Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Comments And Questions Update...

James writes with an unusual enquiry:

The Harewood Woolpack has 2 glass panels above the door. I seem to recall the Esholt pub had one big panel?

Yes, it did, James - see pic above.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Was Alan Turner A Groundbreaking Emmerdale Farm Character?

Groundbreaking Alan Turner.

Chris has been reading a soaps thread where controversy apparently reigns over whether or not Alan Turner was a "groundbreaking" Emmerdale Farm character. He asks:

What do you say?

Well, Chris, I've recently watched Turner's debut and I think he was groundbreaking. Trevor Thatcher, NY's first Beckindale manager, was not actually a "bad guy" - the "should Nellie Ratcliffe leave her cottage?" story-line was pure human interest - whose need was the greatest, hers or a current NY employee? Thatcher's successor, Maurice Westrop, was an old fashioned sweety (even at the time!), Richard Anstey, who took over in 1980, was every inch a businessman - but in no way "bad".

Alan Turner, however, was originally selfish, inefficient, glib-tongued and cold hearted. Watching him deal with Joe Sugden and the workers at NY Estates as redundancies were imposed in 1983, and the way he blackmailed John Tuplin, the shop steward, into going along with it, forcing John to betray his workmates... it was all pretty chilling.

Alan was the show's first long-running character who knowingly did wrong to others for his own ends. And although he mellowed, and although there was a great big lovable oaf trapped inside him, there was always that instinct for self preservation.

I can find nobody to compare to Alan Turner as a permanent Emmerdale Farm character before his debut.

I'm basing my thoughts about this on recent viewings of the episodes concerned.

I believe that the different facets revealed in Alan's character as he evolved also made him groundbreaking. No stereotype nasty businessman our Mr Turner, but a complex human being.

JR Ewing of the American soap Dallas was a brilliant, pantomime character. Alan Turner seemed real. When he hit rock bottom in late 1983, making a disastrous pass at his young secretary, and then being defeated by the computer newly installed at Home Farm, he had done nothing to endear himself to the Beckindale locals or us viewers. But there was something in Richard Thorp's performance, more than a hint of the hurt and the pathetic in Alan's character, that made me realise I actually cared about what happened to Mr Turner.

And I wanted him to be all right.

As for groundbreaking characters in soaps and TV drama in general... well... Emmerdale Farm began a long way in.

And true overall groundbreakers would probably be characters like rascally villager Walter Gabriel in radio soap The Archers, not Seth Armstrong in Emmerdale Farm, and so on.

There's "groundbreaking" within the confines of the show, and the broader picture.

But I think Richard Thorp was, and is, excellent.

And, as far as Emmerdale goes, groundbreaking to the max.

Some Thoughts On Watching 1980s Emmerdale...

1980 - the new Jack; 1986 - watch out, watch out - Eric's about! 1989 - the Tate family, new owners of Home Farm.

I've recently watched hundreds of episodes of '80s Emmerdale Farm, and I've hundreds more to watch. Here are a few impressions I've gained. Sorry if they seem a bit jumbled in places.

1980: Producer Anne W Gibbons made Seth Armstrong a full-time character in the summer. She introduced Al Dixon as Walter in September - and he was very different from the previous character of that name. Amos became more animated and altogether quirkier than the character of 1972-1979 (although Amos was always brilliant!), and the heightened 1980 "oddballness" was maintained throughout the decade.

Ms Gibbons's decision to introduce full-time teenage characters was also a huge change. The Merrick kids were not actually totally natural '80s teenagers in my humble opinion (and I was a late '70s/early-to-mid '80s teen myself), but went some way towards it, and the atmosphere in the show was greatly altered by their presence. Sending Joe Sugden to NY Estates in late 1980 brought the organisation into a relationship with the Sugden family.

1980 also saw Clive Hornby step into the role of Jack Sugden - who became a very different character to the previous incarnation. It was very much the same with Dolly Skilbeck, as Jean Rogers stepped into the role.

1983/1984: Richard Handford took over as producer around June and the series changed quite radically. The scenes became shorter. The show became grittier. Harry Mowlam was a terror. New technology was featured as NY Estates went computerised. The emergence of microwave ovens into our homes was also featured in 1984 as Amos got one for The Woolpack. The new breakfast TV service hit Beckindale as Alan Turner watched Mad Lizzie on TV-am. More teens arrived - oddball Archie and Mike. Mrs Bates and Alan Turner brought fresh stability and a new comic scenario.

1986: Michael Russell took the Producer's chair. The death of Pat Sugden heralded a series of episodes which dealt with grieving in a challenging and remarkable way. A bad guy arrived - Eric Pollard.

1987: Heavy politics here - and environmental issues. Joe Sugden was not totally set against the idea of a nuclear dump near Beckindale; Jack Sugden WAS. "This is 1987!" said Joe. "So that means we want radiation, does it?!" replied Jack. The scenes in which the villagers were roused by the sound of the church bell tolling to attend the protest at the site is, in my opinion, deeply moving.

1988/1989: In January 1988, the show was finally networked and shown across the country at the same time and on the same day! 1988 also saw screenings continue over the festive season for the first time. Stuart Doughty, "the man from Brookside", became Producer. 1989 was a tempestuous year which saw Annie Sugden on tranquillisers, Pete Whiteley committing adultery with teenager Rachel Hughes, and Jackie Merrick accidentally shooting himself dead.

And, finally, 1989 saw the arrival of the Tate family at Home Farm.

The turbulent aspects of the show were balanced by various stability points throughout the 1980s - Annie Sugden; Grandad Sam Pearson (for almost half the decade until Toke Townley's death in 1984); Matt and Dolly (until late in the decade when their marriage collapsed); Alan Turner and Mrs Bates; Amos, Mr Wilks, Seth and Walter; and the Reverend Donald Hinton.

It all added up to a heady, contrasting and fascinating brew.

I'll write more when I've watched more.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Uttered In The '80s - Part 8

Amos Brearly in 1988: "If you sit too long in that Mediterranean sun it can play havoc with your skin. It's all them ultra-violent rays."

Amos was, of course, Beckindale's very own master of the malapropism!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Bugle News...

This charming man... Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell) pays his first visit to The Woolpack. Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) entertains him.

Work is underway for our 1984 Month in August, I'm currently slaving over a huge pile of screen caps and write-ups. Hopefully it'll be worth the work!

It's come to my attention that a prominent member of the 1980s Emmerdale Farm cast has recently visited this blog. Terrific! It's not either of the two guys pictured, by the way!

Many thanks to Mary of Emmerdale Guys And Gals for her help in providing material on the 1982 Decade Down On The Farm TV special for our 10th anniversary article. Cheers, Mary, much appreciated!

Meanwhile, "Alan's Carpet Slippers" has written to say:

Who would have thought, back in the ambling Emmerdale of the 1980's, that Alan Turner's screen son would turn out to have molested his sister, that said sister was a killer, and that Alan's wife would be shot and killed in a hold-up Home Farm? And, on top of that, Alan himself would be shot through the window of The Woolpack? The days of Mrs Bates seem far distant!

Rest assured, "Carpet Slippers", they are never very far away here at The Bugle!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Viewers' Confusion - Taking Fiction For Fact...

1986 - Alan Turner teaches Mrs Bates to play bowls. Or so he thinks...

Back in the 1980s, some viewers were prone to getting soap fiction mixed up with reality. If you played a well-loved soap character, this could work to your advantage. But if not...

English actress Vivean Gray, Mrs Mangel in the Australian soap Neighbours, left the show when some viewers entered into the fantasy a little too much and treated her as though she was the character she played.

It could be seen as a tribute to her acting skills, but all the same!

In Emmerdale Farm, Richard Thorp also suffered as his at first disliked, figure-of-fun character Alan Turner, who arrived in 1982, upset the Beckindale locals. As seen in other posts on this blog, Richard Thorp suffered some abuse, and the article pictured below, from the Sun newspaper, August 26, 1989, reveals some problems he experienced at a public swimming pool.

Fortunately, Mr Thorp managed to deal with the problems and remain in Emmerdale Farm. For which I am truly grateful. As regular readers of this blog will already know, I was a great fan of the Alan Turner and Mrs Bates boss/secretary partnership at NY Estates from 1984-1988. The scenario was not planned, something just seemed to "click" between the two actors, but in an amazingly short amount of time Alan Turner and Mrs Bates were two of my favourite characters in the show.

An episode featuring Alan blustering and boasting away at the NY Estates office, whilst Mrs Bates smiled quietly to herself, seeing right through him to the wally inside, and Amos launching into a new fad at the Woolpack, to Mr Wilks' despair, is my idea of soap heaven!

They don't make 'em like that any more!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Maurice and Judy Westrop...

Maurice (Edward Dentith) and Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons), 1980.

In early 1980, Maurice Westrop was head of NY Estates' operation at Home Farm, Beckindale. Maurice lived at the house with his daughter, Judy.

In the spring, Maurice was asked to relocate to the NY holding in North Wales and wanted Judy to accompany him. But Judy, who had just come through a troubled few years, was not eager to move on. She had spent a lot of her life doing that and had begun to make good friends in Beckindale. As she told her father, she wanted to settle down and develop some old friends!

Daily Mirror, May 6, 1980:

Maurice Westrop is to leave Beckindale, but daughter Judy isn't keen to go with him.

Maurice was saddened at the prospect of leaving his daughter. But he accepted her wish to stay in the village. Judy got herself a job at the Hotten Market auctioneers. The only problem was accommodation. Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) had the answer - Joe (Frazer Hines) was away in America and Judy could stay at Demdyke Row.

Annie invited Maurice and Judy to a special dinner at Emmerdale Farm before Maurice's departure. Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) made a speech, reminding Maurice that he had made many friends in Beckindale over the last couple of years. Then the assembled company - Maurice, Judy, Sam Pearson, Mr Wilks, the Sugdens and the Skilbecks drank a toast:


But what the future held in store for the NY Estates Beckindale holding was anybody's guess...

From the closing credits of Maurice Westrop's final episode in May 1980.

Judy stayed in Beckindale for several months after her father's departure.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

E-Mails - Wikipedia On Emmerdale And Amos' Brother...

Amos (Ronald Magill) and Walter (Al Dixon) in 1984 - ignored by Press and viewers alike? And the Plane Crash story-line of 1993/94.

Rob is rather annoyed having recently had a look at Wikipedia, which, apparently says that Emmerdale was ignored by Press and viewers alike until the Plane Crash storyline, which, basically made it popular...

I've been reading the BARB monthly ratings, and apparently Emmerdale Farm had up to 15 million viewers in 1978 - and remember, Thames and Anglia were showing it at 5.15pm at that time. In 1984 it had up to 15.1 million viewers - although Thames and Anglia were STILL showing it at teatime.

The plane crash brought the show 16.8 million viewers in January 1994, its highest ever rating, but then it plummeted out of the top twenty in February and bobbed up again in March with a paltry 11.7 million. In April 1994 it had 11.6 and in May, 11 million.

The "Emmerdale was only popular after the plane crash" spiel is pure Wikipedia myth. Saying it does not make it so!

I remember once using Wikipedia in all seriousness to research a subject and ending up in a right old pickle. Wikipedia is largely facts as its writers would LIKE them to be in my opinion, and it changes day-by-day. Having said that, I'm sure it has SOME reliable information. But the fact that anything can be altered by anyone makes it impossible to trust.

Cerys writes:

Interesting to see Amos' brother, Ezra, on the Bugle. Have you any more details of his relatives?

Well, Cerys, Amos' Auntie Amelia threatened to visit in 1976, but never turned up.

in 1980, Amos' Auntie Emily Brearly (Ann Way) first appeared. She made a further visit in 1983.

Amos spoke of his great-grandfather Brearly as the man who began the family's undertaking business in Bridlington, and his Uncle Arthur was occasionally mentioned (he died in 1983), as was his cousin Alicia (who also died in the early 1980s).

Amos mentioned a long-deceased Auntie Ruby in 1980 - he was afraid that she was haunting The Woolpack!

Perhaps I should try and knock up a Brearly family tree!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Emmerdale Farm In The 1980s - Reflecting Changing Times...

One of the great pleasures for me in watching episodes of Emmerdale Farm from the 1980s is seeing how the show reflected some of the tremendous changes the decade brought. One of my favourite scenarios involves the computerisation of NY Estates in late 1983. Each holding was allocated a computer, linked to Head Office.

Alan Turner took on an attractive new secretary with no experience of computers, simply because she was attractive. Sadly, she couldn't come to terms with the computer, and left in a state of great distress when Alan made advances to her.

Despite a two day training course organised by NY Estates, Alan was absolutely hopeless with the computer - and the repeated message flashed up in green writing on the screen - "OPERATOR ERROR PLEASE REPEAT LAST INSTRUCTION" drove the poor man to despair. As did Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards), who happened upon his boss struggling with the new marvel of technology, and, noting its resemblance to a television screen, asked if there was anything good on?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Emmerdale In The Popular Press - The Racy '80s!

The popular press tended to label Emmerdale Farm as "sleepy" until the 1980s. But then things changed.

From the Sunday People, April 14, 1985:

Muck-raking is no longer confined to the cowshed in Emmerdale Farm. Infidelity and intrigue have transformed the once-sleepy story of Yorkshire folk into the Dynasty of The Dales - and helped catapult it into the top twenty.

Click on the picture to read the whole article.

Late in the decade, the series was given parity with the other English soap operas. The whole country saw Emmerdale Farm on the same date and at the same time - networked - for the very first time in January 1988 - an historic moment - and that year the series was broadcast throughout the Christmas season for the very first time!

Do I think Emmerdale Farm was the Dynasty of The Dales in the 1980s? No. Studying the episodes, I think it was far more influenced by Brookside, which debuted in November 1982!

1983: Amos Brearly's Brother...

Ezra Brearly (Martin Matthews) chunters on to Walter (Al Dixon) and Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow)...

Did Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) have any brothers and sisters, asks Moggy?

Amos spoke of having a deceased brother and in late 1983 a very much alive one turned up in Beckindale. This was Ezra Brearly (played by Martin Matthews) - a butcher. "You could say as I went from one slab to another, so to speak," he told Mr Wilks, referring to the Brearly family trade as undertakers.

He introduced himself to Seth Armstrong as "Ezra Brearly - manager and proprietor of the Butchery, Whitehaven," and was also, apparently, president of the Whitehaven Chamber of Commerce.

Having eaten a few meals at The Woolpack, he told his brother: "If you'll take my criticism, Amos, as a man who knows his sausages, I don't like the look of yours!"

Ezra drove an old-fashioned motorcycle with a side car, drank a lot of Amos' beer, and it was apparent that the two brothers didn't get on.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

1989: Beckindale Gets Knitting - Again...

1989... the year Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, the Berlin Wall came down, Acid House Raves rocked youth culture, Sky TV was launched and, over in America, Game Boy arrived...

And the year also brought a new knitting book from Emmerdale Farm, the first since 1983. Out came the needles across the land.

On the cover were Kate (Sally Knyvette) and Joe (Frazer Hines) Sugden. After a stormy relationship, they tied the knot in '89, but married life was not to be peaceful as Kate found her organic venture at Crossgill beset by slugs, and her daughter, Rachel (Glenda McKay) tumbled into an affair with married Pete Whiteley (Jim Millea).

A traumatic year for Dolly (Jean Rogers) and son Sam Skilbeck (Benjamin Whitehead), also on the knitting book cover, as the Skilbeck marriage finally broke up. For Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) there was irritation as Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) developed hay fever and sneezed his way through the summer...

Evolution not revolution was the apparent intention of Emmerdale Farm producer Stuart Doughty, the man from Brookside, featured in the knitting book wearing a charming jumper. He took the producer's chair in 1988. His reign saw tense drama in Beckindale in 1989, and the arrival of the Tate family at Home Farm in November of that year.

1989 also saw the deletion of the word "Farm" from the show's title, as Doughty decided to begin dropping some of the farming content - and to reflect the fact that a lot of the show was not actually about the farm.

From a temporary bit-part in 1978, to full-time character status in 1980, Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) spent quite a lot of 1989 baiting Amos Brearly. Situation normal.

Kathy Merrick (Malandra Burrows) - looking charming in a lovely '80s cardie. The poor girl faced the tragic loss of her husband, Jackie (Ian Sharrock) in 1989 - he accidentally shot himself whilst hunting a troublesome fox.

Amos and Mr Wilks - a stormy year at The Woolpack as Amos realised just how irritating Mr Wilks was (!!!!). He told Seth: "I cannot understand why I've never noticed before, he's got more irritating habits than anyone I've ever known - including you, Seth Armstrong!"

Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) - lovely cardie, but 1989 had it in for the man. His marriage to Dolly was at an end. Frederick Pyne recorded Matt's last scenes in November, and Matt was last seen on-screen in December.

Caroline Bates (Diana Davies) arrived as a temp secretary at NY Estates in 1984. She soon became permanent. Since his arrival in 1982, Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) had been making a proper pig's ear of things on the estate, and Mrs Bates was his saviour. Romance developed and, in 1989, the two planned to wed. But things didn't work out, and Mrs Bates left Beckindale, in tears, in November to look after her ailing mother in Scarborough.

Matriarch Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier). Her strength finally crumbled in 1989, and she found herself developing a dependency on tranquillisers. Recovering, she faced new heartache - businessman Denis Rigg's underhand attempts to buy the farm, and then the death of her grandson, Jackie.

Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts) - first turned up clutching a ghetto blaster and sporting a hairdo rather like David Sylvian's, of synth pop group Japan, in November 1983. He sported a very natty alphabet jumper for the knitting book in 1989, and temporarily departed from Beckindale in November to live with his mum when the old outbuilding he called home became too draughty.

Friday, 3 July 2009

1984 - PURLEASE!!

Mrs Bates (Diana Davies) arrives...

Cerys writes:

I've been looking forward to your 1984 features since January. Yes, JANUARY. Come on, boy, get to it! Any more of this dilly dallying and I shall not be a happy bunny.

You're quite right, Cerys - I've been a bit sidetracked. I'm sorry! 1984 will follow asap!

The Link Between Kim Tate And Alexis Colby Of Dynasty...

Kim Tate (Claire King) and Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) - they had certain similarities!

I get lots of enquiries about the Tate family and in particular the legendary Kim Tate (Claire King). Weren't the doings of this incredible soap bitch more fascinating than Alan Turner being quietly ridiculed by Mrs Bates from 1984-1988, Amos getting an allotment in 1980, or Walter getting told off for eating the peanuts on The Woolpack bar in 1983, the enquirers ask?

And as the blog covers the 1980s and Kim Tate debuted in the 1980s, why isn't she featured more?

Well, being a lover of Turner, Mrs Bates, Walter, Amos, etc, I don't agree that Kim's doings were more interesting. Just different. And yes, she did debut in the 1980s, but in November of 1989, near the end of the decade - and the Tates were originally quite an ordinary cash-rich family. Quite nice, it seemed. Kim's Alexis Colby-style doings took place in the 1990s, when the days of Mr Turner and Mrs Bates at Home Farm were long past.

However, as a nod to Kim's '80s origins, and to hopefully please all those who have made enquiries about the Bugle's sparse collection of Kim material, I have found a fascinating article on Claire King...

Here's what Ms King says about Kim's elevation to soap bitch:

"It was the time of Dynasty and Dallas and I thought English soaps could do with a good old feisty cowbag. They're just such great characters. Everybody loved Alexis Colby, whether they loved or hated her, they loved the character because she was so entertaining."

Read the whole article here.

Right, that's it for now. I'd better be off. I think Seth Armstrong's donkey's on the loose again...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Emmerdale Farm - Entering The 1980s!

What were the early months of 1980 like in Beckindale? Well, the start of a new decade should have brought smiles to a few faces.

Let's timewarp back and pop up to Home Farm to see Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons). Good old Judy's having a fag and saying: "I'm angry - and I'm enjoying it!"

Oh dear...

And Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) is at the hospital where there's bad news from the doctor: "I'm sorry, Mr Skilbeck, there's no choice. Your wife's condition is critical. We must operate now."

Oh no! But surely there's better news at The Woolpack? After all, Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) is sure to want to start the new decade on a positive note...

Oh 'eck! Steady on, Amos - you'll do yourself a mischief!


Too late!

Oh, well... much better news - Clive Hornby made his first appearance as Jack Sugden on 19 February 1980 - and Joe (Frazer Hines) greeted him: "Welcome back to Emmerdale, big brother!"

And a bit later there was a new woman at Annie's Aga - just temporary of course... but, hang on, doesn't she look familiar? Good grief, it's Pam St Clement, later Pat of EastEnders, getting an early taste of soap life as Mrs Eckersley in March 1980.

Eee, and Grandad Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) caught a big smelly fish whilst on holiday in Ireland: "I'm goin' to 'ave it stuffed, and it's goin' in a glass case over't mantelpiece," said Grandad.


Funny old year. Funny old start to a new decade...

However, villagers and viewers alike were delighted to meet the new Dolly Skilbeck, now played by Jean Rogers. The new Dolly made her screen debut on 1 April, 1980.

More from the early months of the decade's first year soon!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


1980: Geoffrey Hooper's Walter chats to Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) in The Woolpack.

Sometimes people ask me: "Why have you dedicated your blog to Emmerdale in the 1980s? Why the 1980s in particular?"

The fact is that was when I enjoyed the show most.

And all my regular visitors (bless you both!) know that I was a particular fan of Al Dixon - he played Woolpack Walter, from 1980 to 1985.

But regular visitors also know that there were two Walters - Geoffrey Hooper being the first.

Geoffrey Hooper appeared in the show from around 1974 to, I originally thought, 1979. Al Dixon became Walter around September 1980.

Indications were that Geoffrey Hooper's Walter was not always silent - he sometimes spoke. But I imagined him as being very like the Al Dixon Walter, and thought that in his later years he was silent.

Watching some episodes from February 1980 today, I was startled to see Geoffrey Hooper on-screen as Walter at the start of the new decade. Al Dixon's debut was still months away.

I must be honest - although I remember the first Jack Sugden and the first Dolly Acaster/Skilbeck, I don't remember the first Walter at all, so I was fascinated to see him - and to note the fact that he bore no resemblance to Al Dixon.

There he was, in early 1980, with Amos chuntering away to him and about to pull him a pint...

And then it happened!

"'I'll just 'ave an 'arf, Amos," said Geoffrey Hooper's Walter.

"But you never drink 'arfs, Walter!" cried Amos.

"Well, 'appen it does no 'arm to cut down," said Mr Hooper's Walter.

And there it was. Geoffrey Hooper was speaking in a way I could not imagine the 1980s Al Dixon creation speaking.

In his early days, I think I heard Mr Dixon mutter "Thank you," once when Mr Wilks served him. And he laughed out loud when Amos got into a twist over an attempt at DIY plumbing in 1981. But apart from that - silence. In the Al Dixon Walter years of 1980 to 1985, it appeared that the character never spoke - in fact it became something of an in-joke, with viewers in 1983 campaigning for him to speak.

Occasionally, other characters reported things that Mr Dixon's Walter had said, but he never uttered a word on-screen.

However, Geoffrey Hooper's Walter did speak - just how rare an occurrence it was I don't know, but he did speak!

And I've heard him!

And I'm flabbergasted!

I'm also surprised at just how different the two Walters were from each other facially.

I have to say, in my humble opinion, that apart from the way they dressed and their name, it is as though they were two completely different characters.

And if they were regulars in a real boozer, there is no way you would mistake one for the other.

I'll be up-dating the rest of this blog's Walter info over the next few weeks.