Thursday, 16 September 2010

Emmerdale Farm 1980 - Edward Peel's Debut As Tom Merrick

Hooray! Somebody has uploaded Edward Peel's Emmerdale Farm debut episode as Tom Merrick - episode 623, broadcast 2 December 1980. The role had previously been played by David Hill in six early episodes, but Mr Peel stamped his own mark on it - making Tom rather a menace in early 1980s Beckindale!

Enjoy the episode in three parts below - and look out for Amos, Walter and other favourites!

Thanks to Ben for letting me know!





Thursday, 2 September 2010

1986: Jack Sugden In A Witty TV Times...

This clipping from the TV Times, 27 Sept to Oct 3 1986, makes me smile.

One man went to mow... Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) deals with whatever crops up in 'Emmerdale Farm'.

Whatever CROPS up, geddit?!!

And what was happening in Beckindale that week?

Well, on Tuesday 30 September we discover:

Joe Sugden makes a big decision about his future, but there could be even bigger decisions ahead for Phil Pearce and Sandie Merrick.

And on 2 October:

Amos believes he is the victim of a gypsy's curse - and Seth Armstrong is more than willing to lend a hand to the supernatural.

Brilliant!

The cast for the week was:

Annie Sugden - Sheila Mercier
Matt Skilbeck - Frederick Pyne
Amos Brearly - Ronald Magill
Henry Wilks - Arthur Pentelow
Jack Sugden - Clive Hornby
Joe Sugden - Frazer Hines
Dolly Skilbeck - Jean Rogers
Sam Skilbeck - Benjamin Whitehead
Jackie Merrick - Ian Sharrock
Sandie Merrick - Jane Hutcheson
Alan Turner - Richard Thorp
Seth Armstrong - Stan Richards
Mrs Bates - Diana Davies
Kathy Bates - Malandra Burrows
Nick Bates - Cy Chadwick
Phil Pearce - Peter Alexander
Eric Pollard - Christopher Chittell
Jock MacDonald - Drew Dawson
Bill Middleton - Johhny Caesar
Gypsy woman - Clare Kelly
Gypsy man - Craig Fairbrass

Monday, 23 August 2010

Emmerdale Farm - Who Was Who In August 1980

1980: the vicar comes to tea at Emmerdale Farm.

Geoff writes:

I'm interested in thirty years ago and wonder who was in the Emmerdale Farm serial in August 1980?

Well, Geoff, the community of characters was rather different from today - the average age of the characters rather older. The show would not feature its first permanent school-age teenagers until September. The show was on its summer break in August 1980, but the permanent characters were:

Annie Sugden - Sheila Mercier
Sam Pearson - Toke Townley
Jack Sugden - Clive Hornby
Matt Skilbeck - Frederick Pyne
Dolly Skilbeck - Jean Rogers

Amos Brearly - Ronald Magill
Henry Wilks - Arthur Pentelow

Reverend Donald Hinton - Hugh Manning

Richard Anstey - Carl Rigg

Seth Armstrong - Stan Richards - Mr Richards joined the permanent cast in the summer of 1980.

Semi-regular characters included Nellie Ratcliffe, played by Gabrielle Blunt and Meg Armstrong played by Ursula Camm. The characters made their debuts in 1978 and 1979 respectively. Other semi-regulars were the Tolly and Longthorn families, introduced during early 1980.

Jane Cussons, who played Judy Westrop, had just left the cast and at the start of the autumn season it was revealed that Judy had left Beckindale for a new job.

Frazer Hines who played Joe Sugden was absent for part of the year - his character away in America.

Performers making their debuts later in 1980 were Ian Sharrock as Jackie Merrick, Jane Hutcheson as Sandie Merrick, Edward Peel as Tom Merrick, Martin Dale as police sergeant Ian McArthur, Malcolm Raeburn as John Tuplin, Alan Starkey as Daniel Hawkins and Al Dixon as Walter.

Helen Weir had already appeared as Pat Merrick during the summer, and her character would become a regular from September onwards.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dolly's Tragedy...

Kim writes:

When Dolly lost her baby in 1980, was it defined as a stillbirth or a miscarriage?

I don't recall hearing the phrase "stillbirth" back then, Kim - apart perhaps from babies who died when the mother was actually giving birth.

Dolly referred to her loss as a miscarriage in 1980.

She had announced her pregnancy in July 1979. Annie Sugden, in a monologue bringing viewers up-to-date with Beckindale news in early 1980, stated that Dolly had been taken into hospital just after the New Year came in. She lost the baby not long afterwards.

I know that times change and there are various technical definitions of a stillbirth, depending on the location, but certainly way back then in England the word I heard used for losses into late pregnancy was miscarriage.

And this was the word Dolly Skilbeck used in Emmerdale Farm.

The Groundbreaking (By Emmerdale Standards) Alan Turner

Kim writes:

Did you say that Alan Turner was groundbreaking? If so, why?

Indeed I did. In Emmerdale Farm, he certainly was.

I wrote about the subject some time ago, and the original article is reproduced
below. Sorry, but to get my full view you'll need to read the whole article. xxx

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.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Greetings From Bournemouth

Fancy headwear for Walter to keep the sun off in Bournemouth?

I promised my wife I'd have a fortnight off the Web whilst we are holidaying in Bournemouth, but she has granted me permission to have a quick peek at The Bugle and to reply to a couple of comments.

Cerys writes:

Hope you enjoy your holiday. I can just imagine Walter paddling in the sea, with his flat cap on and his trouser legs rolled up!

A sight for sore eyes, Cerys! We're having a great time. I had the most beautiful bacon and mayonnaise roll I have ever tasted today. It was a soft, fresh, white roll. The bacon was tender, flavoursome and hot, the mayonnaise a creamy delight. Will tell more when I get back.

Peek has written, too:

The polls are a great idea Andy, must have taken a fair bit of thought to make them up.

I think I started watching Emmerdale more seriously in the 80s, so it's good to be reminded of what happened then.

Thanks, Peek - I just want to get feedback so that I can provide people with what they really want to read.

And thanks to Benjamin for writing and for voting in the polls.

I've prolonged the polls so that they will run for an extra week. Please vote if you haven't already.

I'm off to bed now! I'll try to pop in here again before the holiday ends.

xxx

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Beckindale Bugle - What Would You Like To See?

"Eee, an 'oliday down south, Mr Wilks! We Brearlys have never been afraid of travel. You take my Uncle Arthur - he went overseas. Isle of Wight, it were... the tales he could tell..."

We are off to Bournemouth tomorrow. It's time for some sun, sand, sea and... fish and chips.

Walter's packed his bucket and spade and got Archie to look after his budgie whilst he's away, Amos is planning to write an article on "Down South" for the Hotten Courier, Mr Wilks is planning a few good walks and some bird watching, and Alan Turner is planning some bird watching of a different kind!

Before we go, we'd just like to draw your attention to our three new polls. Here at The Bugle, we value your feedback, so we'd like you to cast your eyes right and look at our new polls.

We'd love your views.

Got to go now. Nay, Walter, you can't take the goldfish!

See you in a fortnight! xxx

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Matt And Dolly And A Shaggy Dog Story - And Changing Times In Beckindale...

Daily Mirror, December 15, 1983.

Ben belonged to the horrifying Harry Mowlam (Godfrey James) and Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) snatched him after he witnessed Harry kicking him.

Of course, Harry wasn't having this - Ben was his property - and he wanted him back...

And there was trouble.

But Harry didn't succeed in getting Ben back.

The terrified dog proved a handful - and frightened the wits out of Dolly (Jean Rogers) when she took him some food to the outbuilding. The hairy beast cornered her, snarling most alarmingly...

But all turned out well in the end.

Until 1985. When Harry Mowlam turned his sights on Beckindale again.

And he hadn't forgotten the Skilbecks...

Was Emmerdale Farm a seething hotbed of anger and passion in the 1980s?

No.

But it certainly wasn't as safe as it had once been.

Many of the story-lines revolved around Amos and Mr Wilks (Ronald Magill and Arthur Pentelow) - in their absolutely golden era, Mrs Bates and Mr Turner (Diana Davies and Richard Thorp) in the NY office at Home Farm, Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) on the cadge or the wind-up, domestic affairs with Matt and Dolly, and the romance between Kathy (Malandra Burrows) and Jackie (Ian Sharrock).

But we also had snarling Tom Merrick (Edward Peel), devious Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell), and, in his early days, awful Alan Turner.

Baddies made their mark on Beckindale, and at least one stuck around.

But the anger and passion were always balanced by beautifully mundane and often comic scenes.

When Derek Warner (Dennis Blanche) almost ran Harry Mowlam over in 1985, and then threatened him with a knife, we were treated to hilarious scenes in the same episode with Alan Turner and the Rev Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning) rehearsing for the Christmas play.

When Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) was bedding Karen Moore (Annie Hulley) in a hotel room in 1984, the show kept flipping to scenes of Amos and Mr Wilks confronting each other over the breakfast table, or Matt and Jackie dealing with a ram at Emmerdale Farm who was no longer "up to it" and, as Matt said, "ready for the meat pie factory".

The scenes of mating sheep on the farm, and Jack's apparently high-minded affair with Karen, which was simply amounting to humans mating in an adulturous fling, seemed beautifully thought out.

Well, it certainly made me think!

Stability won the day in the Beckindale of the 1980s.

It was more chit-chat and sheep, comedy and everyday drama than anything else.

However, although Beckindale had never been an entirely safe place before the 1980s, there was a feeling that the big bad late twentieth century was brandishing a fist at the village rather more than in the past.

Clive Hornby And Andrew Burt - Not The Same Jack!

Kelly has written:

I've just read on an Emmerdale thread that viewers thought Andrew Burt and Clive Hornby were the same actor when it came to playing Jack Sugden.

Is that true?

No, Kelly. The arrival of Clive Hornby as Jack Sugden was widely publicised in 1980 and fans were fully aware and interested to see the "new Jack". The physical resemblance to Andrew Burt was absolutely deliberate, but the new Jack spoke differently (more down to earth!) and the character of Jack altered considerably in the early Clive Hornby era.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Esholt - The 1980s Emmerdale Era And 2010

Esholt, AKA Beckindale/Emmerdale, 2010. Looking across the allotments to the back of The Woolpack.

Beckindale Bugle reader Ben is a great fan of Emmerdale past and present, and recently visited Esholt, which was the village's exterior location for many years - including the entire 1980s.

We thought it might be fun to do a "Then And Now" retrospective - Beckindale 1980s meets Esholt 2010...

Here's Ben on the very spot where Amos clocked the "return" of the revised and recast Merrick family in September 1980!

In the modern day Esholt Woolpack, memories of Amos and Mr Wilks still linger. The photograph above adorns one of the walls in the pub and is captioned:

EMMERDALE FARM, SEPTEMBER 1981. Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) and Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) pictured outside The Woolpack.


1981 is a very special year to this blog - it was the year when a certain Mr Brearly founded The Beckindale Bugle - from which we took our title!

The Woolpack in 2010 and in 1980. Back in the '80s, the pub was called The Commercial Inn and had to be disguised as The Woolpack before each episode was filmed. The Commercial became a real-life Woolpack in the early 1990s.

Esholt Sports And Leisure Club in 2010 - and the Beckindale village show, 1980! The Esholt site saw many scenes of sporting rivalry in Emmerdale Farm - and Seth Armstrong accidentally drenching Alan Turner (who was suffering from Seth-induced food poisoning) with champagne after the 1986 NY Estates Versus Beckindale Cricket Match.

Ben's photograph of the Esholt allotments. In 1980, Amos Brearly acquired an allotment in Beckindale - and the scene was set for a decade of rivalry with Seth Armstrong!

Looking across Main Street, Esholt, from The Woolpack - and, inset, Amos and Mr Wilks at home in Main Street, Beckindale in 1981. Amos has just spotted Walter leaving the village shop, studying a copy of The Beckindale Bugle!

Amos won a tricycle in a competition in 1983 - and was thrilled. He was no fan of two wheelers ("Put me on a bike and you've got a wobble!"). Ben retraced Amos's 1983 ride through Beckindale in modern day Esholt.

To end on - a few Esholt facts:

Esholt was originally known as "Escheholt" - the ash wood

The church - which doubled as St Mary's in the Beckindale saga - was built in 1839.

Esholt Old Hall, next to the church, is thought to date from the medieval period and is closely associated with the Sherburne (or Shireburne) family, an ancient catholic family.

Most of the estate cottages in the village date from the early 19th Century.

Esholt doubled as Beckindale from 1976 to 1998 and is still a popular destination for Emmerdale fans.

Monday, 24 May 2010

E-Mails - Edward Peel As Tom Merrick, The Missing Merrick, And Meg Armstrong

1985 Emmerdale tribute article. Intense and snarling - Edward Peel took on the revised role of Tom Merrick in 1980, to be followed by Jack Carr a few years later. The fact that David Hill had once played a lazy, twisting version of Tom Merrick years before had been forgotten.

Maria has written:

I liked your post about the Merrick family. I used to lust after Edward Peel's Tom Merrick! I remember David Hill in the role, and, not to be rude, he was neither smouldering or attractive! Mr Peel had it all - a devious bad boy we ladies could love! Characters were often rewritten in Emmerdale Farm, weren't they? Ruth Merrick became Pat, and nobody could say she was chosen to look like the previous actress in the role. The same, as I've already mentioned, with Edward's Tom. I also recall the Merricks had three children originally, but in 1980 one of them was simply written out of existence. Ursula Camm's Meg Armstrong was also very different to Ruth's Holden's Meg in 1986. Ursula's was quiet, unhappy and stay at home, Ruth's was loud, eccentric and out and about. Great blog to read. I'm a long-time fan. Keep up the good work!

Thanks, Maria!

The Merricks had originally been a brief, "passing through" story - and when they were revamped in 1980, the writers transformed them into an interesting long term story-line concept. Edward Peel, of course, did not resemble the original Tom (David Hill) and Helen Weir did not resemble the original Ruth Merrick (Lynn Dalby).

In particular, Edward Peel's Tom had a snarling intensity that had previously been completely lacking.

Interviewed about his role as Tom years later, Mr Peel played down his impact, saying that Tom was simply up to his old tricks, but comparing episodes with David Hill and Edward Peel reveals that the character had become a lot more menacing and downright angry in the Edward Peel era.

It must be remembered that the Merrick family had previously featured as a short story-line eight years before, when VCRs were unknown in the UK, so viewers were not able to check what the family was originally like - although the Emmerdale Farm novels by Lee Mackenzie faithfully recorded the original facts about them, third child and all.

I don't know why Ruth's first name was changed to Pat - although at Pat's wedding to Jack in 1982, it was revealed that her full Christian names were Patricia Ruth, it didn't quite add up.

Whilst Coronation Street employed an archivist and most past story-line facts were rigidly adhered to (there were howls of protest when the age of Ken Barlow's twin children was altered to fit in with a story-line in 1978), Emmerdale Farm took a slightly more relaxed approach to its past.

As for Meg Armstrong - I think that the downtrodden Meg character, as played by Ursula Camm, had been taken as far as it could go, and that's why the character was so drastically altered in 1986.

Emmerdale Farm was never afraid to rewrite bits and pieces of its history!

Left: Ursula Camm as Meg Armstrong in 1983: downtrodden and frankly fed up with Seth's drinking, she locked him out of their home. Right: Ruth Holden was the new Meg Armstrong in 1986: chirpy, religious, and absolutely barking, she terrified Amos Brearly when she worked at The Woolpack for a while, told Mr Wilks that one of her favourite hymns was called "The Ship Of Temperance Is Sailing To The Port", and called Seth "poppet".

Friday, 21 May 2010

The British Soap Awards: "Emmerdale Didn't Take Off Until After The Plane Crash!" Oh, Really?

Sunday Mirror, 3/7/1983: "Emmerdale Farm" is making a quiet assault on the TV ratings. It is at number 5 in the ITV top ten, rivalling "Crossroads" for the title of Britain's most popular show after "Coronation Street"..

Sonia has watched The British Soap Awards, and is surprised at something said on that show:

I watched avidly and was startled to hear from Claire King that Emmerdale didn't take off until after the plane crash! Why on earth was it kept on for all those years beforehand? I was outraged!

Lol! Sonia. In terms of ratings, I think that Emmerdale had its highest ever for the plane crash drama. I have the monthly ratings from January 1994 which show it achieved 16.8 million viewers.

In February 1994, it scored under 11.2 million viewers, falling out of the Top Twenty monthly ratings completely, which surprised me.

Comparing more typical ratings, I went to November 1994 (well after the plane crash) to find the show scoring 11.5 million viewers, as compared to 12.5 million viewers ten years earlier in November 1984.

It can, and should be stated, that mainstream satellite TV was nowhere in 1984, so that would boost ratings for the show as there were only four channels to view, but it must also be stated that Emmerdale Farm wasn't properly networked in 1984 - major ITV regions Anglia and Thames were showing it at teatime, and many people were not aware of its existence, so it was doing very well indeed.

It should also be stated that satellite TV was not as established, popular or diverse as it is today back in 1994, the BARB monthly top twenty ratings were still composed of BBC and ITV programmes, and Emmerdale was then being shown countrywide in an early evening slot, so that probably evens the score.

Its ratings always appear to have fluctuated.

Perhaps the BSA speech writer has been reading Wikipedia?

I wouldn't be "outaged", Sonia. The statement is what I call a "Wiki-ism" (many people do trust Wikipedia - although it's the source of a lot of dodgy info!) and simply to be taken with a pinch of salt.

It was certainly great to see Claire King again!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Esholt And The Woolpack...

Roger asks:

Was the village of Esholt in Yorkshire chosen to represent Beckindale simply because it had a pub called the Woolpack?

No, Roger. Esholt didn't have a pub called The Woolpack originally. The village's Commercial Inn was transformed into The Woolpack for exterior shots by using two fake signs - as seen in the 1980 pics at the top of this post. The Commercial was renamed The Woolpack in the early 1990s - thus making life for the Emmerdale production team a little easier!

Yorkshire Television arrives for another day's filming. And once The Commercial has been transformed into The Woolpack, Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) emerges after a visit to Amos (Ronald Magill) and Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow).

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

1980: The Merricks Arrive...

The Skipton bus conveyed some passengers of great interest to Beckindale in September 1980...

... it was Pat Merrick and her teenage offspring, Jackie and Sandie. Pat had already paid one visit to Beckindale a month or two earlier, but minus her children. Now she had returned with them and much luggage...

Of course, their arrival did not go unnoticed!

The Merricks had at least one friend in Beckindale - Nellie Ratcliffe who remembered Pat from years before and extended the hand of friendship. She and the kids were welcome to pop into her cottage for a cup of tea any time!

The family was bound for Pat's auntie's house...

Jack Sugden was surprised to see Pat back in the village so soon after her last visit. Was this another visit, he asked?

No, replied Pat - this time she had come back to Beckindale "for keeps".

Annie Sugden told Pat that if there was anything she could do to help, she had only to ask. The folk at Emmerdale Farm had faults like anybody else, but they weren't gossips.

Pat told Annie that she'd cope, but that she'd finished with her husband Tom for good.

Life with Pat's Auntie Elsie was not exactly harmonious. Elsie Harker was used to having her house to herself, and kept it spotlessly clean. Two teenagers around the place, marking her table and playing loud music was not her idea of happiness. And then there was the little matter of Pat's cigarettes - they did smell so!

Pat confided in Nellie Ratcliffe that she needed a job and other accommodation for herself and the kids. Nellie knew that neither would be easy to find, but Pat solved her first problem by landing a job as a waitress at Hotten Market Cafe.

Nellie went to see Richard Anstey at NY Estates about the stone flagged floor in her kitchen. If she had to endure another winter with it she'd catch her death of cold, she told him! Richard promised to get it looked at, then Nellie asked if NY Estates had any other affordable accommodation in the village - for Pat and her family.

As it happened, Richard knew of a caravan on the estate, intended as accommodation for the gamekeeper, but as Seth had a cottage in the village...

Pat was extremely grateful, and although the caravan was cramped and on the grotty side, it was vastly preferable to life with Auntie Elsie's constant harping.

Then, not long before Christmas, Tom Merrick came swanning (or rather sneering!) into The Woolpack, and was soon paying a visit to the caravan.

Pat told him that their marriage was over.

Tom asked her who was taking care of her needs? He'd heard a rumour about Jack Sugden... just like the old days, was it?

Pat told him to leave.

Tom teamed up with Derek Warner to steal Christmas trees from the plantation at NY Estates. The duo were nearly caught by Joe Sugden, and Derek, who was driving, bumped Joe with his van, knocking him flying. Joe was not really injured - just some aches and bruises, but Sandie had seen the occupants of the van and was pretty sure Tom was in the passenger seat...

As Beckindale headed into 1981, it seemed that more troubled times ahead - and that the Merricks' stay in the village was going to be anything but peaceful...

1987: No Nukes In Beckindale...

A public meeting at The Woolpack, chaired by the Rev Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning), Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) and Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) was dominated by the brothers Sugden...

Jack (Clive Hornby) saw the prospect of the nuclear dump as something to fight. There was no question about it:

"If they can prove to us that the ground around here is as solid as they say it is, bring on the nuclear waste!" he sneered.

"We'll all be happy, reason has won the day! Well, try telling that to farmers in the Dales who've got young lambs registering on the gieger counter! Our only course is to fight so that they can't come to Beckindale to talk or to do tests or to do one damn thing! And that's what we've got to believe. Everybody that lives here."

He looked at his brother Joe (Frazer Hines), standing quietly at the bar.

"And that means EVERYBODY!"

Joe pointed out that this was 1987. Did that mean we wanted radiation? Jack fumed.

Joe did not approve of Jack's outlook. He wanted an objective debate about the proposed nuclear waste dump. The "burning haystacks" method of blind resistance Jack favoured struck no sympathetic chord in Joe.

Feelings were running high in in Beckindale, and another public meeting, this time at the village hall and attended by a representative of the nuclear dump backers, took an unexpected turn when a coffin bearing a radiactive warning symbol was carried in.

"You claim that the risks of nuclear waste are no greater than smoking one cigarette a year," said Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) to the nuclear "yes" man.

And cigarette smoke began to rise from a hole in the coffin lid.

And the coffin lid was pushed aside.

And a skeleton emerged.

A skeleton which sounded amazingly like Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts):

"Well, I think I'd rather have one fag a year than your waste on my doorstep!" it said.

Of course, smoking the fag to make this point was no hardship to Archie - a devoted smoker back then.

The 1987 Emmerdale Farm nuclear waste dump story-line was based on a true story, and hailed as a major step forward in the politicisation of soap.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Did Judy Westrop Know Walter?

Jane Cussons, who played Judy Westrop, and Al Dixon as Woolpack Walter.

Carol asks:

Have you any photographs of Judy Westrop (played by Jane Cussons) in the Woolpack with Walter (Al Dixon). What a contrast, elegant Judy with wonderfully weird Walter in his cloth cap!

Sorry, Carol - the best I can do is above!

Judy's final appearance in the show was in episode 596, broadcast in July 1980. Al Dixon made his first appearance as Walter in episode 597, broadcast in September 1980, after the series' annual summer break. Sorry, but the two never met!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Emmerdale "Male Tottie" - 1980s Vs 2010!

Beckindale boys Archie Brooks (Tony Pitts) and Nick Bates (Cy Chadwick) enjoy fags and beer in 1987.

Anne has written:

Don't you think that the 1980s men of Emmerdale were less attractive than today? I think the show was seriously lacking in male tottie back then. Clive Hornby and Ian Sharrock were OK, but where was the muscle? There was nobody to compare to the delicious John Barton now.

Times change, Anne! I don't think there was as much muscle around in general before the 1990s.

I recall the fitness craze of the 1980s, aerobics and so on, and loads of people got into wearing sweat bands.

And, of course, the designer trainer arrived. I remember them well. They were great for nipping over to Sainsbury's for fags and Stella Artois.

The 1980s Emmerdale Farm episodes saw Alan Turner arriving - and he was at his most dashing.

And Al Dixon's Walter enjoying his five year reign.

And Amos Brearly being at his glorious pottiest.

And Archie Brooks plodding in with his ghetto blaster, slow wit, and anarchic views.

With those classic characters around, who needed loads of muscle?

Monday, 26 April 2010

Coming Soon - 1987: A Traumatic Year For Beckindale...

Henry Wilks is horrified to find "No Nukes Here" daubed on the side wall at The Woolpack. Jack Sugden leads opposition to the proposed nuclear dump. Is nuclear waste really only as injurious to health as having one cigarette a year? A skeleton at the village hall states his preference. Alan Turner is featured in The Hotten Courier - but is the photograph what it seems? And Sandie Merrick is terrorised by Eric Pollard...

Remember 1987? If not, let me remind you...

Ever since the term "yuppie" had been coined in America in the early 1980s, the decade seemed to have been set on a chaotic course for 1987. It was the election of Ronald Reagan as US President in November 1980 which had brought about the term a year or two later - and its accompanying ethos.

The yuppie "thing" spread to the UK, and it seemed that by 1987 people were either revelling in dosh, doing quite nicely, or poor as a church mouse (I have to say that my family were in the latter category, but, I must admit, not as poor as in the previous decade). A clamour of voices was raised against the whole yuppie circus.

And then 1987 dawned. A sleek, shoulder-padded beastie. Apparently the summit of Planet 1980s.

But this year was definitely not what it seemed.

This year suddenly turned into something very different indeed, with Black Monday sending shock waves through the financial world in October - and an awe inspiring gale in the same month...

The Times reported on the stock market crash from America:

A black man on a bicycle seized the mood when he shouted at the brokers: "Freedom! The Reagan revolution is over. Death to Yuppies."

A tubby broker bellowed back at him: "Whoever dies with the most toys wins. We start over again tomorrow."

And on the gale in England:

Eighteen people died and hundreds were injured as yesterday's storms, the worst in memory, left a trail of destruction as they cut across southern England.

The year which had seen Margaret Thatcher win her third term in office had suddenly gone completely off its rocker. It screamed and it howled.

And, even in the cosy fictional world of Beckindale, big issues were all the rage as the villagers were faced with the prospect of having a nuclear waste dump sited on nearby Pencross Fell.

And, whilst Nick Bates was caught smoking by his mother, Archie Brooks briefly joined Amos and Mr Wilks at The Woolpack, and Jackie Merrick and Kathy Bates enjoyed their romance, Eric Pollard, removed from his position as manager of Hotten Market, was out to get his revenge on the woman who had caused his downfall - Sandie Merrick.

And he was armed with a poker.

Mad and bad 1987 was here.

We'll be exploring some some of the highs and lows in Beckindale soon.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Happy St George's Day!

Way back in the 1980s, Amos Brearly complimented Mr Wilks - telling him that he was English and Yorkshire - in Amos' estimation, two very wonderful things to be!

Amos, being the same, regarded himself as being pretty wonderful too, of course!

With the resurgence of interest in St George's Day in recent years, The Beckindale Bugle would like to wish all citizens of England celebrating the national day a very happy day indeed!

We're working, but we'll be having a pint later!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Who Are They?

Just for fun, can you tell me who the two men pictured above are? Both would make their mark on Beckindale many years after the photographs were taken...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Seth Armstrong - The Importance of 1980!

Lorraine has dropped me a line:

I'm interested in your "introduction", in which you state that Seth Armstrong became a full-time regular in the 1980s. Surely Seth became a full-time regular in the 1970s?

No, I'm afraid he didn't. Stan Richards debuted as Seth in 1978, the character was then a school caretaker. It was supposed to be a one-off story-line, but the Emmerdale Farm production team liked the character, so Seth appeared in several story-lines afterwards - a particularly memorable one being his employment as gamekeeper for NY Estates.

But for large tracts of episodes in 1978, 1979 and early 1980 Seth simply didn't appear at all and was not referred to. Producer Anne W Gibbons made the decision that the character should become full-time, which he did in mid-1980. From then on, Seth was a Woolpack regular - and on-screen as much as any of the other major characters.

My knowledge is based on watching the episodes. When I wrote that Seth Armstrong became a full-time regular character in the 1980s, that's exactly what I meant. He did - in mid-1980.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Walter (Al Dixon) - First To Last...

Al Dixon photo and autograph from 1984.

Cerys shares my affection and fascination for Al Dixon's Walter...

He was absolutely great and a real '80s cult. As he didn't appear in the credits, I'm finding it impossible to map his reign in terms of episode numbers. Do you have the info?

Al Dixon did occasionally appear in the closing credits, Cerys, but not often as he was non-speaking! The production team occasionally allowed his inclusion if Walter had featured prominently in the episode.

Al Dixon first gave us Walter in episode 597, broadcast in September 1980. The synopsis was:

Beckindale's eerie Bogle Bog is definitely not the place to be stranded in the dead of night - but that's exactly where Amos Brearly finds himself!

The episode was written by the show's creator, Kevin Laffan.

Read all about the Bogles here.

Walter made his final appearance in episode 1011, broadcast in December 1985:

It's the day of the village show and Amos Brearly is ready for stardom. But a night of celebration turns sour for Jackie Merrick.

The episode was written by Michael Russell.

Walter appeared in the village show, which was Toad Of Toad Hall.

Read our complete Walter/Al Dixon info here.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hotten Courier, Beckindale Edition, 1985

Whilst Annie Sugden tended her Aga, Matt Skilbeck tended his sheep and Walter silently supped at The Woolpack, elsewhere in Beckindale, things were not so serene...

ARMED MEN IN WAGES SNATCH

A security van on its way to deliver wages to NY Estates was held up by armed robbers on a lonely road near Beckindale yesterday.

The masked gunmen, who were also carrying explosives, drove a herd of cows into the path of the security van, forcing it to stop, and then threatened to blow up the vehicle unless the guards handed over the money.

The gunmen escaped into the trees with £10,000 and police believe they had a getaway vehicle parked nearby.

"I don't know what I'm going to tell my employees," said NY Estates Manager Mr Alan Turner. "We don't have enough money on the premises to pay their wages, and many of them have wives and children to support."

The police would like to hear from anyone who has noticed an unusual or suspiciously parked vehicle in the Beckindale area recently.

Oh dear. Could this next story be related?

RECORD PRICE PAID FOR FARMLAND

Thirty acres of land previously owned by Mr Clifford Longthorn were put up for auction this week by Golding & Sons, the auctioneers, and achieved the record price of £1,600 an acre.

The land, which adjoins Emmerdale Farm run by Mr Jack Sugden, and property belonging to NY Estates, was bought by Mr Harry Mowlam, an ex-quarry owner.

"I'm delighted," said Mr Mowlam. "This is my first venture into farming and I'm planning to put sheep on the land.

"It was quite a battle, but the other bidders dropped out in the end. £1,600 an acre seems a fair price to me."

Mr Sugden, who was also bidding for the land, was not available for comment...

Meanwhile, Alan Turner and NY Estates were, once again, not exactly the community's pet loves...

TODDLERS POISONED IN CROP SPRAYING ROW

Twelve Beckindale toddlers, all members of the Beckindale Playgroup, were being treated for poisoning last night after a crop spraying incident.

It is thought that the children, all suffering from sickness, diarrhoea and skin rashes, were exposed to a pesticide used in crop spraying while they were on a nature walk in woods near the village.

"I think it's disgraceful," said playgroup leader Mrs Dolly Skilbeck, whose two-year-old son Sam is now being treated by the doctor. "Anyone irresponsible enough to spray their crops in a high wind when there are children about ought to be locked up."

Mr Alan Turner, manager of NY Estates, on whose land the incident occurred, said he was mystified by the whole thing.

"I know nothing about it," he said from the estate office near Beckindale. "All my employees are highly trained and experienced men. There is no way they'd spray the crops in harmful conditions. The children are probably suffering from food poisoning or some sort of virus."

Wasn't there any good news? Well, yes, young Jackie Merrick, recently out of hospital after being run down by the aforementioned Mr Alan Turner, had come sixth at the local sheepdog trials, and in the year of Live Aid, Beckindale had organised its own musical effort to help the starving...

BAND PLAYS TO FEED THE HUNGRY

The starving thousands in Ethiopia are to benefit from a charity concert held in Beckindale last week.

The Hotten and District Brass Band assembled outside The Woolpack Inn in Beckindale High Street and kept the villagers entertained with a medley of popular tunes.

The weather smiled on the proceedings and Mr Amos Brearly, landlord of the Woolpack, was kept busy all afternoon serving drinks and snacks to the thirsty crowds.

"All the profits will be going to Ethiopia," said Mr Brearly, "and I'm very proud to do my bit."

"It was a grand day," said band member Seth Armstrong, who played the triangle. "I reckon everyone enjoyed it."

Nice.

And, on another positive note (perhaps), the Beckindale Players were planning their next venture:

BECKINDALE PLAYERS SEARCH FOR A TOAD

The Beckindale Players have announced this year's Pantomime Production is to be Toad Of Toad Hall. Rehearsals are due to start in the village hall soon.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact the Rev Donald Hinton on Beckindale 6347. All the villagers are looking forward to what should be another splendid production from the Beckindale Players.

Do you recognise the faces behind the masks?