Monday, 29 June 2009

1982: Emmerdale Farm Celebrates A Decade On Screen

The Press Pack logo for the tenth anniversary.

October 1982 saw a very special anniversary for Emmerdale Farm. The show completed its first decade on-screen, having first been shown as a lunchtime soap on 16 October 1972.

To celebrate, Yorkshire Television screened a special programme - A Decade Down On The Farm, featuring the show's creator, Kevin Laffan, and the remaining original cast members, Sheila Mercier (Annie Sugden), Toke Townley (Sam Pearson), Frazer Hines (Joe Sugden), Frederick Pyne (Matt Skilbeck), Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly) and Arthur Pentelow (Henry Wilks) reflecting on ten years of the programme.

The show was presented by Yorkshire Television presenter Richard Whiteley (who, from November 1982, would become nationally famous as presenter of Channel Four's Countdown).

Kevin Laffan was interviewed by Richard Whiteley at Lindley Farm, then the exterior location for Emmerdale Farm:

Richard: "Kevin, I suppose at the time when it was suggested, everyone just said: 'What's this going to be - just a TV version of The Archers'?"

Kevin: "Yes, they did - but, of course, it isn't - nothing like it."

Richard: "In what way is it different?"

Kevin: "Well, we're not aimed at giving information to farmers to start with. We are simply concerned with showing a family living its life on a farm."

Richard: "And is the idea we should envy this family living on the farm?"

Kevin: "Yes, the idea... when we first talked about the serial, the idea was that we would create a situation where we would have a programme that people living in cities, engaged in the routine business of earning a living, would be able to see the kind of life that they would perhaps want to escape to."

Location filming for episode 759 in 1982.

Filming in Esholt (Beckindale) in 1982 - Pat Merrick (Helen Weir) and her son, Jackie (Ian Sharrock) chat at the bus stop.

Richard interviewed Sheila Mercier, standing at the gate of Lindley farmhouse:

"Now the viewer totally identifies you with living in this house here and leaning on this gate here, looking over the farmyard. It's not your house, but I wonder after ten years do you sometimes think you do live here, and it is your house?"

Sheila: "Yes, very often, I look around - I think 'It's all mine'. Yes, I would like to live here."

Richard: "Would you like to be a farmer's wife?"

Sheila: "In many ways I would, yes. I love the country life and I love animals, and I talk to all the calves when they're little."

Richard: "In the series, you spend all your time in the kitchen, you're always cooking or making cups of tea or washing up. What sort of a life is that?"

Sheila: "Well, I must've made thousands of cups of tea, and goodness knows how many breakfasts, and lunches and suppers. It just seems to go on forever!"

Richard: "And all the family [actors] that sit round the table for these gorgeous meals you make, you regard them all as your family, do you?"

Sheila: "Oh, yes, of course I do. They have become my second family. It's a long time we've been here."

Richard discussed Sam Pearson with Toke Townley:

Richard: "You [Sam] stick up for all the old values in life."

Toke: "That right - that's true, he does."

Richard: "You [Sam] don't particularly like the pace of modern day life?"

Toke: "No. I think particularly he doesn't like the way people go on from his point of view, he was brought up so differently. And he does incline also to dislike the modern machinery up to a point, you know, saying horses always did it better."

Richard interviewed Frederick Pyne (Matt Skilbeck):

Richard: "Now, in the last ten years you've had one or two dramas in your life, you've lost one wife, you've lost your twins, and in fact, in a way, you've lost your second wife, haven't you?" [The role of Dolly Skilbeck was recast in 1980].

Frederick: "Mmm, well I've been very lucky really, I've been married twice but I've had three women!"

Richard: "You're smiling now, but it's quite well known that you don't smile a great deal - you're not a great smiler in the series."

Frederick: "No, well they won't let me, you see, they always make me miserable. I'm supposed to be a dour Dales farmer. I don't think they all go around like that really all the time, but then you don't smile a lot if you lose half your family every other year, do you?"

An extract from Richard Whiteley's interview with Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly):

Richard: "After ten years of playing the landlord of The Woolpack, I suppose you feel like the landlord of The Woolpack, don't you?"

Ronald: "I suppose I do. Funnily enough, I feel a landlord more off-duty than on, because I spend so much of my time with my friends in the Licensed Victuallers' Association and they do accept me as one of them."

Richard: "Would you make a good landlord, do you think, in real life?"

Ronald (smiling): "Oh, I don't think so - it's too much like hard work!"

And so on to the Press Pack...

The cover of the 10th Anniversary Celebration Press Pack showing: Frazer Hines (Joe Sugden since the first episode), Arthur Pentelow (Henry Wilks since the first episode), the Reverend Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning, who debuted in 1977), Frederick Pyne (Matt Skilbeck since episode one), Clive Hornby (Jack Sugden since 1980), Sheila Mercier (Annie Sugden since the first episode), Stan Richards (who debuted as a temporary character called Seth Armstrong in 1978, and became a central character over a period of time, finally becoming a Woolpack regular in 1980), Jane Hutcheson (Sandie Merrick since 1980), Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly since episode one), Toke Townley (Sam Pearson since episode one), Helen Weir (Pat Merrick since 1980), Richard Thorp (Alan Turner since 1982), Jean Rogers (Dolly Skilbeck since 1980) and Ian Sharrock (Jackie Merrick since 1980).

Cheers! Key members of the 1982 Emmerdale Farm cast toast the show's first decade.

Included in the 10th Anniversary Press Pack was a notepad, each page featuring a charming drawing of some of the central Emmerdale Farm characters - Matt, Annie, Henry, Amos, Sam, Joe, Jack, Donald, Dolly and Nell the faithful sheepdog!

From the Press Pack:

Yorkshire Television, together with author Kevin Laffan, created "Emmerdale Farm", the story of the Sugden family and their friends and neighbours in the Yorkshire Dales village of Beckindale.

Says Kevin Laffan: "I was approached by YTV with a simple brief for a three-month serial - 'write 26 episodes about a Yorkshire farm' ".

It was an original and conscious decision to make the series quiet and gentle-paced, reflecting the lifestyle and the seasons of the countryside. There would be emotional stresses and conflicts among the characters but very few watch-next-week, cliff-hanging dramas. The accent was to be firmly on people and their relationships set against the splendid back-drop of some of the most beautiful countryside in England - the Yorkshire Dales...

And an early decision was also taken to record FIFTY per cent of the story on location - unheard of in the history of producing such long-running television series...

Beckindale's "Woolpack", as in any village, is the hub of community life. This is where gossip abounds, listened to with careful interest by landlord and local Hotten Courier correspondent Amos Brearly.

People love a traditional pint and a chinwag - who's doing what, when and why? - but there is little maliciousness in Emmerdale's talk. The folk of Beckindale belong to a now rare community where, though there may be occasional differences, they care about each other.

And they have cared for TEN years.

Making it into the papers - the Sunday Mirror, 10 October, 1982, notes the impending Emmerdale anniversary.

The TV Times honoured the show with a special 10th Anniversary souvenir magazine.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Uttered In The '80s Part 7: "P*SS OFF!"

Ah, the 1980s! The man from Del Monte, he say Yes, Frankie, they say Relax, the Scotch Skeleton he say Re-Record, Not Fade Away (more here), and the man from Beckindale's local quarry, he say PISS OFF!

Harry Mowlam (Godfrey James) blasted into Emmerdale Farm in late 1983, the early months of Richard Handford's stint as producer. And he was trouble. In fact, you can give that "trouble" a capital 'T'.

Harry was rude to Dolly, dumped a load of stones in the Emmerdale farmyard, and mistreated his dog.

Richard Handford was giving the show a shake-up, and there is no doubt that this shake-up was influenced by Brookside's debut. Emmerdale Farm had never been as cosy as some believe (indeed, in 1981, Pat Merrick had been hit and bruised by her soon-to-be-ex-husband Tom) but under Richard Handford's leadership in 1983 the pace gathered speed, scenes grew shorter, and a real baddie arrived...

The breath-taking Harry Mowlam. The awe-inspiring Harry Mowlam. The terror-inducing Harry Mowlam.

And, via Harry, Emmerdale Farm followed in Brookside's 1982 footsteps by letting fly some verbal naughtiness in 1983.

Brookside supremo, Phil Redmond, had wanted down-to-earth language to feature in the new serial from its beginning in November 1982. He'd wanted a few choice words and phrases sprinkled into the dialogue. Like real life. But the audience hated the swearing, and Redmond dropped it, puzzled over the fact that, whilst people swore in their everyday lives, and knew they did, they seemed to have a deep-seated need to be offended by hearing it on the telly.

In late 1983, as Beckindale's thoughts turned towards Christmas, Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) witnessed Harry Mowlam abusing his dog and stole it away from him.

Harry was furious, and when young Mike (Martin Barrass) made a joke about the sorry state of the dog's kennel, Harry asked him what he knew about the dog?

"Nothing, it's just a joke, that's all," said Mike.

"Piss off!" said Harry.

In homes across the land, mouths dropped open... knives and forks clattered onto plates from suddenly nerveless fingers...

And then a howl of "WELL REALLY, HOW DISGUSTING!" (probably followed by torrents of outraged expletives), went up from houses all round the United Kingdom.

Toke Townley (Sam Pearson) once recounted a conversation with an Emmerdale Farm fan who told him that the show, for her, did not represent how life was, but how it should be.

It seems that, by 1983, this was changing...

Harry Mowlam didn't stick around that long initially... but he later returned...

Read all about him here.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Uttered In The '80s Part 6: When Walter Couldn't Speak

Lemonade instead of beer... During Walter's glorious reign at The Woolpack bar from 1980 to 1985, this was a complete one-off!

When Amos (Ronald Magill) and Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) went to Amos' uncle's funeral in the autumn of 1983, The Woolpack was closed for the afternoon. When Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) arrived for a pint (or eight), he found Walter (Al Dixon) tapping at the door, firmly out in the cold. Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) joined them and, informed by Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) of the reason for the pub being closed, the men joined forces and went to The Malt Shovel.

A boozy afternoon ensued, with the unlikely threesome going back to Home Farm to sup some more after the afternoon session ended at The Shovel.

The next day an incredible thing happened: Walter drank lemonade instead of beer at The Woolpack.

Seth told Henry Wilks the facts about the day before, and revealed even more startling news: "Walter got that drunk, he couldn't even speak!"

Crumbs, what a state of affairs! A non-speaking Walter - can you imagine it?!

Rewriting The Past: Alan Turner's Children

Confrontation at Home Farm in 1984 - Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) with Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) and John Tuplin (Malcolm Raeburn).

Mike queries:

I seem to remember Terence Turner in the mid-1980s being very much younger than the (now late) Terence Turner of more recent years! Can you explain this?

Yes, Mike - history is often rewritten in soaps. I'm studying some episodes from 1983/1984 and in one 1983 episode Alan plainly states that he is having to find school fees for his two children. And, in 1985, Terence was, of course, dropping out of university!

Both Alan's children in the modern day Emmerdale serial were born somewhat earlier than the original versions.

This type of thing is common in soaps and has been for many years - previously unseen/minor/recurring characters in a regular character's background have their details tweaked to suit the dramatic needs of a programme. I recall similar things occurring in Coronation Street in the 1970s and 1990s, when the ages of the Barlow twins and Mike Baldwin's son, Mark, were tweaked to fit in with story-line ideas.

I'll reveal further information about Alan's family background in the 1980s as soon as I have it.

Terence Turner, the '80s version, played by Stephen Marchant.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

1985: Diana Davies And Richard Thorp On Mrs Bates And Alan Turner...

"Well, he's a bit of a nasty person on the screen, but in real life he's quite likeable," said Diana Davies of Richard Thorp, as the pair were interviewed by Richard Whiteley for the Emmerdale Farm 1,000th episode TV special celebration in 1985. The "quite likeable" was said tongue in cheek - the two were in very jovial mood, and appeared to have an excellent rapport.

When Mrs Caroline Bates turned up as Alan's "temp" secretary in 1984, nobody suspected that this was the beginning of one of the show's best-loved comic partnerships. But with Mrs Bates ever-ready to see through Alan's bluster to the wally underneath, great fun was had by we lucky viewers.

And many of us actually began to like Alan as a result - which was a tremendous change as, since his arrival in 1982, he'd aroused feelings of irritation and even, sometimes, vehement dislike amongst viewers.

"You've taken a bit of stick in real life as the 'JR' figure, haven't you?" said Richard Whiteley to Richard Thorp on the 1,000th episode celebration programme.

"Yes, I have - and particularly at home," replied Richard Thorp. "My wife always insists Alan Turner leaves the room before she has a chance to chat to Richard Thorp!"

Richard Whiteley: "But I hear that when you go into restaurants, people have left the restaurants and taxi drivers wouldn't give you lifts?"

Richard Thorp: "Oh, yes, yes - 'Not you, you walk!' they say!"

Richard Whiteley: "What we all want to know, really, are you two going to get it together ever do you think?"

Richard Thorp (suddenly becoming Alan Turner): "That's down to you, Mrs Bates. I think you can answer that one."

Diana Davies: "Well, we don't know, we just think it's probably not a very good idea because it's good fun the way it is now."

Richard Whiteley: "What about just something for now on this special occasion?"

Diana Davies: "All right."

Richard Thorp, after the kiss, becoming Alan Turner again: "That's in lieu of a rise - you don't get everything for nothing!"

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

1985: Walter Speaks!!

Al Dixon - Woolpack Walter, 1980 to 1985,

I've received an e-mail from somebody apparently called Tibbles.

Tibbles has recently viewed the 1985 TV special celebrating 1,000 episodes of Emmerdale Farm, which featured actor Al Dixon, the show's silent Walter character in the early-to-mid-1980s.

Why, asks Tibbles, did Richard Whiteley, the show's presenter, state that Al Dixon had not spoken a word during 13 years in Emmerdale Farm, and yet Al Dixon did not actually first appear as Walter until 1980?

It's probably an error, Tibbles - although it is possibly a slightly garbled reference to Al Dixon's first Emmerdale Farm role - he appeared in a photograph as Jacob Sugden, alongside Sheila Mercier as Annie. The photograph stood on the farm's mantelpiece in the very early days.

So, Al Dixon had played two silent roles in Emmerdale Farm.

Sheila Mercier revealed in her autobiography, Annie's Song (1994):

It was decided there should be a photograph of Annie with her late husband, Jacob, on the mantelpiece [at Emmerdale Farm] and they chose Al Dixon to pose for a picture with me. I was absolutely furious because I thought Annie should have a great lion of a man for a husband, not a tiny, weedy thing like he was. I took it out on Al and couldn't bring myself to be nice to him, although he was terribly nice to me. I still couldn't forgive him for daring to be my husband.

Mr Dixon became Walter in September 1980 and was last seen on-screen in December 1985. There were some delightful clips on YouTube in recent years showing a totally different actor being a Woolpack Walter in the late '70s. The actor playing "old Walter", listed in a 1976 TV Times special, was Geoffrey Hooper. Mr Hooper's Walter was, apparently, occasionally known to speak. The story of Walter, as far as we know it, is covered in more detail here.

The wonderful thing about the 1,ooo episode celebration was that we actually heard the '80s Walter (Mr Dixon) speak! Had he ever been tempted to speak in the show? asked Richard. "Oh, many times!" said Mr Dixon.

A toast to all the good folks at the Woolpack!

"Daily Mirror", 23 May, 1985.

"TV Times" tribute to Al Dixon, 1986.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Emmerdale Farm Vol 2 - A New DVD Set On The Way!

Thanks to everybody who has informed me that Emmerdale Farm Vol 2 is on the way! It's been a long wait!

I urge all fans of vintage soaps to buy a copy - it will be a fascinating glimpse into the past and a must-have for all fans of Emmerdale Farm.

This volume will hark back to the soap's lunchtime days, but to all fans who have asked me about 1980s episodes, the best way to ensure that they are officially released is to buy the earlier stuff.

And for those who proclaim the show in its first few years "slow" and "boring", I think you will be very pleasantly surprised by what was, in reality, a thought provoking serial with moments of great drama.

The release date is 24 August.

UPDATE: The release date is now 14 September.

Uttered In The '80s Part 5 - Seth Armstrong: Advice For A Young Man...

Seth (Stan Richards) was fond of young Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock), and, watching him suffer after the break-up of his romance with Angie Richards (Beverley Callard) in the late summer of 1983, decided to offer some heartening words of wisdom:

Seth: "I'll tell you somethin' - bit of fatherly advice - if you're gonna start takin' young women out..."

Jackie: Look, I don't need your advice, Seth!"

Seth (ignoring that): "It's four F's - I learnt that, see... Find 'em, Feed 'em..."

Jackie (interrupting): "I tell yer, I'm not interested!"

I seem to remember that the fourth "F" was "forget 'em", but the third... well, that would have raised a few eyebrows in Beckindale!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

1983: Jackie Merrick's Black Eye...

Notice anything odd about this postcard of Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) and Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock), taken at the Corner Shop in Esholt in 1983?

Yes, that's right, Ian Sharrock appears to be sporting a black eye!

But rest assured, Ian wasn't, Jackie was!

The photograph was taken whilst Stan Richards and Ian Sharrock were filming in Esholt in the summer of 1983. I've actually found the completed episode, which shows Jackie and Seth leaving the Esholt Corner Shop, AKA the Beckindale village shop, and discussing the latest village doings in the street.

Jackie's shiner came from "women trouble". His brief romance with Angie Richards (Beverly Sowden/Callard) had ended, but Jackie, after a few pints, was still jealous to see her with a new boyfriend at the disco in Hotten...

Angie's latest lover-boy was up to the challenge, and landed Jackie with a black eye, before the bouncer moved in to split the warring pair up.

Can You Guess? Skulduggery At The Beckindale Horticultural Show, 1983...

There was trouble at the Beckindale Horticultural Show in 1983 when Skipdale Co-op price tags were found on one of the competitors' cauliflowers...

Who do you think the miscreant was?

A) Judy Westrop

B) Seth Armstrong

C) Jackie Merrick

D) Henry Wilks

E) Walter

F) Amos Brearly

G) Sam Pearson

Friday, 19 June 2009

Uttered In The '80s Part 4 - Eric Pollard And Sandie Merrick - Home Truths?

It was good old Joe Sugden (Frazer Hines) who initially unleashed Eric Pollard (Christopher Chittell) on to the Beckindale district way back in 1986. When Joe turned down his step-niece Sandie Merrick (Jane Hutcheson) for the post of auctioneer at Hotten Market, and employed Pollard instead, he had no idea of just what he was setting in motion.

In 1987, Pollard faced the sack for being "on the fiddle". He blamed Sandie, believing that she had blabbed to Joe simply because she was after his job:

"Take it! It's yours. I would tell you where to put it, but I think a woman of your... morals can probably work it out for yourself!"

It might have been the end of Eric's job... but his reign as Beckindale's man-you-love-to-hate was only just beginning...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Emmerdale Farm - Regional Variations In The 1980s - And The Significance Of 1988...

Daily Mirror, 1983

Cerys has written with an enquiry about regional variations in the times and dates of Emmerdale Farm screenings in the early-to-mid 1980s:

I have read that 1978 was the pivotal date and that the show was then shown in the evenings. But a 1983 TV Times I bought on eBay recently points to that not being the case. It's a Thames edition, and Emmerdale Farm is scheduled for 5.15 pm!

Interesting point, Cerys. An edition of the Daily Mirror I have from May 1980, reveals that the show was being shown at 7pm by ATV, Southern and Yorkshire, by Granada at 6.30pm and at 5.15pm by Thames (London) and Anglia (East of England).

It was shown by my own ITV region, Anglia, at 5.15pm at least until the mid-1980s.

In the mid-1980s, Emmerdale Farm became an all-year-round soap, and the seasonal breaks ceased, although the show was still briefly off-air over the Christmas season.

Some 1980 YTV publicity blurb claims that the programme was being shown:

"FULL ITV NETWORK (except STV/WTV/CHA) Tuesday, JANUARY 8, 1980.

STV Wednesday, JANUARY 9, 1980

WTV/CHA Thursday, January 10, 1980 } times vary, all early evening."

But, of course, many people consider 5.15pm to be late afternoon!

In July 1983, an article in the Sunday Mirror revealed:

Thames TV's stubborn refusal to shift the series from their afternoon schedule suits Sheila [Mercier - Annie Sugden] just fine because she can live undisturbed by fans in Shepperton, Middlesex, with Peter, her husband and agent.

"Yes," admitted Sheila. "I am happy that the series goes out at a time when not many people are watching."

The book Emmerdale - The First Twenty Years (Box Tree, 1992) is enlightening:

On 5 January 1988, 'Emmerdale Farm' had achieved a programming milestone - being transmitted country-wide on the same day at the same time. After fifteen years, this was a major achievement. The year was also the first in which broadcasting continued through Christmas.

From the Christmas 1988 TV Times - the very first Christmas season featuring episodes of the Beckindale farming saga.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

1983: Computers At NY Estates And Seth Armstrong's First Name...

Seth Armstrong "entertains" on the piano at the 1983 Beckindale Christmas Show.

In the summer of 1983, changes were afoot at NY Estates in Beckindale. The company was going computerised and each of its holdings would have a computer installed which would be linked to head office. Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) discovered that his secretary's hours would be cut from full-time to three days a week because of this.

And that wasn't all.

NY were seeking to make redundancies of around 50%, over a period of time.

Barbara Peters (Rosie Kerslake), Alan's secretary, ensured that the workforce, via Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards), got a look at the redundancies list. Alan had already told union rep John Tuplin (Malcolm Raeburn) that he was on the list, but that he needn't be. As union rep, John was in a position to cause major disruption. If he went with the flow and enabled the redundancies to be made without undue hindrance, Alan would ensure that John's name was taken off the list.

John hated what Alan was suggesting, but he had a wife and children to support.

Seth discovered that his name was on the list.

Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) was curious to discover that "Armstrong: A.S." was the name listed.

What did the "A" stand for, he queried?

"It were just a name I were given. All't eldest lads 'ad it. I were never called by it," said Seth.

"Well, what's it for, then?" persisted Jackie.

"Archibald," said Seth.

Jackie was highly amused.

Seth was too devastated at the prospect of losing his job to pay much heed.

The Beckindale shoot had been operating at a loss, and NY wanted to abolish it, but Alan moved to save it, also saving Seth's job as gamekeeper.

Funnily enough, 1983 seemed to be the year of Archibalds in Beckindale - with Seth's secret christian name coming out, and Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts) making his first appearance!

Archie - nice hair, shame about the name...

The 1980s: What The Emmerdale Farm Producers Did - Part 1...

Producer Anne W Gibbons with Arthur Pentelow (Henry Wilks) and Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly) in 1980.

This is Part 1 of a brief look at the changing face of Beckindale in the 1980s - how the various producers of the show guided and moulded Emmerdale Farm/Emmerdale through a decade of tremendous change...

Maurice (Edward Dentith) and Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons) left the show in 1980 - and the workforce at NY Estates was featured as Joe Sugden (Frazer Hines) went to work there as farm manager.

Anne W Gibbons took the chair as Emmerdale Farm's producer in June 1979 and departed in 1983. Ms Gibbons began stamping her mark on the show in 1980, recasting the characters of Jack Sugden and Dolly Skilbeck - Clive Hornby and Jean Rogers debuted in the roles in February and April 1980.

1980 - new Jack, new Dolly.

In the summer of 1980, Ms Gibbons oversaw the completion of the transition of Seth Armstrong from peripheral to central character as he became a regular at The Woolpack. She also oversaw the recasting and rewriting of the Merrick family. Out went Ruth Merrick, mother of three, to be replaced by Pat Merrick (Helen Weir), mother of two - Jackie (Ian Sharrock) and Sandie (Jane Hutcheson). Edward Peel made a fiercesome Tom Merrick.

In September 1980, Ms Gibbons' reign saw the arrival of Al Dixon as Walter of The Woolpack.

Say nowt - the fabulous Walter, played by Al Dixon, from 1980-1985.

Other notable characters introduced by Ms Gibbons included Police Sergeant Ian MacArthur (Martin Dale) in 1980 and Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) in 1982.

1980 was the year that Woolpack premier Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) gained an allotment and became rather more animated and odd-ball in character!

The Amos '80s were a memorable era - in 1980 he gained an allotment and Seth Armstrong as a Woolpack regular. By 1981, he was gloriously mad.

Alan Turner was originally simply a bit of a slippery customer, selfish and lazy. But in early 1983, the character became rather more unpleasant. The days of the comic partnership between Alan and Seth, and Alan as a character we could at times sympathise with, were yet to come.

Don't trust him, Joe! New Beckindale NY boss Alan Turner arrived at Home Farm in 1982.

The Anne W Gibbons era confronted problems with the architecture of Lindley Farm, in use as Emmerdale Farm house since the show began. The real-life exterior did not match the fictional Emmerdale Farm interior. The Sugdens were often seen to be pushed for space, and yet Lindley Farm house appeared to be very spacious indeed - with what appeared to be good-sized rooms on either side of the front door, and a side door with bedroom windows above.

In 1982, the Emmerdale Farm production team disguised the Lindley Farm side door and windows as a barn and initiated a story-line in which Jack Sugden and Pat Merrick decided to turn the barn into an extension cottage for when they married. Of course, Matt and Dolly Skilbeck finally moved into the extension cottage when it was completed, and the exterior of Lindley Farm house then corresponded far better to the fictional interior layout of Emmerdale Farm - the only remaining mystery being the window to the left of the front door. The window to the right was supposedly the parlour. But no other room was ever mentioned in the story-line as far as I'm aware.

Perhaps the most controversial story-line of the Anne W Gibbons era was the teenage pregnancy of Sandie Merrick in 1983. The whole Merrick storyline was actually quite daring back in those days - with Tom and Pat splitting up (Pat endured a beating from Tom in 1981) and Jackie torching the caravan the family had lived in before Pat's marriage to Jack in 1982.

Tempestuous Beckindale teens of the 1980s - Jackie burns the caravan and Sandie confides in Annie Sugden about her pregnancy.

By the end of the Anne W Gibbons era in 1983, Emmerdale Farm had undergone many changes. With the highly subversive and influential Brookside serial underway on Channel 4 from November 1982, and with the opening years of the 1980s being a time of turbulence and great change (as indeed was the rest of the decade), many more changes would be seen in Beckindale as Richard Handford took the producer's chair from 1983-1986.

Anne W Gibbons went on to produce the Beiderbecke Affair.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Helen Weir On Pat Sugden And Emmerdale Farm In The 1980s...

Pat gives Jack some highly significant news in December 1981.

Ah, the Merricks!

The Merricks?

, the Merricks - a family that made a major impact on Emmerdale Farm from 1980-1989. They weren't there at the beginning of the decade. And, apart from Jackie Merrick's young widow, Kathy, shortly to remarry and change her surname, they weren't there at the end of the decade, either.

The Merricks began life in the early days of lunch time soap Emmerdale Farm in 1972. Ruth Merrick was the wife of yobbish Tom, and they (apparently) had three children. However, it seemed that the father of Jack/Jackie, the oldest child, was actually Jack Sugden...

After a few episodes, the Merricks left the village. Ruth returned briefly once, yobbish Tom returned once or twice, but apart from that the village was Merrick-less.

Fast forward to 1980 and the Merricks returned to Beckindale. Not that you'd have recognised them: Ruth Merrick was now called Pat (it was revealed in 1982 that her full name was Patricia Ruth Merrick, but that didn't really explain her sudden change of Christian name), she now had two children, not three, and the whole family, including Tom who only appeared intermittently, had been recast. Edward Peel, who stepped into Tom's shoes in late 1980, gave the character an intense and sneering edge previously unseen - and highly memorable!

By the end of the 1980s the new Merricks were no more. Pat and son Jackie (Ian Sharrock) were dead, and Pat's daughter Sandie (Jane Hutcheson) had moved away. Yobbish Tom (who had undergone another change of actor during the decade, morphing into Jack Carr) had no further reason to visit the village.

But the Merricks had packed an awful lot of action into the 1980s.

Helen Weir (Pat) recalled those days in a recent article in the Northern Echo:

HELEN Weir was married to on-screen husband Clive Hornby, who died last year while still playing the role of Jack Sugden. The couple divorced offscreen nine years ago and had a son, Thomas.

She took over the role of Pat Sugden for six years from 1980 and has fond memories of Toke Townley, who played Sam Pearson for 12 years.

“It’s been a long time since I was in it and I’m not saying it was better or worse, but it was definitely about the country. I was brought up in Yorkshire on Ilkley Moor and I loved working with the animals and, as Pat Sugden, I’d have my arm inside a cow bringing out a calf.

“But I did also have to be seen milking and the cows were always treading on my toes and virtually sitting on me while I was sitting on a three-legged stool.

“Clive was one of the mainstays of the programme and I think it was wonderful he was in the series for so long. His character went through so many trials and tribulations. He had so many ladies and actually had a lady friend before my character. In fact my character’s name was Ruth before I came into it and then it was changed to Pat. I think the way they held the funeral for Jack in Emmerdale was the most delicate way they could handle his death,”

says Weir.

Her character departed the series in 1986 after fatally swerving her car to avoid sheep on the road. “When people see me they say ‘when are you coming back?’ and I reply ‘I can’t because I went over the hill in my car’. It is quite strange filming your own demise,” Weir says.

Pat was a splendid character - and Helen Weir played her to perfection. We fondly remember her careworn days of living in the NY Estates caravan with Jackie and Sandie, her marriage to Jack, and her resolute refusal to be a domestic paragon of virtue like Annie. Dolly and Pat got on each other's nerves at times, and Pat certainly didn't see why she should always wash up the cups before the plates.

Her breakout from the kitchen to help the men with the farm work, and her strength during the Jack/Karen adultery story-line of 1984, were both loudly applauded by we Buglers of Beckindale.

Our best wishes to Helen Weir in all her future endeavours.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Uttered In The '80s - Part Three

1983: "Tough titty, Mr Turner!" Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) can't help crowing when he has a run of good luck whilst on a day out at the races, and Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) has quite the reverse!