Saturday, February 11, 2017

Watching Flower of Gloster 1

"This is children's television before life jackets, health and safety or safeguarding, " I wrote when I first came across the 1967 children's television  series Flower of Gloster.

I didn't know the half of it.

In the first episode a 10-year-old boy rides his bike into the Llangollen Canal as it passes over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The trough stands 126ft above the River Dee, there is a sheer drop on the opposite side to the towpath and it is scary enough making the crossing in a boat.

If you want to blame anyone for this, it should probably be Bill Grundy. A decade before he encountered the Sex Pistols, he produced and narrated Flower of Gloster.

There are 13 episodes in the series, but I thought a post on each would stretch the attention of my readers as well as the concept of 'fair use' when it comes to the copyright of stills. So here is the first of just two posts on the series.

It stars Richard O'Callaghan, who is still acting today. He is the son of Patricia Hayes and was soon to take the Jim Dale role in a couple of Carry Ons.

His younger brother and sister are played by Liz and Mike Doherty, who appear not to have been established child actors (and are all the better for that), Judging by how happy they are jumping on and off the Flower of Gloster with ropes, they were recruited from a family used to the canals.

When their father is injured in a boatyard accident, O'Callaghan and Liz have to take the Flower to London in a fortnight to secure its sale.

Mike later turns up as a stowaway and along the way they pick up the free-spirited Annette Robertson, who was later to marry John Hurt.

They have rivals who are seeking to sell their boat to the same buyer. The father of that family is played by Talfryn Thomas from Dad's Army.

There is lots of wonderful period canal scenery to enjoy, notably the Anderton Lift. Not everything may be as it seems though: when they first arrive at Audlem locks in Cheshire, the footage we see is clearly of Foxton here in Leicestershire.

You can find a discussion of the locations on the later pages of this thread on the Canalworld forum.

And there is a review in Yorkshire Magazine:
I become nostalgic for a seemingly timeless era of long summers, though the chats with a badger boffin and a passing expert en route to Birmingham are gloriously awkward. I save checking the year of origin until the end of episode one, guessing it’s a mid-1970s show. The fact it’s from 1967 is astonishing ... 
There are many moments of charm: a blond tyke interviewing an eloquent repairman (cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth – the repairman’s, not the kid’s), about how long it will take to repair the narrow boat he’s working on is one. 
Another chat with a seasoned canal veteran is gloriously awkward, his eager interrogator asking him question after question as they walk along a riverbank. 
Talking to strangers does not seem to be a problem here, and the spooky goings on in the woods turn out be the badger boffin playing his tapes of the creatures.

The end of disc 1 finds our heroes at Market Drayton, still a long way from London. I'll let you know how things turn out another day.

Read my second post on Flower of Gloster. You can order the DVDs yourself from Network Distributing.

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