by Matthew Lee © 2005-2008

Maurice Colbourne as Tom Howard

Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in September 1939, Maurice Colbourne is largely remembered for his performances in two outstanding BBC Television success stories, Gangsters and Howards’ Way, both entirely different enterprises for which he is held in high esteem.

Originally harbouring ambitions to become a writer, Colbourne undertook employment as a waiter in London to support his plans, and whilst working in that capacity he became acquainted with Tom Courtenay, who inspired him to become an actor. Auditioning at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Colbourne spent three years becoming a qualified actor before venturing in repertory theatre. His work in this capacity introduced him to the likes of David Hare, and also lead to him being appointed as a director of the Half Moon Theatre in the East End of London. Film work during this time includes a small role in the Vincent Price movie Cry of the Banshee.

However, whilst he was entirely fulfilled in his ambitions, it would prove to be his television work during the 1970s which would elevate his presence in the public’s mind.

Colbourne soon secured top billing in two series of Philip Martin’s gritty BBC Television serial, Gangsters, which spawned from a Play For Today. Such was the impact this series made on British television that Colbourne enjoyed a regular stream of work thereafter, and whilst not in an entirely leading capacity, he enjoyed appearances in Van Der Valk (Everybody Does It), Return of The Saint (Duel in Venice), The Day of The Triffids and Johnny Jarvis, to name three stand-out productions, before landing the role of Tom Howard.

His passing August 1989 came as a shock both to the production crew of Howards’ Way and the British entertainment industry in general, as Colbourne had not previously exhibited any symptoms of the heart condition which claimed his life. In a television career spanning nearly forty years, he had become something of a recognised fixture through his collection of supporting and prominent leading roles, and his death proved to be a major stumbling block for Gerard Glaister’s penultimate dramatic vehicle.

Jan Harvey as Jan Howard

Born in Penzance in June 1947, Jan Harvey is as fondly remembered for her appearances in the Brian Clemens devised series Bugs as for her time on Howards' Way, and it is a testament to the actress that she has been appearing consistently on British Television for nearly thirty years.

Whether it be supporting roles in William And Mary, The Royal, Dangerfield, The Sweeney (On The Run), A Touch Of Frost (Fun Times For Swingers), Inspector Morse (Greeks Bearing Gifts), Angels, Z-Cars, Public Eye (The Fatted Calf) or The Old Men At The Zoo, the actress with arguably the most famous changes of hairstyles and wardrobe in the UK television industry started her career at Homerton Teacher Training College in Cambridge before venturing into acting as her chosen career path.

A series of theatrical roles strengthened her pedigree ahead of making her debut on BBC Television in the late 1960s, and on ITV in the early 1970s. Her appearances in ITV’s Sam and BBC Birmingham’s A Family Affair secured her kudos and acclaim in the British television industry, with both roles leading to consistent supporting appearances alongside the likes of John Thaw, Ian McShane, Barry Foster and Geoffrey Palmer. Yet it was her appearance as the ever-fashion conscious Jan Howard in Howards’ Way which would firmly record her presence in the British viewing public’s mind, as a hybrid British Dynasty-Dallas dolly. Indeed, much has been made of the fact that Ms Harvey was rarely ever seen in the same outfit twice, with lashings of make-up and a variety of hairstyles heralding each appearance on screen (and later justified by Ms Harvey as owing to the fact that Jan was always conscious of her appearance).

One of the more notable trivia items surrounding this actress concerns her capacity for being cast as a character called “Jan” in a wide variety of productions, but a more stand-out trivia titbit is that her on-screen off-screen relationship with Stephen Yardley has fed three separate appearances, in Howards’ Way, Family Affairs and Dangerfield.

Stephen Yardley as Ken Masters

Over the course of nearly forty years, Stephen Yardley has turned his hand to a variety of supporting performances which have often been overlooked, and a selection of prominent roles which have made a lasting impression on British television enthusiasts.

His brief foray in the theatrical stage fraternity was swiftly replaced by his tenure in television, and he is one of the rare breed of actors in Britain today who have successfully worked on BBC-1, BBC-2, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five over  four decades.

Despite appearances as far ranging as Danger Man (The Outcast) through to Dangerfield, his leading roles in The XYY Man and Secret Army are largely the fondest recalled by television audiences (apart from Howards’ Way), and Yardley himself has often confessed of his liking for those two roles in particular. He's also remembered by Doctor Who fans for two memorable roles: alongside Tom Baker in 1975's Genesis of the Daleks, and with Colin Baker in Vengeance on Varos (1985).

An actor comfortable with being cast in villainous roles, his performance as Ken Masters failed to rouse the public imagination in the same way that Colin Baker had as Paul Merroney in Glaister's former series The Brothers, and this was largely owing to the fact that audiences, as with JR Ewing in Dallas, often enjoyed seeing Masters manipulate events to his own ends, only to ultimately get his comeuppance in one shape or form or another.

Yardley currently appears as a regular in Channel Five’s Family Affairs, where he has recently been joined in by fellow Howards’ Way stalwart Kate O’Mara.

Glyn Owen as Jack Rolfe

Seventy-six-year-old Owen was born in Bolton, Lancashire to an English mother and Welsh father, the latter from whom it is believed he inherited his singing talents. Emerging from school to pursue his passion for amateur dramatics, Owen soon secured his first professional position as an Assistant Stage Manager at Dundee Repertory Theatre. After a brief time spent working in Scotland, he ventured south to London to become a founding member of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre. He remained there between 1956 and 1960, and whilst he enjoyed the theatre work, he made his first (and perhaps most notable) foray into a career in television in the short-lived ITV series Calling Nurse Roberts in 1957, a six-week gap-filler which was later transformed into the hugely successful soap-serial Emergency – Ward 10. Owen portrayed Doctor Parick O’Meara, and combined his popularity on screen with the selection of a wide variety of stage roles, performing in Gwyn Owen’s The Keep, John Osborne’s Plays For England and Luther, and London Assurance (in New York) in the early 1960s.

Such was the success of his tenure on Emergency – Ward 10 that Owen enjoyed a handful of smaller roles on television before securing the role of Richard Hurst in the popular Rediffusion series The Rat Catchers in 1966, a programme concerning itself with the British Secret Service spanning two seasons and attracting healthy audience figures. Owen’s portrayal of Hurst would prove to be the first of a wide variety of memorable guest and starring appearances between 1959 and 1996; in a career which effortlessly traversed the wasteland between BBC and ITV, Owen appeared in Interpol Calling, Top Secret, Out Of This World, Catch Hand, Suspense, The Saint (The Fellow Traveller), Thorndyke, Danger Man (Colony Three), The Troubleshooters (a particularly memorable turn in the episode Doctor Liebling, I Presume – alongside legendary Australian export Charles “Bud” Tingwell) , Doomwatch (The Web of Fear), The Revenue Men, Doctor Finlay’s Casebook, All Creatures Great And Small, The Professionals (Rogue), Dixon of Dock Green, Paul Temple, Detective, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who (as the gun-seller Rohm-Dutt in The Power of Kroll), The Sweeney (Money, Money, Money), Juliet Bravo, Heartbeat, The Enigma Files, Ennal’s Point, Oil Strike North and an unforgettably moving performance in Carlton Television’s Peak Practice as Doctor Philip Ramsden, a practitioner faced with his own deteriorating health.

However, his association with producer Gerard Glaister perhaps contributed to him securing roles which have firmly consolidated his presence in two of the most memorable BBC Television serials of the last thirty-five years. Having crossed paths with Glaister whilst appearing in Doctor Finlay’s Casebook and The Revenue Men, Owen ultimately proved the ideal choice for the role of Edward Hammond in The Brothers, thrust into the driving seat at haulage firm Hammond Transport Services after the death of his father, but forced to share the levers of power with his two brothers in a boardroom-and-bedroom power struggle. Although he only appeared in the ten episodes that made up the first series of The Brothers in 1972 (he was replaced by Patrick O’Connell for the subsequent six series), Owen remained at the forefront of Glaister’s mind when he devised and created Howards’ Way.

Tony Anholt as Charles Frere

Born in Singapore in January 1941, Tony Anholt was inspired to join the acting profession after playing Hamlet at school – although his personal priorities saw to it that it was an entirely roundabout manner in which he became an actor. Periods of time working for his father’s insurance firm took him somewhat extensively abroad, before he finally settled down in the publishing industry and took a wife upon his return to the United Kingdom.

At twenty-three, he returned his attention to becoming an actor and found himself in the fortunate position of having been offered a place in two different drama schools. He eventually started work in repertory theatre at Folkestone, before moving on to the Century Theatre in Lancaster.

Beyond theatre, Anholt’s television pedigree was particularly strong: gurest roles in The Mind of Mr J G Reeder and Jason King (A Thin Band of Air) jointly contributed to his being cast as one of the principal three characters in Gerry Anderson's ITC series The Protectors, and he would later appear in The Sweeney (Contact Breaker), Thriller (A Midsummer Nightmare), The Wilde Alliance, Angels, Minder, Juliet Bravo and Triangle. However, his most memorable performance (for one reason or another, and apart from Howards’ Way) was in Gerry Anderson's Space: 1999’s ill-fated second season, performing alongside Catherine Schell, who also featured briefly in Howards’ Way. As Tony Verdeschi, Anholt attained something akin to heart-throb status, and his sense of style was naturally transferred across to his role as businessman Charles Frere in Howards’ Way. His flourishing relationship with Tracey Childs (Lynne Howard) on the series ultimately contributed to their eventually getting married towards the end of the series. The shocking news of Anholt’s death in July 2002 from complications arising from a brain tumour closed the door on a memorable career spanning some thirty years.

Nigel Davenport as Sir Edward Frere

Born in May 1928, Nigel Davenport’s curriculum vitae consists of a mouth-watering array of appearances in some of the most popular and fondly remembered productions on British Television, ranging from a 1956 version of The Count of Monte Cristo, through The Adventures of Robin Hood, to The Saint (The Charitable Countess and The Rhine Maiden) and The Avengers (The Danger Makers and Split!).

Educated at Trinity College, Oxford, Davenport made the unusual progression towards acting (away from his Philosophy, Politics and Economics) via his participation in university drama, appearing in a wide range of plays and acquiring a modest amount of critical acclaim in so doing. His earliest days in theatre were soon followed by four years of consistent television work before Davenport gravitated towards cinema, however his constant appearances in both dramatic and comedic productions (the latter of which, most notably, was ITV’s Don’t Rock The Boat) have ensured that he has always remained at the forefront of guest appearances in productions as recent as Midsomer Murders and Longitude.

His extensive film credits include two films for director Hugh Hudson (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chariots of Fire), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, The Virgin Soldiers, the Sherlock Holmes pastiche Without A Clue and as the Duke of Norfolk in Fred Zinnemann's A Man For All Seasons.

Davenport was the only permanent cast member in Howards’ Way to transfer across to Gerard Glaister’s modestly successful Trainer, the series which became the logical successor to the former, and Glaister’s final drama serial.

Nigel's son Jack has become one of Britain's leading actors, with credits including The Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl, Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley, and the successful BBC sit-com Coupling.

Tracey Childs as Lynne Howard-Dupont

Widow of Tony Anholt, forty-one-year-old Tracey Childs has enjoyed a resurgence of late in terms of her career, with her role as Linda Cosgrove in BBC Television’s Born And Bred and the Channel Four soap-serial Hollyoaks. However, one can source the highlight of Ms Childs’ career as being her appearance in three seasons of Howards’ Way, during which time her relationship with Anholt blossomed into marriage.

Prior to Howards' Way, Tracey had appeared in Upstairs, Downstairs (Wanted - A Good Home), Strangers, Play For Tomorrow (Shades), Dempsey And Makepeace, Jane Eyre, Cold Warrior and Morgan’s Boy (both Gerard Glaister productions), all in minor supporting roles.

Edward Highmore as Leo Howard

Born in April 1961, Edward Highmore is best known to Doctor Who fans for his appearance as Vislor Turlough’s brother in the 1984 story Planet of Fire, although he had of course appeared in The Tripods prior to his appearance as the conservationist and somewhat dim family man, Leo Howard. Trained at the Guildford School of Acting, Highmore’s career pedigree is somewhat limited, perhaps reflecting the fact that actors can occasionally become hopelessly typecast and fall into a “never work again” conundrum after appearing in a long-running soap-serial. Certainly, apart from a brief appearance in Ali G Indahouse (for cinema) and Mosley (for television), his current work is largely forgettable.

Susan Gilmore as Avril Rolfe

Having already made a name for herself as one of the more attractive fixtures of BBC Birmingham’s hospital drama series Angels, Susan Gilmore has enjoyed a somewhat more measured and quiet career, with her curriculum vitae seemingly suggesting that she selects her roles carefully before committing to a series or serial.

Her appearances in BBC Television’s popular Maelstrom series, a brief appearance in the Miss Marple story A Pocketful of Rye and her wonderfully stylish role alongside Nigel Havers in the Murder In Mind tale, Flashback, are perhaps the most notable points in her career, with Howards’ Way the high point.

As Avril Rolfe, Gilmore enjoyed prominent storylines across the course of all six seasons (although the majority of her romantic storylines fell flat, with the stronger material afforded to her revolving around her constant business struggles against Charles Frere). Undeniably, the series contributed towards considerable public recognition for the actress, who, as with Jan Harvey, is more often than not recognised for her role from Howards’ Way rather than any other in her brief career.

Ivor Danvers as Gerald Urquhart

In retrospect, it seems somewhat quaint that Ivor Danvers’ role as Gerald Urquhart (and in particular his sexual proclivities) could shock not only the viewing public but the actor himself, yet this is precisely what transpired during the course of Howards’ Way, the serial which provided the actor with six wonderful years of high profile employment, elevating him from the status of a supporting cast member to a leading player.

His appearances in The Troubleshooters, Brett, Softly Softly, Angels, Juliet Bravo, Tenko and Minder (Another Bride, Another Groom) were just such performances, and whilst Danvers has hardly worked since the demise of the nautical-based series, at the age of seventy-two, this seems hardly surprising. His performance as the honest, honourable Gerald Urquhart made a lasting impression with viewers, particularly after his avarice-ridden spouse Polly left the scene.

Willoughby Gray as Sir John Stevens

The urbane, cultured and refined Willoughby Gray enjoyed popularity in ITV’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (playing numerous roles) in the 1950s before engaging in a series of supporting roles in theatre and television, in Shakespeare on stage and in productions such as William Tell, The Avengers (You'll Catch Your Death), Z-Cars, Waugh On Crime, Oil Strike North (another Gerard Glaister production) and Chessgame on television (both for ITV and BBC Television). He also appeared in the Thor Bridge episode of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, alongside Peter Cushing as the Great Detective.

He is perhaps best remembered, beyond Howards’ Way, as the deranged scientist in Roger Moore’s final outing as James Bond, A View To A Kill, although with a certain fondness viewers will recall the bushy eyebrowed companion to Sir Edward Frere and high-powered Tarrant financier as Willoughby Gray’s most enduring performance.

Cindy Shelley as Abby Urquhart-Hudson

Born in 1960, Cindy Shelley was one of the more prominent members of the younger cast of Howards’ Way. Without doubt her character of Abby Urquhart (later Abby Hudson) was created to engender sympathy and viewer interest, although in many important respects the complete reverse was the case (as particularly exemplified by her appearance throughout the sixth and final series of the programme), and audiences were left in no doubt as to their feelings towards the character in the final episode. Shelley had emerged from a brief turn in the ABC-BBC co-production Tenko to make an appearance in The Tripods, and then a return visit to Tenko before securing the role of Abby Urquhart, stroppy pregnant teenager with a selfish mother and work-driven father. After her time in Howards’ Way, Shelley’s career has been patchy at best with guest appearances in BBC comedy series and a short ongoing appearance in Grange Hill in 2001.

Dulcie Gray as Kate Harvey

Married to Michael Denison, who portrayed Admiral Redfern in Howards’ Way, Ms Gray completed her thirty-five-year acting career with the serial.

Having previously appeared in the Gerard Glaister-produced Cold Warrior, she seemed the ideal choice to portray Kate Harvey, Jan Howard’s understanding, if occasionally fearsome and irascible mother.

An actress of incredible warmth and consideration, she appeared in over one hundred stage plays and a handful of quality television productions, ranging from Agatha Christie’s Partners In Crime to Doctors, and enjoyed a very successful post-war cinematic career.

Having made the transition from a Malaysian school teacher to actress, Ms Gray was often awarded character parts which required her to perform a role above and beyond her own age, perhaps contributing to the misconception of her actually being older than her years (although she is now approaching her eighty-sixth birthday).

Patricia Shakesby as Polly Urquhart

Born in November 1942, the elegant Patricia Shakesby proved to be the resident high-class bitch of Tarrant for a number of seasons of Howards’ Way, and she will largely be remembered for this role as opposed to her supporting performances in Detective, Dixon of Dock Green, Silent Evidence, Z Cars, Yes Minister, Sapphire And Steel and War And Peace.

Ms Shakesby has apparently not appeared on British Television since bowing out of Howards’ Way, thus contributing to viewers’ strong recollections of her as Polly Urquhart, although her ties with soap serials date back to Emergency Ward 10 and Coronation Street, both of which she appeared in as a semi-regular character during their formative years. Shakesby attributed the popularity of her character in Howards’ Way to Polly essentially caring for the welfare of her husband and daughter, though she received more fan mail from children sympathising with a sad character as opposed to adults actually complimenting her performance.

Kate O’Mara as Laura Wilde

Having thoroughly enjoyed portraying a variety of rich and classy bitches over the years, brunette Kate O’Mara has appeared in a wide range of serials, from Triangle to Dynasty, from Howards’ Way to Family Affairs, from The Brothers to Crossroads and beyond. However, she has also enjoyed having been cast in prime roles in The Saint (three episodes, including The Double Take), The Persuaders! (Read and Destroy), Danger Man (, Jason King, Bad Girls, The Troubleshooters, Paul Temple, Adam Adamant Lives!, Codename, Department S (Who Plays The Dummy?), Return of The Saint and Absolutely Fabulous in a career spanning forty years.

In 1985 she made a memorable guest appearance in the Colin Baker Doctor Who story The Mark of the Rani. Her character would return in 1987, causing the Doctor to change from Colin Baker to Sylvester McCoy. She also made a name for herself as a Hammer starlet, alongside Ingrid Pitt in 1970's The Vampire Lovers.

Her role as Laura Wilde was especially written for her, and whilst many critics misconstrued the casting as nothing more than an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of American serials Dallas and Dynasty, her casting proved inspired as the ideal foil for the oily Ken Masters. Unlike her troubled times in the nautically challenged Triangle, Ms O’Mara enjoyed a higher profile and greater audience support in Howards’ Way, and her role as Ms Wilde is fondly recalled by enthusiasts of the series.


Lana Morris as Vanessa Andenberg-Rolfe

Lana Morris was born in Ruislip in 1930. Having passed away in May 1998, Howards' Way was one of Lana Morris' last British television appearances. She was briefly introduced early in the series before having her character resurrected as a romantic love interest for the ageing Jack Rolfe.

The pedigree of this particular actress is unquestionable. In 1951 she co-starred in the BBC series The Inch Man, a series about a hotel's house detective. A few years later she featured in another popular BBC series set in a hotel, The Royalty. Other roles include the legendary BBC serial The Forsyte Saga and appearances in Dixon of Dock Green, Zero One, The Saint (the title role in Teresa), Paul Temple and Inspector Morse (The Last Enemy), all underlining the strength of her performances in high-calibre vehicles. She also regularly appeared on British TV panel shows during the 60s.

Ms Morris’ capacity to inject a strong female influence on proceedings whilst sustaining an elegance and beauty all of her own became the hallmark of her career, and certainly her appearance in the sixth and final season of Howards’ Way remained one of the high points of the production.





Site content copyright © J.A.Knott - 2002-2009