Sunday, 31 August 2008

Farewell, 1980 - For Now!

And so we bid farewell to 1980 - for now! It was a truly memorable Emmerdale Farm year, which saw the arrival of Clive Hornby as Jack Sugden, Jean Rogers as Dolly Skilbeck, Al Dixon as silent Walter, Martin Dale as Sergeant MacArthur and the debut of Richard Anstey (Carl Rigg) at NY Estates.

The Merricks (Helen Weir, Ian Sharrock, Jane Hutcheson and Edward Peel) apparently "returned" - but all had different faces - and Ruth had a different Christian name too - she was now Pat! Also, the family seemed to be minus a child as Ruth Merrick had been the mother of three children in the 1972 episodes!

Seth Armstrong made a huge change in the summer of 1980 - deserting The Malt Shovel, his local for many years, to drink at The Woolpack, dramatically increasing the character's on-screen appearances - and driving Amos Brearly madder than ever!

Annie Sugden had a bad knee, the Longthorns first appeared, and Joe went to NY Estates to work...

By the end of the year, Walter and Seth were established at The Woolpack, Andy Longthorn was making eyes at Sandie Merrick and we had finally broken out of the NY Estates office to begin exploring life with the estate workers.

Amos celebrated Christmas with some traditional bell ringing at The Woolpack.

1981 would bring what 1981 would bring...

A tractor falling on Enoch Tolly?

Amos Brearly grappling with one of those new fangled Space Invaders machines?

Seth Armstrong being a lousy gamekeeper and facing the sack?

Bitter battles with NY Estates over right-of-ways?

Arson at NY Estates?

A burglary at Emmerdale Farm?

Surely not!!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Home For Matt And Dolly In 1980...

At home with Matt and Dolly Skilbeck in 1980...

An e-mail from Dennis asks:

Where did Matt and Dolly Skilbeck live in 1980?

At Emmerdale Farmhouse. They slept in the attic conversion bedroom. Dolly set her sights on the old Hathersage farmhouse in 1981, but it was in too poor a state of repair.

In October 1982, Matt and Dolly moved into the new barn conversion cottage at Emmerdale.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

1980: Bogles In Beckindale...

It all began in the autumn of 1980. Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) was doing a spot of taxi driving for Jim Blake, and one of his fares this particular night was Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill), co-proprietor of The Woolpack Inn, Beckindale. The car engine had been behaving erratically throughout the journey but, finally, on a lonely road by Bogle Bog, it conked out.

Seth suggested that they should walk back to Beckindale...

... but Amos was having none of it. They couldn't walk back it was dark. The Hotten Courier had hired the cab to get Amos home after a function, the taxi proprietor was legally bound to do just that, Amos was ex-artillery - he knew his rights, Seth must go back to the phone box they'd passed earlier and phone the taxi firm from there and demand another vehicle be sent out to them. And whilst he was at it he must also phone Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) - it was late and he'd be wondering where Amos had got to.

Seth asked him if he was afraid of Bogles (more about them later) but Amos hotly refuted the idea.

Seth went. Amos clicked on the car radio. Beneath all his bluster he was actually quite afraid, being out there alone at that time. It was around midnight. The newsreader provided little comfort - just a tale about a man trapped on a ledge of rock in the Lake District by a freak storm. Amos changed channels, to find a dreadful winky-wonky instrumental version of Smile Though Your Heart Is Breaking...

He was listening to an equally winky-wonky version of Amazing Grace when he saw it. A light, moving around and going on and off in the sky over Bogle Bog...

Amos stepped out of the taxi. Instinctively, he thought Seth was to blame, playing one of his daft tricks. But when Seth returned, coming from the opposite direction, Amos knew he was wrong. Seth didn't see the light and doubted Amos' word. The Woolpack landlord was a barmpot anyway. How could there be a light out there? That was Bogle Bog...

What is a "Bogle"? Well, according to my trusty old dictionary, it's a spectre or goblin, a scarecrow or bugbear.

The word is claimed to be of Scottish origin - although Emmerdale Farm had a strong Yorkshire flavour in the 1980s, and I fail to see how a word that originated from Scotland would be deeply embedded in Beckindale folklore. I wonder if the word is in reality simply Northern British - perhaps derived from the Vikings.

Much is made of various colloquialisms being strictly Scots/Welsh/English - but the simple fact is that this is a tiny island and national borders (and indeed county) are entirely artificial. It's next to impossible to be entirely sure - and things often overlap. The Welsh fancy that the quaint phrase "round by here" is Welsh is another uncertain claim - I've also heard it just across the border in England.

Bogles, it seems, can manifest themselves as lights in the sky. Boggy areas are often renowned for this phenomenon - and names for it differ in various parts of the UK. "Will O' The Wisp" is another. Variants on the "Bogle" name in Beckindale included "Boggarts" and "Bog-A-Boos".

The logical scientific explanation is that the lights are created by marsh gases.

Amos, of course, was neither logical nor scientific, and thought he had seen an alien space craft. UFOs were very big in 1980 - the BBC radio serial Waggoners' Walk had contained a UFO story line in its closing months, Close Encounters was just three years before, The Empire Strikes Back was debuting at cinemas, and ET was a couple of years ahead. The pop group Hot Chocolate scored a major hit in 1980 with their excellent UFO ditty No Doubt About It.

Amos took to studying the skies over The Woolpack...

... and was quite alarmed when a crash helmeted young man called at the pub for a drink, stating that he came from a long, long way away. Was he an alien? The man was very interested in Bogle Bog and was camped out near there.

As it turned out, the young man was called Ned and he was at Bogle Bog with a metal detector, searching for Roman artifacts. He had some success, and told Amos about a legend he had read whilst doing his research: Romans fleeing from a villa in the locality during the Boadicea era, had seen a strange light over what was now Bogle Bog - and attributed it to an evil Bogle!

So it wasn't an alien space ship Amos had seen, it was a Bogle. Well, at least that's what our Mr Brearly thought!

He phoned Mr Tyler, editor of The Hotten Courier, and told him he was going to research the subject of Bogles and write an article.

This he did, although he had moments of uncertainty. What if Bogles read The Courier and were upset by what he wrote? Mr Wilks was amused. That was assuming that Bogles could read, let alone that they read The Courier, he told Amos.

Amos was going well over the top in 1980. The arrival of Seth as a Woolpack regular and Walter (Al Dixon) seemed to be making him pottier than ever. He told Mr Wilks that The Courier was the only local paper they could read - there was only one!!

I agree with Amos - it's likely that any self respecting Bogle would be keen to keep abreast of local news!

The article was published. Towards the end of 1980, Amos had cause to upbraid Mr Wilks about the inconsiderate nature of his relatives. Alice Wilks (Hazel Bainbridge), Mr Wilks' cousin, had announced she would like to visit him with very little notice, and Mr Wilks had agreed.

But if Mr Wilks' relatives were inconsiderate, Amos' were even more so: his Auntie Emily (Ann Way) turned up out of the blue in her old fashioned car, almost colliding with the Emmerdale land rover before she reached Beckindale.

Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) commented that Amos Brearly had been in Beckindale for around twenty years. In all that time, Sam hadn't even known that Amos HAD an auntie! Matt Skilbeck recalled that Amos had been expecting a visit from an aunt some years before - but she hadn't actually turned up.

Auntie Emily was a large eyed, somewhat bird-like woman in appearance, who bossed Amos around, sat in the bar with her knitting, and was decidedly different to your average relative. It was easy to tell she was a Brearly. Mr Wilks actually wondered if she might be a Bogle!

Mr Wilks' cousin, Alice, was relaxed and charming. Very much a Wilks. She and Auntie Emily managed to fall out and gently tiffed for a while, but a party at Emmerdale Farm, thrown by Annie Sugden in honour of the visitors, lessened the tensions.

Then came the day when Auntie Emily got herself into a state of "high dungeon" as Amos called it: she saw the article Amos had written about Bogles in The Courier and told him he should never have done it. Such things as "Bog-A-Boos" should be left strictly to themselves.

She told Mr Wilks that she hoped she would meet him again, although she would not be returning to The Woolpack, and left in a great flurry, telling Amos he should have The Woolpack exorcised.

Amos' loss of interest in Bogles was immediate.

And, as far as I know, the lights in the sky were never seen again. Auntie Emily returned in 1983 however.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

1980 Month - Feedback And Queries

First, some queries:

Pete asks: "Is it true that Seth Armstrong was not a regular at The Woolpack in early 1980?"

Of course, Pete. He was a Malt Shovel man. In early-to-mid 1980, Seth was a semi-regular in the storylines - there are a couple of quite long runs of episodes where he didn't appear at all. By about midway through the year he was a Woolpack regular - winding Amos up at every opportunity! In December, Tom Merrick called Seth a "snob" for deserting The Malt Shovel.

Lorraine asks: "How long did Nellie Ratcliffe appear for?"

I believe that Nellie was originally a temporary character, established in 1978 for a storyline about NY Estates seeking to evict her from her cottage. In 1980, she appeared occasionally - featuring quite heavily in storylines about the horticultural show, Sam Pearson's birthday, the return of the Merricks to the village and the Allotment Association's bonfire night celebration. She also featured in 1981. Amos mentioned her in 1986 and it seems she was still a village resident, but I don't think she appeared on-screen at that point.

Nick asks: "I remember the Merricks' caravan as being quite convincing, was the interior real or a studio set?"

It was convincing, but I believe it was a studio set.

Mrs Shook asks: "Did we actually see The Malt Shovel in 1980?"

No, it wasn't featured - and neither was Ernie Shuttleworth, who underwent a change of actor in the early 1980s.

Greg says: "Tom Merrick, nicking Christmas trees - I read that was 1981."

No, Greg, it was just before Christmas 1980.

Thanks to all those who have written with compliments and suggestions about 1980 Month. I have been asked if a "1981 Month" is a possibility. It certainly is, but will take some time to prepare and will not appear until October at the earliest if I choose to go ahead with the idea.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

1980: Introducing The Longthorn Family...

1980 - making plans - Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne), Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) and Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers).

Jack's return to Emmerdale Farm in February 1980, and Joe's absence in America shortly afterwards, was leading to changes at the farm. Jack was keen to upgrade the cattle herd and add a couple of British Friesians. The rest of the family hesitated: how would Joe react - after all he'd been managing the farm up to now?

Jack's decision to use his own money to pay for the cattle did not ease the uncertainties, but once he'd consulted with Joe on the telephone, and Joe had agreed to the new venture, it was simply a matter of buying the cows.

And the best farmer in Beckindale - and in fact for some miles around - to supply the cows was one Clifford Longthorn, of Lower Hall Farm.

In 1986, Annie commented to Joe that there had been Longthorns in Beckindale before there were Sugdens. But none were seen on-screen until 1980.

Clifford (Jim Barcroft) and Peggy (Dorothy Vernon) Longthorn lived at Lower Hall Farm with their teenage children, Andy (David Clayforth) and Carol (Jane Hollowood).

Andy was a bright, studious lad and in the spring of 1980 knew that a confrontation with his father could no longer be avoided. Clifford took it for granted that Andy would carry on the Longthorn tradition of farming and take over at Lower Hall Farm when he retired. Andy saw his future as doing 'A' Levels, going to university, and then becoming a teacher or something else. He didn't quite know what he wanted to do. But he did know that he didn't want to be a farmer.

Clifford was furious. Both he and his father had been happy with farming, and all his efforts had been for Andy. How dare Andy be so ungrateful?

Peggy told Clifford that when it came to raising the children emotionally, Clifford had always left things to her. Andy had a right to want something different from his father.

Carol Longthorn had her own bombshell to drop. She wanted to go to agricultural college and farm!

Clifford could not comprehend this. When it was pointed out to him that Land Army girls had done a sterling job during the war, he said that had been a "National Emergency". He did not want to negate women's abilities, but some things were "men's work".

Andy met Jack Sugden on a walk one Sunday afternoon and, mindful of Jack's difficult relationship with his own father, confided in him.

Jack met Clifford in The Woolpack and rather poked his nose in - to Clifford's way of thinking - speaking up for Andy and Andy's right to decide his own future.

Clifford was highly annoyed, and pointed out that Jack popped in and out of Beckindale as it suited him and had lost touch with what was important to the local people - and the way they thought. He then stormed out.

Things came to a head unexpectedly a few days later when Clifford was brought from his bed by the sounds of a cow in distress. Cherry was about to calf...

Clifford slipped and fell, hurting his back. He called out and managed to rouse his family from their slumbers. They assisted him to get back to the farmhouse.

In great pain with his back, Clifford asked his family to phone Emmerdale Farm - the Sugdens would help...

... but Carol had other ideas. She had assisted at countless calvings and, with Andy to help, was confident she could deliver this calf.

Clifford appealed to his wife, but Peggy was firmly on Carol's side.

And so the calf was born...

... delivered by Carol...

... with no problems at all.

A day or two later, Clifford commented to Peggy that they had a topsy-turvy pair of kids on their hands. But Peggy was convinced that both Carol and Andy would make them proud.

Within a week or two, Clifford was proudly discussing his son's choice of 'A' Levels with Jack Sugden, now the proud owner of two of Longthorn's finest British Friesians, bought at Hotten Market.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Joe Sugden - "Always One For The Women"?

Joe Sugden, December 1980.

Doreen has written:

I've got an Emmerdale Farm episode from 1983, and in it Henry comments that Joe Sugden was "one for the women". That's not how I remember him - he always seemed a romantic type of man to me, not some randy little swine!

I agree, Doreen. Joe always seemed to be out for more than just sex in his relationships. And he often ended up getting hurt - in the 1980s, he was deserted by Barbara Peters and Ruth Pennington. He always seemed to be seeking something lasting.

Mr Wilks would view things as an outsider - only we viewers were privy to Joe's innermost hopes and fears.

Joe was a nice character - we used to worry about him and his disastrous love life a great deal!

Then, of course, he found Kate Hughes.


And then came 1990...

A Suggestion...

A great e-mail just received from "Jacko".

Thanks for your compliments on "1980 Month" - several more features are on the way - and thanks also for your suggestion:

I don't remember Emmerdale in the 80's, but I'm very interested in it. I do find things a little confusing, working out who lived where and when, etc. Could you prepare a 1980's Emmerdale "Who's Who" - an easy reference for us newcomers?

Great idea, Jacko. Once "1980 Month" is completed, I'll give it my full consideration. Thanks for writing.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Who Is She?

Meg and Seth in 1986.

"Who is the smiling dark haired lady with the hat in your new blog title ident?" asks Debbie from Peterborough.

She is Meg Armstrong, wife of gamekeeper Seth - and the character's second incarnation. She was originally played by Ursula Camm as a down to earth and slightly downtrodden homebody. In 1986, Ruth Holden took over the role and the character was rewritten as a cheery nutcase, with a passion for good Christian living and cleaning!

Read about the two faces of Meg Armstrong here.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

1980: September: Al Dixon Becomes Walter Of The Woolpack...

Walter's very first screen close up, October 1980.

Before The Beckindale Bugle, confusion reigned over the character of Walter, the silent Woolpack bar propper. When did he first appear? Did he ever speak? Why was he so quiet? What was his surname?

Well, The Beckindale Bugle couldn't, and can't, solve the last two mysteries, but we did manage to solve the others.

Regular readers of this blog will know that there were two Walters, one played by Geoffrey Hooper on-screen from circa 1974-1980, and the other played by Al Dixon from September 1980 to December 1985.

Geoffrey Hooper's Walter was often heard to speak - from episodes available to me and my readers, I can state that in 1976, he informed the Woolpack that there had been a train crash at the junction; I'm reliably informed he told Annie Sugden at a village dance that he would rather be having a drink with Amos. In an episode from early 1980 he told Amos that he wouldn't have his usual pint of beer, he'd have a half!

Al Dixon's 1980s Walter said much less - I heard him mumble "Thank you" when Mr Wilks handed him his change in a scene from November 1980, and he laughed out loud when Amos planned to fix the plumbing at The Woolpack - but then who wouldn't have?! Anyway, if you want to know more about Walter and Al Dixon, simply click on the labels below.

Actually there was a third Walter in Emmerdale Farm, played by Meadows White in a few early episodes, but as that Walter wasn't particularly quiet, nor a Woolpack bar-propper, I assume he was unrelated to the subject of this article! According to Meadow White's IMDB entry, he died on 20 November 1973. Read it here.

Today we're thrilled to be able to show you, in screen captures, how Al Dixon's Walter was introduced into the story. The Woolpack was absolutely Walter-less for much of 1980. A non-silent character called Wilfred was sometimes seen at the bar, but then the Emmerdale Farm production team decided that a new Walter was required. And a new, rather different, rather quirkier Walter at that!

Al Dixon was auditioned and later revealed: "They asked me to take my teeth out and that's how I got the part."

His on-screen introduction - episode 597, broadcast in September 1980 - went like this...

Amos was ranting away to Mr Wilks - in high dudgeon about "summat and nowt" - one morning before Opening Time. As he stalked out of the bar, there was a knock at the door. Amos told Mr Wilks it was Walter knocking, it was time to open up, they had the good name of the house to consider, and so on.

Amos went into the living quarters, leaving easy-going Mr Wilks to open the pub. He made his way to the door and the episode switched scenes to elsewhere in Beckindale so that we didn't get to see Walter at that point.

Screen capture from Walter's very first scene, September 1980.

Later in the episode, Amos was putting Seth Armstrong to rights in no uncertain terms and Walter made his very first appearance, sitting quietly in the shadows. Walter would soon become associated with the corner of the bar nearest the till, but made his debut at the opposite end by the hot food cabinet. In his early episodes, he switched bar ends several times.

At first, Walter was quite low key, but he quickly became more prominent. It was in October 1980 that he got his first screen close up.

Walter's bizarre silence and highly expressive face added something very distinctive and slightly surreal to the atmosphere at The Woolpack. He contributed to Amos' growing reputation as a barmpot as the Woolpack landlord stood wittering away to him about all his latest fads. Walter never answered, but this didn't bother Amos who simply wanted to be heard and not ridiculed. Very occasionally, early on, Walter was heard to laugh at certain particulars of Amos' daft doings, but in the main Amos' chunterings were greeted by an attentive (or sometimes blank) expression and much head nodding.

Bliss for Amos - somebody who would listen to his strange flights of fancy.

Although Walter was silent, his facial expressions spoke volumes. Neither he nor Amos were at all impressed when the uncouth John Tuplin, NY Estates worker, rapped on the bar with his glass in an attempt to get service in October 1980.

Mr Wilks is bemused, bothered and bewildered by Amos' behaviour, Seth is amused, Walter is blank.

By 1983, viewers were campaigning for Walter to speak. But Al Dixon said in 1984: "I hope Walter never speaks. If he did, I think I'd be finished because the character wouldn't be a novelty any more!"

Al Dixon suffered a stroke in late 1985, and Walter last appeared on screen in December of that year, in the village's Christmas play Toad Of Toad Hall. The scenes had been recorded before Mr Dixon was taken ill.

In early 1986, Walter was reported to have gone to visit his sister in Worthing. The production team hoped that Mr Dixon would be well enough to return to the role soon. But, sadly, this was not to be and he died a few months later.

Walter was a tremendous favourite of mine - he brought a great deal of fun to the show from 1980 to 1985, and was a lovely, quirky and gentle character.

Fondly remembered.

Friday, 8 August 2008

1980: Cops And Robbers...

Most of 1980 was pretty peaceful for Beckindale's PC Ted Edwards...

But December brought the first appearance of Sergeant Ian MacArthur, over from Hotten to investigate a theft of Christmas trees from the plantation at NY Estates in Beckindale.

The culprits were one Derek Warner and...

... one Tom Merrick of Hotten, formerly of Beckindale. Edward Peel, who debuted in the role of Tom in 1980, gave an electrifying performance as the sneering villain, and is the actor who immediately springs to mind whenever I think of the character.

Tom had come to Beckindale in pursuit of his wife, Pat, and kids, Jackie and Sandie. Pat had left him a couple of months earlier and was living with their teenage children in a caravan on NY Estates land at Home Farm.

1980: Ups And Downs At NY Estates...

Up The Workers - John Tuplin (Malcolm Raeburn) and Daniel Hawkins (Alan Starkey) ruminate over a pint.

We finally escaped from the office and got out amongst the land workers at the NY Estates Beckindale holding in 1980. John Tuplin was unhappy with his wage. NY Estates insisted that they were paying the "going rate", but John called for the men to join the Union. This they did, and the Union told NY Estates Beckindale boss Richard Anstey that the company were actually paying the minimum rate, and demanded an increase.

The result was a 5% pay rise for the men, although it might have been more if Richard Anstey had been a little more honest.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hawkins, a cowman on the estate since the Verneys' era, was most unhappy at new farm manager Joe Sugden's suggestion that hormone injection trials should take place. He was protective of the cattle, and closely questioned Joe about the safety aspects of such a move.
But Daniel lost that battle.

1980: Amos' Mystery Woman

Daily Mirror, November 4, 1980: Amos' mystery lady friend has the whole village talking, reads the Emmerdale Farm synopsis for that day. So, who was she? Had Amos finally fallen in love?

No, as it happened. The mystery lady was one Margaret Hatfield, a fellow student in Amos' poetry appreciation class. She had been giving him lifts to the classes in her car, and had been spotted by Seth Armstrong, who quickly spread the news that Amos had been seen going off in a car with an unidentified female!
Amos was horrified when she turned up at The Woolpack, but made her welcome. There was no romance: his secrecy was simply because he didn't want Mr Wilks or his regulars knowing that he was attending poetry appreciation classes. He thought it might arouse awkward questions as they apparently knew he already was a poet - so why would he need poetry appreciation classes?!

Margaret Hatfield appeared in just three episodes of the Beckindale saga, and was played by Doreen Sloane. Miss Sloane made a much larger contribution to 1980s soap history with her role as Annabelle Collins in the controversial Channel 4 serial Brookside, which she appeared in from the very first episode in November 1982.
She remained with Brookside until her death in 1990.