flashy cars, swimming pool. She has everything. Doesn’t have to lift a finger. No, it’s finished.”

Jack picks Robert up and tells him it’s time for him to have a nap. Kathy tells Jack she’s seen Sarah Connolly and that she’s been asking after him.

“I think she’d be pleased to see you.”

Jack grins: “Don’t you ever give up?”

At Emmerdale Farm, Annie is dishing up dinner and talking with Joe about Jack’s return. Annie tells him that Jack is staying at Demdyke temporarily.

“He’s coming back, though?” Joe is anxious.

“We’ve got to offer him a place, Joe,” says Annie.

“Is he going to work here?” asks Joe.
“I don’t know. Not sure he will,” replies Annie.
“I don’t know, he goes off, leaves everybody in the lurch, then comes swanning back, expecting everything to be normal.” sighs Joe.
“I wish you wouldn’t talk like that - he is your brother,“ says Annie.

Joe harks back to the start of the decade, when Jack suddenly turned up and “turfed me off of this place”.

“He won’t do that!” Annie exclaims.

“What will he do?” asks Joe: “Spend a month here then go flying back to Marian?”

He explains to his mother that he is concerned that Jack will “pick holes” in all the changes he has made at Emmerdale. “From the beef herd to whatever. He won’t see this as a business. And he’s got to from now on because me and Kate are trying for a baby of our own.”

Annie is delighted at the prospect, but Joe tells her it’s early days yet and there’ll be no room for a baby with Jack and Robert coming back.

"That's as may be. But he is family. He's had a bad time. We've got to make him welcome in his own home"

Joe says no more, but he is clearly very unhappy.

Alan calls on Caroline. Alice is resting and they are alone together. “Do we have to be like this?” Alan asks.

“Like what?” asks Caroline in return.

“So stiff and formal.”

“Sorry. It’s the way I feel today,” says Caroline, coldly.

In Alan and Caroline’s old office at Home Farm, Rachel and David are settling down to a meal of hot pot. It’s a little on the dry side. “Don’t they teach you to put extra water in hot pot in the army, Dad?” Rachel teases.

“Hey, I’ve told you - I’m out the Army now - that’s all in the past!” says David.

Rachel asks him if he’s glad he’s out - “I should’ve left years ago!” says David.

“What, then you and Mum might not’ve split up?” asks Rachel.

Rachel doesn’t understand why he didn’t leave when Kate needed him to. David explains that he was “signed up” for twenty years - “Everything depended on it. My pension for one thing. And maybe I was a bit scared. Scared of what it’d be like. You don’t have to make your own hotpot in the Army! You don’t have to sign on the dole or look for jobs either. It’s all taken care of. I just got my timing a bit wrong though, didn’t I? She married Joe Sugden. I didn’t count on that.”

Rachel is startled: “Were you thinking of getting back with Mum?”

“Well, yeah!” says David. “It was so damned quick. I don’t know how Sugden managed it.”

Rachel thinks she now sees all: “Is that why you’re in Beckindale then?”

“Don’t be daft! I’m here because I want to be near you and Mark! Tell me what you've been up to, eh? It's a real treat for me having you here.”

Rachel smiles but is not convinced.

Kathy goes to see Archie Brooks in his makeshift home and finds him packing to leave. Kathy is surprised, and finds a statement daubed on the wall: “Archie Brooks wishes to inform all his friends of a change of address…”

The new address is 25, Belgrave Square.

“Are you moving to London?” asks Kathy.

“No,” says Archie: “I’m going to stay with my mother and her new boyfriend in Hotten. You’ve no idea how cold it is up here at night.”

The notice is a ruse - designed to put off official bodies trying to trace Archie - the Government, DHSS, Inland Revenue: 25 Belgrave Square is the address of the Norwegian Embassy. “I’d like to see the look on the Ambassador’s face when he gets my Poll Tax form!”

Archie doesn’t envisage being away that long - he’s already upset his mother’s new boyfriend: “I put all his records on a train to Penzance. There’s only so much Barry Manilow a man can take!”

Back at Caroline’s, Alan Turner tells her he knows he’s let her down: “Will you accept my very, very sincere apology?”

Caroline accepts.

“I’d hate us to part as enemies,” says Alan.

“Me too,” Caroline agrees.

The frosty atmosphere thaws and the couple smile and briefly hold hands.

They talk about their doubts - Alan says he’s always functioned better alone, Caroline tells him he hasn’t really let her down - she too was never really certain that they were doing the right thing.

“You will pop into Beckindale from time to time?” asks Alan.

Caroline says she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to with her mother as she is, but he’ll always be welcome in Scarborough.

Alan gives her a document he was studying earlier and asks her to sign it: “It’s undated - it's just a formality. When the house is sold it will terminate your tenancy here.”

The atmosphere turns frosty again. “You’ll never change will you, Alan? Never,” says Caroline. She rips the document in two and goes to check on her mother who is still resting upstairs.

At Home Farm, Rachel tells her father that her problems at school are “nothing serious”.

David tells her that he just wants her and Mark to do well - “I don’t want you ending up like me!”

David asks if it’s true that she’s got herself involved with “some bloke”. Rachel initially denies it. But David is not to be put off - demanding to know who the bloke is. Rachel becomes overwrought as her father wears her down. “I just can’t tell you!”

“Well why can’t you tell me?”

“Because he’s married!”

At the Woolpack, Amos and Henry drink tea.

Amos asks if Henry has tried phoning Marian. Henry asks what can he say if he did? “I can’t tell her to leave her husband - even if that’s what I really want.”

“I were looking forward to young Nicolo running around,” says Amos.

“Not half as much as I was, Amos - not half as much,” sighs Henry.

Back at Home Farm, Rachel runs from her father’s questions into the kitchen. David pursues her and the atmosphere becomes charged with emotion. David insists that Rachel must tell him the identity of the man she is involved with so that he can be warned off if he comes bothering her again.

Rachel finally caves in: “Pete Whiteley!”

Rachel says she’s loves him. David is furious, telling her that Pete has used her, that he belongs to someone else, that he’s married.

“So’s my mother!” Rachel cries, and runs out of the back door, leaving a wide eyed David staring after her.

Caroline and Alice are ready to leave the house. They go out to the car, accompanied by Kathy and Alan.

Caroline is in tears as she embraces her daughter.

“Good luck, Caroline,” says Alan, rather awkwardly. He moves to kiss her, but Caroline, tears streaming down her face, moves away.

“And you, Alan.”

It’s woefully inadequate, but Alan says: “I’m sorry.”

Mrs Bates nods, turns from him and makes her way to the car, wiping away the tears. Final goodbyes, and the car moves away. Alan puts up his arm as if to wave, but then drops it.

“Bye, Alan,” mutters Kathy and walks away.

“Bye, Kathy,” murmurs Alan. He stands alone on the pavement for a moment, before slowly making his way back into the house.

The end of an era!

At this time the end credits scrolled upwards and disappeared into the silhouette of the farmhouse and tree.



Annie Sugden - Sheila Mercier

Matt Skilbeck - Frederick Pyne

Amos - Ronald Magill

Mr Wilks - Arthur Pentelow

Joe Sugden - Frazer Hines

Alan Turner - Richard Thorp

Mrs Bates - Diana Davies

Kathy Merrick - Malandra Burrows

Kate Sugden - Sally Knyvette

Rachel Hughes - Glenda McKay

Jack Sugden - Clive Hornby

Archie - Tony Pitts

Pete Whiteley - Jim Millea

David Hughes - Martyn Whitby

Alice - Olivia Jardith

Robert Sugden - Christopher Smith

Written by Barry Woodward

Producer: Stuart Doughty

Director: Terence Daw

After Thoughts:

An episode of endings: Jack’s relationship with Marian, which had been on-and-off since the very early episodes, finally seemed to be over - as did the relationship between Caroline and Alan. Archie was temporarily terminating his stay in the village.

Henry Wilks was stunned at the fact that his daughter would not be returning and his future relationship with her would undoubtedly be affected.

It was also an episode of suggested change, continuity and hints of fresh beginnings. There was redecoration going on both at Emmerdale Farm and Home Farm. At Emmerdale Farm, the long running saga of Joe and Jack seemed to be about to come to the simmer again; Home Farm was undergoing a transformation ready for its new owners.

The room which had been the NY Estates office shared by Alan Turner and Mrs Bates from 1984 to 1988 was already witnessing fresh dramas as the couple prepared to go their separate ways elsewhere.

Farming was still on the agenda - with Matt and Pete discussing sheep and Kate getting into growing trendy organic veg at Crossgill.

1990s Emmerdale, complete with plane crash, Dynasty style villainess, exploding post office and rapidly decreasing farming content could not be envisaged at this point.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Coming Soon...

Thanks to everybody who has written over the last few weeks. Sorry the pace of life at Back To Beckindale has been a little slower than usual, but I have been ill and not feeling up to long sessions on the keyboard.

To Harper - No, there are no plans to expand the blog to include the 1990s. I simply don't have the material or the time. Sorry!

To Peter D - Quite right, it would be great to have some more material from 1980, 1981 and 1982. I'm working on it!

Thanks for your words of appreciation Sarah, Paul, Dohdoh, Wallace, Ag and Keiran - I'm glad that you're all enjoying the blog.

Please keep the feedback coming!

Coming up soon will be the final part of our original short story, Amos And The Cube, some storyline summaries (with screen caps) from 1980 and 1986, and a review of the final episode of Emmerdale Farm, broadcast in 1989.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Amos, Mr Wilks And A Computer...

Thanks to Bill Sands for supplying the photograph.

The 1980s were an exciting era for technology. Microwave ovens and video recorders became affordable; the Walkman, invented in 1979, came out of Japan in 1980; the first compact discs were released in 1982 and the first mobile phone was unveiled in America in 1983; the ZX Spectrum was invented and released in 1982 - creating great interest in home computing; the Apple Mac burst upon us in 1984 - with the first affordable computer mouse; the World Wide Web was invented in 1989... and most of us poor saps didn't know ARPANET from Nouvelle Cuisine.

In Beckindale, Barbara Peters happily clonked away on an electronic typewriter without a computer in sight in the NY Estates Home Farm office of 1983.

Her successor as Alan Turner's secretary, Mrs Caroline Bates, was tucked away in a corner with a computer which resembled a microwave oven.

Late in the decade, Amos and Mr Wilks acquired a computer at the Woolpack (they'd already had terrible trouble with an electronic till in 1986 - but some people never learn!).

Does anybody have more details of what was probably a fun Woolpack storyline? It's hard to imagine the 1980s world of computing now - I viewed the whole emerging computer "thing" as a passing fad back then - and remember, the World Wide Web was not even invented until 1989, and not up and running until the early 1990s.

Was the Woolpack computer bought for Amos to use as a word processor - a cutting edge piece of technology for writing his very excellent contributions to the Hotten Courier?

If anybody has details of the Amos and Mr Wilks computer storyline, please get in touch!

More about the invention of the World Wide Web here.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Hotten Courier, 1984

This is an interesting piece of Yorkshire Television publicity, marking the return of Emmerdale Farm for a new season. The Courier mixed Beckindale fiction (ads for the likes of the Woolpack and Malt Shovel) and facts from the programme - including the regional scheduling variations for the new season, and features on the actors, characters and key members of the production team.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Poll Result

"Get out, Seth!" was the oft-repeated catchphrase of Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) to gamekeeper Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) back in the NY Estates days, and both characters have scored top marks in our poll - 30 each! Mr Turner and Mr Armstrong were this blog readers' favourite Emmerdale Farm characters in the 1980s.

Coming next, sharing 22 votes apiece, is our lovable publican Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) and the foxy Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell). Just behind, on 21 votes, is playgroup helper Dolly Skilbeck who was also, of course, mum to Sam and wife to Matt. The character was played by Jean Rogers from 1980-1991.

Mrs Bates (Diana Davies), Alan's long suffering friend and secretary is next on 15 votes, closely followed by her daughter Kathy (Malandra Burrows) on 14 votes, original matriarch Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) also with 14 votes, and Beckindale '80s beefcake Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) with 13 votes. It's great to see Beckindale's '80s subversive Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts) scoring 10 votes. Mr Wilks - great friend to Amos and all at Emmerdale Farm - also scored 10 votes.

Thanks to everybody who voted!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

1985: Frederick Pyne Pays Tribute To The Late Toke Townley

From the Yorkshire Evening Post supplement Emmerdale Farm 1,000! - 1985:

Frederick Pyne, Matt Skilbeck in Emmerdale Farm, paid tribute to Toke Townley, the much-loved Grandad Sam Pearson in the show, who died in 1984.

Unlike some members of the cast I had not known Toke Townley before we started work on "Emmerdale" in June 1972. "Grandad" and "Matt" in the story soon developed a relationship of friendship and mutual understanding with, I believe, only one quarrel which was quickly forgiven and forgotten.

I am happy to say that the same was true of Toke and myself in real life except that we never had even the one quarrel.

We were never extremely close friends because Toke was essentially a loner as, to some extent, I am too. But we shared mutual interests in music, opera and theatre.

I remember taking him to see Beethoven's "Fidelio" at Leeds Grand Theatre and Verdi's "Othello" at the Palace Theatre, in Manchester. He had seen neither before and he was as thrilled and enthusiastic as a young lad with a new train set.

His needs were usually very simple and his praise always most generous. I once gave him tea, bread and butter and boiled eggs at my house and he told everyone at work about it as though I had given him a three-course cordon bleu meal.

This was partly because he was totally impractical at such things, but mainly because of his wonderful generosity of spirit. He rarely criticised fellow actors and he would travel far and wide to see them.

If he saw something he didn't like he would say: "Well, you see, it's not my sort of play."

This generosity showed up in his gifts to charity. I have a reputation for scrounging money for charity but I was never afraid to ask Toke.

Many a time I did not need to ask - he was already opening his wallet and asking me what I was collecting for. Sometimes I was quite astonished at the amounts he would give.

Of course, Toke wasn't all goodness - none of us is. He could have his dislikes and he could have very tetchy moods but I was extremely lucky; I only witnessed those moods; I was never the subject of them.

I always admired his tremendous energy and his terrific sense of fun and the absurd. It was nothing for him to give us notes on our performances in mock Russian and he would, completely seriously, talk the most ridiculous rubbish all morning but always with that mischievous twinkle in his eye that was so uniquely his own.

Or he would pretend that "Emmerdale" was a ballet and give us new steps to perform. "I think it will come to life," he would say, "when we get the full orchestra."

During breaks in the rehearsals in the farm kitchen set I quite often deliberately sit in "grandad's" chair and just quietly think about him.

Is this a form of prayer for him? I don't really know. What I do believe is that he is truly at rest because, although he was restless (because of his boundless energy) in life, he lived his last years in happiness and contentment with his work, his friends and his love of music and the theatre.

There could be no more fitting memory of him than the furnishings for the Green Room at the new Leeds Playhouse bought with the money from his memorial fund.

We loved him, we miss him and we shall never forget him.

Back on this 'ere blog, I have been undertaking a little reseach into Mr Townley's background and have so far come up with the following:

Toke Anthony Townley was born on 6 November, 1912, in the Dunmow, Essex, area of Eastern England. He died in September 1984. Because of advance filming, his Emmerdale Farm character lived on until late November - the character died on the 27th of that month.

If anybody has any further memories of Mr Townley and/or Grandad Pearson to share, I would be delighted to hear them!

Walter - The Mystery Man!

Did you guess who the mystery man featured a few posts back was? Yep, it was Al Dixon, Beckindale's second silent Walter actor, who made the role his very own from 1980-1985.

The article above, from the 1985 Yorkshire Evening Post's Emmerdale Farm 1000! supplement, reveals that Mr Dixon was actually born in Lancashire, and went to Leeds during the war as part of a group called Fred Musson's Select Entertainers. The group thrilled the crowds at open-air shows in Roundhay Park.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Beckindale Youth - 1986

A schoolgirl in 1980, Sandie Merrick was apparently aged around thirty in 1986.

Was there ever a girl who was old before her time more than Sandie Merrick? The traumas she suffered - getting pregnant by Andy Longthorn at the age of eighteen, the loss of her mother when she was around twenty-one, and the beginnings of her affair with married builder Phil Pearce just afterwards prematurely turned her into a right old fogey. But not a very wise one as it turned out.

Even back in the caravan days of the early 1980s, Sandie seemed a stabilising influence on Pat and Jackie, almost a maternal influence herself. And, having become pregnant by Andy Longthorn in 1983, she was sensible about the baby after a brief period of going to pieces. She was a realistic character - Sandie had learned to be a coper because of her difficult childhood.

But her musical tastes were wildly inconsistent. Whilst Nick Bates taunted sister Kathy about having Bay City Rollers LPs when she was a little girl, Phil Pearce, chatting to Sandie on a cosy evening at Demdyke, harked back to some wonderful old R'n'B records a lad at the local Scout Hut had played him back in his own 1960s youth period - which had encouraged him and some of the other boys to form a short-lived band.

Sandie told Phil she went back as far as David Bowie and the late Bob Marley - which wasn't actually that far at the time as both had had major UK chart hits in the early 1980s. But these were both considered "serious" pop people and Sandie omitted to mention her "wild" times at the Vicarage (when the Rev Hinton was out) whooping it up to Shakin' Stevens with Jackie and Andy c. 1982.

Because of her attitude, her lack of teen/early twenty-something silliness, her world weariness, the fact that she preferred sitting in the Woolpack to night clubbing, I somehow got the feeling that Sandie was not referring to going back as far as Ashes To Ashes in 1980, but Bowie's debut with Space Oddity in 1969!

Sandie had no recollections to offer Phil of the 1970s 1950s-style pop idols in her not-so-dim and distant childhood either - no dewy-eyed recall of screeching at Alvin Stardust, Mud, the Rubettes, the Rollers or even Racey on Top Of The Pops. She wasn't even a Donny fan as a little 'un it seemed. She was terribly serious and out of her own age range.

I liked the character of Sandie, but there were times when I felt, as with many youthful characters in Emmerdale Farm and Coronation Street in the 1970s and 1980s, that the performer behind the character should have been a little more similar in age and/or the writers should have been a little more aware of current trends. Jane Hutcheson was somewhat older than the character she portrayed and often Sandie seemed of a similar age.

I was a contemporary of the Sandie Merrick character, as was my peer group at the time, and it was a lot more fun going out to "Nite Spots" and dancing to the likes of Noo Shooz and the Pet Shop Boys than sitting in Demdyke Row wittering on about David Bowie with somebody else's spouse who also happened to be at least ten years your senior.

Silly Sandie!

Mind you, the character Rosemary Kendall, who moped around the farm for a while in the '70s, seemed even more out of date.

In the 1980s, Archie Brooks - the lovely layabout with the off-beat '80s dress-sense, constantly proclaiming his strong (Old Labour) Socialist principles, was a Beckindale character I recognised from real-life people around me. Archie was very cutting edge for a soap.

So, as far as Emmerdale Farm's representation of youth was concerned, all in all, things were certainly looking up in the '80s.

It beat the teens-written-by-forty-somethings inhabiting Coronation Street during that era hollow.

But if only Sandie hadn't gone from eighteen to thirty in about a year.

When she became involved with Phil Pearce I felt that the character lost all credibility, any commonsense she had possessed had completely gone to the wall, and she was now just a vehicle for a cheap storyline. Onscreen, it seemed that Sandie was simply courting trouble for the sake of it, the storyline felt manufactured (rather like the relationship between Joe and Karen Moore earlier in the year) simply to plug gaps in the air time.

With Sandie we now had the worst of both worlds. Her character was flat and too mature for her age, yet she had a childish lack of sense when it came to romance.

It was a shame that Sandie was used in this way. If the production team had thought things through just a little more, I'm convinced that the character could have become one of the strongest in the show.

And I would have loved to have seen her bopping to Opportunities - Let's Make Lots Of Money in deelyboppers and shoulder pads at Blimps Nite Spot in Hotten.

Just once.

Down with Thatcher! Down with capitalism! No Nukes! Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts)- '80s activist and layabout, was an inspired creation. He's seen here with the enjoyably stroppy and clumsy Jackie Merrick and smoothy boy Terence Turner in 1985.