Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Emmerdale 40th Anniversary...

The way it was. In October 1982, Emmerdale Farm celebrated its very first decade on screen. In fact, the 1980s were the very first decade which the show completely spanned, appearing every year from 1980 to 1989. The show was first networked (shown on the same day and at the same time) across the ITV regions in January 1988.

 How times change! A mid-1980s Woolpack perpetual calendar, still in use in The Bugle editorial office. This particular Woolpack sign seen on the building was first used in 1984.

Well, of course, we at the Beckindale Bugle couldn't let today go by without wishing Emmerdale a very happy 40th anniversary. Back in our day, in 1982 to be precise, the show, then Emmerdale Farm, celebrated its very first decade on-screen. And look how things have changed since then! But then they always have. From 1980, when Al Dixon's Walter first appeared, Clive Hornby became Jack Sugden, Jean Rogers became Dolly Skilbeck and Stan Richards became full time and permanent as Seth Armstrong, to shortening scenes, the arrivals of bad lads Alan Turner (1982) and Eric Pollard (1986) and the show becoming simply Emmerdale (1989), our fave decade saw many changes in Beckindale (as it then was).

Wishing you all the best for the future, Emmerdale! Tonight we'll be toasting your future success in true 1980s Woolpack fashion!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Emmerdale At 40 - And In The 1980s...

A couple of e-mails from readers as Emmerdale approaches its 40th birthday on 16 October.

Rod writes:

Why do you focus on the 1980's? If it was anything like the 1970's episodes I have seen it was dead boring and naff!

That's all a matter of opinion, Rod! I loved the show right from its lunchtime beginnings in 1972, but in 1980 several things happened which increased my enjoyment hugely: Al Dixon arrived as the legendary Silent Walter, Clive Hornby and Jean Rogers took on the roles of Jack Sugden and Dolly Skilbeck - both would be long-stayers, and Seth Armstrong, played by Stan Richards, became a full-time permanent character. On top of this, the Merrick family were revamped and recast and gave us some splendid gritty drama and an attempt to actually portray modern teenagers as permanent characters. The character of Amos Brearly, played by Ronald Magill, became more eccentric and funny and all in all a delicious brew became even more delicious in my view. Wading on further into the 1980s (1982 and 1984), we saw the arrival of the (as it turned out) hugely lovable Alan Turner and his long-suffering secretary Mrs Bates, the terrifying reign of Harry Mowlam and, to cap it all, the arrival of Eric Pollard (1986). 1989, of course, brought us the Tate family.

All shows evolve, and the '80s era was my favourite in the show. That's why I chose to highlight that decade on this blog.

Claire writes:

This is a very valuable resource. Do you still like the show? Could you extend The Bugle to the 90s and beyond?

Well, I didn't see much Emmerdale in the '90s - or beyond - so that would be difficult. I don't watch modern soaps at all because the pace is too fast for my personal taste. But I'm delighted that Emmerdale has survived all these years and shall be raising a glass to it on 16 October.

I have received copies of some very interesting 1980s Emmerdale Farm memorabilia from Sheila, who wrote to The Bugle some time ago about Al Dixon's Silent Walter - who lit up a quiet corner of The Woolpack from 1980-1985. I'll be putting them on-line as soon as possible. Many thanks to Sheila!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Truth About Walter...

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

Late 1980: Al Dixon's Walter says nowt.

This blog has some amazing fans! No sooner had I posted the previous article on the three Walters (one and the same character?) than I got this e-mail from Sheila:

I well remember Geoffrey Hooper as Walter and liked him a great deal. When Al Dixon became the new Walter in the early '80s, I couldn't accept him as the same character because he was so silent and odd. He was nothing like the previous version. Around 1981, when it became obvious that Al Dixon's version was not going to speak, I wrote to the production team asking if the two Walters were meant to be the same character, because they seemed so different. Clive Hornby and Jean Rogers had been cast as Jack Sugden and Dolly Skilbeck in 1980, but they resembled the previous actors and the characters were the same. The reply stated that the production team, headed by Anne W Gibbons, the producer, liked the tradition of a Walter at the Woolpack, but in casting Al Dixon, they had no intention of adhering to the character of the previous Walter. They wanted to create something fresh and original and so the idea came about that he would be silent.

The letter said that viewers could use their imaginations as to whether he was the same person as the previous Walter or not, so I decided that Amos, depressed by the death of his old regular Walter, had been happy when a new Walter turned up in Beckindale (Walter was a common name amongst aged men in those days) and had taken him under his wing, not at first realising how odd he was.

I wrote to the cast and production team several times in those days and have some lovely souvenirs. I'd be happy to scan some for you. I really enjoy reading your site and am always on the lookout for updates, which are all too rare!

Thanks for that, Sheila! It's amazing!  Thanks for your compliments, too. I'm a great fan of Al Dixon's highly distinctive Walter - he was the only SILENT Walter - and I'd love to see your souvenirs! I'll be in touch.

Friday, 4 May 2012

E-Mails - The Walters And Some Praise...

Terry writes:

Were the Walters in Emmerdale Farm supposed to be the same person in real life? I know there were three and they were very different, and it is the silent Walter played by Al Dixon from 1980-1985 who is the best remembered, but were they the same person in the program?

I'm not sure about Meadows White, but the other two Walters were definitely linked. Geoffrey Hooper's Walter was a Woolpack regular who spoke. It was a lovely piece of character acting, but Walter was not a fully-fledged character in those days - more background. Geoffrey Hooper's Walter last appeared in early 1980. The actor died, but Anne W Gibbons and the production team liked the tradition of having a Walter at the Woolpack and decided to play with the concept. The new Walter was very different - the one and only silent Walter - and achieved a cult following. Some confusion followed with some people thinking that Geoffrey Hooper's Walter had been silent, but that, of course, was not true.

I tend to think of them more in terms of separate characters because they were so different and because Al Dixon's Walter became such a cult. I think the Emmerdale production team expected its audience to be somewhat sophisticated and accept the fact that the new Walter was very different from the old and leave as a mystery whether they were the same character or not (were there two Walters in Beckindale? It was perfectly possible. If so, what was their history?) and just concentrate on Al Dixon as the "Silent One".

I must say that as viewer of Emmerdale Farm from the very early days, the only Walter that registered in my memory was the Al Dixon version. I was surprised to discover later that there had been others.

I recall a friend of mine some years uploading some late '70s Emmerdale Farm onto YouTube with Geoffrey Hooper as the non-silent Walter and us all being surprised that it was not the Walter we all remembered.

In the end, no definite explanation was ever offered - so if you like to believe that Emmerdale Farm was real life you can list the Walters as the same person (despite looking different and having different personalities) or as separate locals in Beckindale. Or you can accept what was going on behind the scenes and just enjoy the Walter tradition, whether your favourite is Meadows White, Geoffrey Hooper or Al Dixon!

And an e-mail from Sandra from March - sorry it's taken me so long to publish it!

Love this blog. It's well thought out, and well written. You really are a gifted writer because you make the old stories live and you have great understanding of the characters. The article you wrote about Jackie and Jack and the difficulties they experienced in finding a way of getting on together showed so much insight. I hope that a DVD company releases many more episodes. In the meantime, I hope you keep this blog going!

Sandra you are really kind. Thank you! The blog is updated infrequently because I'm tied up with other blogs and my work and I'm shortly about to go into hospital, but it will update at times - I promise. Thank you again.

We have an exciting update on this topic - see it here.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ronald Magill's Music Choice - 1983

Ronald Magill as Amos Brearly, 1983.

More treasure from Carl "The Gresh" Gresham, who, in 1983, ran a series of hour-long programmes on his Radio Pennine show featuring various stars of Emmerdale Farm highlighting their favourite music.

Did Beckindale ever play home to a larger than life character than Mr Amos Brearly, licensee of the Woolpack Inn? Accomplished actor Ronald Magill took the role of a surly, nosy Yorkshire publican and made it one of the best loved characters in soap history.

One of the best things about Amos was how he evolved. In the era 1972-1979, he was a great character - a puffed up peacock of a man, given to fads, with a stout Yorkshire commonsense underlying. In the 1980s, with Stan Richards joining the cast full-time as Seth Armstrong and Seth transferring his custom from the Malt Shovel to the Woolpack, and Al Dixon arriving as the weird silent Walter, the character of Amos became odder and more lovable than ever, thrusting off the last few vestiges of commonsense and lurching through the decade at war with Seth over his allotment, launching his own local newspaper, seeing UFOs at Bogle Bog, fighting a bitter war with rival landlord Ernie Shuttleworth, visiting a health farm, keeping bees, seeing crop circles and literally dozens of other exploits. The character was voted Emmerdale viewers' favourite in several mid-to-late 1980s polls.

Walter, played by Al Dixon from 1980-1985, gets a roasting from Amos in 1984.

When Carl "The Gresh" Gresham brought Ronald Magill to Pennine Radio to play some of his favourite music, Mr Magill chose the wonderful world of the musicals, and his choices were nothing less than inspired, spanning from the classic "greats" right through to the early 1980s.

Ronald Magill was actually a quiet and cultured man, very different to the part he played on TV, but he displayed his great sense of humour when he announced that a Mr Amos Brearly of The Woolpack Inn, Beckindale, had sent a request to his musical choice show. What would Amos's choice be? And how did Seth Armstrong and Mr Wilks come into the picture?

This wonderful hour with the man who created an Emmerdale legend, is available simply because Carl Gresham is a bit of a hoarder. He kept the old Ampex ten inch tapes containing the Ronald Magill material, and, despite advice that they would have gone "crumply", persisted in seeking help so that they could be transferred onto CD. The result is an hour of sheer magic that might have been recorded last week!

Seth Armstrong - played by Stan Richards - annoys Amos at the 1983 Beckindale Christmas show.

Copies of Ronnie Magill's musical choice are available from:

PO Box 3. Bradford. West Yorkshire. BD1 4QN

The cost is £5.00 - including postage - which is a real bargain. Please make cheques payable to Carl Gresham. We don't usually go in for advertising or selling things at the Bugle, but this CD is, in our opinion, absolutely priceless!

No stranger to the stars - Carl "The Gresh" Gresham with Coronation Street legend Pat Phoenix.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Matt And Dolly 1987!

Frederick Pyne and Jean Rogers were Matt and Dolly Skilbeck, our favourite Emmerdale Farm married couple, for nearly the whole of the 1980s. When Jean joined the cast in 1980, she quickly made the role of Dolly her own, and with the soon-to-be happily chattering Benjamin Whitehead joining the cast as baby Sam in 1982, scenes of domestic bliss or even disharmony at the Skilbecks' were a pleasure to watch.

But surely such scenes as the one pictured above didn't happen in secret at Matt and Dolly's place? It would have given the Beckindale gossips years of bliss had word got out! But don't worry - Jean Rogers and Frederick Pyne had simply donned different guises - Frederick's was Count Dracula, Jean's a saucy French maid - to raise money to keep a real life threatened local theatre in business!