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...


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?


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...


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...


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."


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


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?

Friday, 9 April 2010

New Beckindale Bugle Header Poll

We've just designed a new header for the Bugle - we hope you like it! Before making a final decision on whether it's to be permanently "out with the old, in with the new" we'd like your opinions, so if you have a preference between old (above) and new, eyes right to our poll and let us have your vote!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Matt And Dolly Skilbeck - The End Part 2

Matt and Dolly Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne and Jean Rogers), 1989 - their marriage was in its death throes.

When Matt received the letter from Dolly's solicitor regarding their divorce, he tore round to the mill house. Dolly was divorcing him on grounds which made him look totally responsible for the breakdown of their marriage. He had deserted the marital bed, but there was no mention as to why...

Dolly pointed out that Matt had agreed she should divorce him when they'd discussed the matter some months previously. It was all just words anyway. Things would be easier this way.

Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) was deeply disturbed by the break-up. In her day, marriage was forever. Dolly pointed out that Annie had endured years of misery with Jacob. Annie stated firmly that Matt wasn't Jacob.

But it was no use.

The Crossgill fire in 1988, the destruction of the new home she'd hoped to share with Matt and Sam, had changed something within Dolly. She had been happy with her home at Emmerdale Farm, absolutely thrilled when she and Matt had moved into the extension cottage in late 1982.

But the idea of having a home away from the farm, somewhere for just herself, her husband and child, had entranced Dolly. When it was suddenly and dramatically snatched away from them, she was left feeling isolated - Matt was happy to go on living at Emmerdale Farm. He didn't seem to understand her sense of loss.

And then Stephen Fuller had come along...

And now Stephen was dead, but Dolly's feelings towards him had damaged her marriage. Matt couldn't forgive her. And Dolly felt that maybe it was a good thing. She felt that her marriage to Matt was over.

And she must move forward.

Matt rather bitterly told Dolly that he hoped Sam would forgive her when she came to tell him how their marriage had broken up. Dolly replied that she would be as kind as she could be to both of them when the time came.

"I still love you, Dolly," Matt said.

But Dolly didn't want to hear that. She still had feelings for Matt, but her conviction that it was time to move on was absolute.

Left alone in the extension cottage at Emmerdale Farm, Matt felt lost.

Annie spoke to him, telling him that in her day marriage was forever, if a marriage broke-up, the couple felt that they were letting everyone down.

Matt replied that divorce might be technically easier in the 1980s, but it didn't hurt any the less.

And then, out of the blue, Frank Tate (Norman Bowler), new owner of Home Farm, came up with an offer for Matt that rocked him on his heels. Frank had been both annoyed and impressed when Matt had stuck his oar in regarding the sorry state of some sheep which were being transported by Tate Haulage.

Frank resented Matt's interference, but the man was obviously a dedicated shepherd - his reputation in Beckindale was second to none.

So, via Frank, came the idea that Matt that should relocate and take up a new job on a large sheep farm in Norfolk. Matt was uncertain.

But Frank unsettled him, telling him that farming was on the move - Emmerdale Farm probably had another decade left at the most.

With Joe and Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby and Frazer Hines) bickering again, Matt realised that if he moved to Norfolk Jack could move back to Emmerdale from Demdyke Row, without being around Joe too much.

Jack could have the extension cottage.

Dolly was shocked by the suddenness of Matt's decision. She'd been worrying about him, and called to see how he was.

She'd never envisaged that Matt would leave Beckindale.

The thought of him going hurt her, even though she no longer wished to be married to him.

But she felt it would be a good move for Matt. He would be moving forward with his life too.

"You do right, love," she said, warmly.

And so came the day of parting.

Annie had come to regard Matt as family.

As had her father, Sam (Toke Townley).

When Dolly's Aunt Jessie had arrived for the christening of young Sam in 1983, and was wondering who the baby resembled, Sam senior had said: "He's got my nose!"

"You're no relation, Dad!" Annie reminded him.

"I keep forgetting!" said Sam.

Annie was well aware that she and Matt weren't flesh and blood relations.

But there was a strong family bond between them nonetheless.

Matt asked Annie to look out for Dolly and Sam junior.

"May God go with you," Annie said at the moment of parting.

And then, as Matt walked through the door for the very last time, Annie wept.

Frederick Pyne's last appearance as Matt Skilbeck was in episode 1410, broadcast on 7 December 1989.

More About The Beckindale Police House....

Where was it?

Sarah asks:

You say "near the Woolpack," but can you tell me exactly where the Beckindale police station was in Esholt in the 80's?

Yes, Sarah - it fronted what was in reality Main Street, Esholt, and was on the opposite side of Pullan Lane corner from The Woolpack and the buildings adjoining it. The Beckindale bus stop was just outside it. The building used can be seen on Google Maps.

Mrs Bates (Diana Davies) calls at the Beckindale police house/station in 1984, when her dog, Bundle, is shot for worrying sheep. Sergeant Ian MacArthur (Martin Dale) advises her.

Amos Brearly - The Marrying Kind?

Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) - marriage plans in 1988.

Sheila writes:

Much is made of Amos's proposal of marriage to Annie Sugden - purely for business reasons - in 1972. But was Amos ever romantically involved with a woman during the 1980s?

Yes, Sheila, he was. In October 1988, Amos came close to marrying old acquaintance Gloria Pinfold (Hope Johnstone). A personable woman, she dominated the blustering landlord and caused Henry Wilks great distress when she moved into The Woolpack and threw out the sausages and bacon because of their high cholesterol content. She also criticised Henry's book keeping.

Amos told Henry he was going to marry Gloria.

Henry would have to leave The Woolpack.

It looked like the days of one of Beckindale's best-loved duos were numbered, until Gloria called off the engagement and went off with someone else.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Primrose Dingle - Related To The Dingle Family?

In the 1980s, long before the Dingle family, Henry Wilks sometimes sought a little peace and quiet at Primrose Dingle.

Peter asks:

I remember Mr Wilks defending a local beauty spot called "Primrose Dingle" in the 1980s - NY Estates were dumping builders' rubbish there. Was the "Dingle" name anything to do with the Dingle family?

No, Peter. "Primrose Dingle" was Mr Wilks' own name for this beauty spot in the 1980s which passed into common usage in Beckindale - and the Dingle family hadn't been invented then!

So, what is a "dingle" and where does the surname come from?

This unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is either a topographical name for a dweller by or in the dingle, or a locational name from a place called Dingle in Lancashire, both deriving from the Middle English "dingle" meaning a dingle, a deep dell or hollow. The placename is recorded as "Dingyll" in the Assize Rolls of 1246. There is a district of Liverpool called Dingle also. The surname dates back to the mid 13th Century (see below) and early recordings include William Dingel (1273) in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire, Hugh de la Dingle (1275) in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire, and John ate Dyngle (1299) in the Studies on Middle English Local Surnames, from Worcestershire.

Read it all here -

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Dolly Skilbeck Change Over...

From the Yorkshire Evening Post's 1985 supplement, celebrating 1000 episodes of Emmerdale Farm.

An enquiry regarding our recent post about Jean Rogers taking over the role of Dolly Skilbeck from Katharine Barker in April 1980:

If Katherine's Dolly hadn't been seen since the previous summer, how was Dolly's absence explained?

In July 1979 Dolly, then played by Katharine Barker, announced she was pregnant.

Katharine Barker then left the role.

ITV disappeared from our screens during the strike of August to October.

Emmerdale Farm returned to our screens in January 1980. In the story-line, Dolly had apparently been rushed into hospital just after the New Year 1980 celebrations and was not featured on-screen at all.

In off-screen story-line drama, Dolly lost her baby, and spent some time in a convalescent home before returning to Beckindale in April 1980, with Jean Rogers in the role.

The Beckindale Police House

Paul writes to ask:

Observing some '80's Emmerdale eps, I've noticed a cottage with a hanging sign reading "Police" near the Woolpack. Was it part of the plot, or actually Esholt Police Station?

Part of the plot, Paul. As can be seen in the pics at the top of this post, the sign was erected by the Emmerdale Farm production staff whenever outside filming took place in that particular location.

Beckindale had its own police station - or police house - in the 1980s, as you say, near The Woolpack. From December 1980 onwards, Sergeant Ian MacArthur (Martin Dale) was the man at the helm.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Jean Rogers - 30 Years Since Emmerdale Farm Debut As Dolly Skilbeck...

A newspaper article about the changing face of Dolly Skilbeck from March 1980.

1 April 2010 was the thirtieth anniversary of actress Jean Rogers making her screen debut as Dolly Skilbeck of Emmerdale Farm. Jean took over the role from Katharine Barker, who hadn't been seen on-screen since the previous summer.

Of course, bedding down into a role originally played by somebody else is never easy, but Jean soon made the character of Dolly her very own - and we here at The Bugle remember her fondly.

Matt (Frederick Pyne), Dolly (Jean Rogers), young Sam (Benjamin Whitehead) and Joe (Frazer Hines) in a scene from 1986.

Jean Rogers became Dolly Skilbeck on 1 April 1980 (allow for a few days' regional variations in ITV's schedules!). It was very rare for a member of the Sugden family circle to be recast, and the Skilbecks were very much part of that circle, but in 1980 producer Anne W Gibbons took the bull by the horns, recasting both Jack Sugden - Clive Hornby took on the role last played by Andrew Burt a few years previously - and Dolly, when actress Katharine Barker left the show.

Interviewed in 1983, Jean Rogers recalled:

"I was recruited to take over the Dolly Skilbeck part from actress Katharine Barker. We looked alike, of course, and it was important that the continuity of character be maintained for as long as possible.

"But that posed a major problem: was I playing the part of Dolly, or the part of Katharine playing Dolly?

"I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain a double-role indefinitely, so I slowly eased Katharine's presence out of the role and established my own identity.

"It was a long, slow task - but after a couple of years I finally received a letter from a viewer who said I was doing OK, and that no-one could now recall what the first Dolly Skilbeck was like."