Saturday, 17 October 2009

1984: The Shooting Of Bundle...

When Caroline Bates (Diana Davies) brought her Golden Labrador bitch, Bundle, into work at NY Estates one day in April 1984, she assured Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) that it was a temporary measure. The Bates family was living in a flat at that time, and Caroline's husband, Malcolm, usually returned home from work in his lunch hour to take Bundle out for a walk. But Malcolm was away for a few days, and Caroline felt that she couldn't leave Bundle cooped up in the flat all day.

And, she said, Bundle was used to farms.

As NY Beckindale manager, Alan should have known better: every farmer knows, no risks should be taken with dogs. But Alan simply accepted Caroline's word, and said that Bundle could have free reign at Home Farm.

Shortly after this, Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) and Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) made a grim discovery: two of the Emmerdale ewes had aborted the lambs they were carrying. Something had obviously alarmed them.

Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) came across Jackie burying the aborted lambs, and reflected grimly on the bad old days at Emmerdale: a dog or fox worrying the sheep was the one thing absolutely sure to bring her husband, Jacob, from The Woolpack, she said. And he would keep grim vigil with his gun.

And so the Emmerdale gun was brought out.

Shortly afterwards, Jackie was out on the farm with his mother, Pat (Helen Weir), when both witnessed Bundle worrying the sheep. Jackie fired the shotgun, and Bundle ran away.

Jackie took the news to Home Farm and found Caroline firmly in denial: Bundle was a loving family pet and used to farms - she simply wouldn't do such a thing. Alan backed her up - how dare the Merrick boy cast such a slur on his secretary's dog?

Jackie left them with a grim warning - if it happened again, he might end up shooting Bundle.

Meanwhile, Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers) had organised a visit to Emmerdale Farm for the Beckindale playgroup children to see the sheep and new lambs.

And it was on that day that Bundle chose to pay another visit, let off her lead by Alan whilst out for a walk with Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards).

Seth advised Alan not to let Bundle run free, but Alan fully expected her to stay close by, and was horrified when she ran off across the fields towards Emmerdale Farm.

And in no time at all, she was terrorising the sheep, in full view of the equally terrified Beckindale playgroup children.

And, in full view of the children, Jackie shot her dead.

It wasn't the most sensitive thing to do, but, highly distressed himself, Jackie took Bundle's body to Caroline at Home Farm in the Emmerdale Land Rover.

And Caroline was absolutely distraught.

As was Jackie. He had begun to develop a feeling for farming and the animals at Emmerdale, including Nell, Matt's faithful sheepdog, and was horrified by what he'd done.

Jack (Clive Hornby) told Jackie that he'd been lucky - as Matt or Joe (Frazer Hines) had usually dealt with sheep worrying dogs. And they had always felt awful afterwards.

But Jackie was not in the wrong. It was not a crime to shoot a dog under such circumstances.

Caroline could not believe it - she was convinced that Bundle had meant no harm to the sheep - and to her mind her dog had been murdered in cold blood.

She visited Sergeant MacArthur (Martin Dale) at the Beckindale police station, who informed her that no law had been broken. The police would be bringing no charges against Jackie.

So, Caroline and Malcolm Bates decided to bring a civil action.

Why had Bundle been let off her lead, she wondered? Alan lied to protect himself - claiming that something had gone awry with the clasp on Bundle's lead, and he'd been adjusting it when, distracted by Seth Armstrong's chattering, he'd momentarily let go of the dog's collar and away she'd gone across the fields.

It was all very sad for Alan. As he confided in Seth Armstrong, he had meant no harm in letting Bundle off for a run.

But, through that simple action, his inexperience as a farmer was made absolutely plain.

Seth was in a difficult position - he had his job to think of, and wasn't about to drop Alan in it, but when Caroline asked him for the truth, promising not to reveal her source, Seth told her.

Caroline was furious and lost no time in telling Alan so.

Alan fully expected her to resign, and dreaded the prospect.

Meanwhile, Matt Skilbeck had visited Home Farm on an entirely different matter, and struck by Caroline's cold front, had spoken to her about Bundle: Jackie was very distressed about the dog's death, he said, they had sheepdogs at the farm and cared for them a great deal. The fault was not Bundle's - dogs had an instinct to hunt. The fault rested with whoever had let Bundle off the lead, and the same went for other dogs like her that met an untimely end for sheep worrying.

Caroline remained convinced that Bundle would never have hurt the sheep, but was simply enjoying the chase. Matt gently pointed out to her that whatever Bundles' intentions, six aborted lambs was the result.

Having already met several of the Emmerdale Farm folk, Caroline called there and told Dolly that she and Malcolm would not be bringing any action against Jackie. She still didn't condone what he had done, but Matt had made her think.

Alan bought Caroline another Golden Labrador bitch - this time a puppy - and took it into The Woolpack so that he could have a courage-giving drink before making the presentation to Caroline.

In conversation with Seth and Amos (Ronald Magill) Alan referred to Mrs Bates' present as a she. Giving her to Seth to hold so that he could enjoy his drink - thus stopping Seth, with an armful of Golden Labrador, from enjoying his, Alan beamed upon the world.

When Amos frostily informed him that dogs were not allowed on "these licenced premises", Alan, the expert, was completely unfazed. He told Amos that the dog was all right with him - and besides he was on a lead, and dogs were perfectly safe on a lead. The sudden change of the animal's gender made it plain that as far as Alan was concerned the only dog on the premises was not Mrs Bates' bitch Labrador, but Seth Armstrong!

Seth, arms still full of canine loveliness, still unable to sup, could only scowl.

Andy's note: This was very much a cautionary tale with a strong message for real-life dog owners. In 1984, the farming content of Emmerdale Farm was increased and we were treated to the sight of a cow and several sheep giving birth - and also mating scenes, plus the sorry sight of aborted lambs in the fields. The "Bundle" story-line was treated in the same visual way - viewers actually saw the shooting.

Some viewers wrote to Yorkshire Television, seeking reassurance that "Bundle" was only acting her death scene.

She was.

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