Regular Cast 

"Jack" [John] Ford - James Bolam

Jessie Seaton - Susan Jameson

"Bill" [William] Seaton - James Garbutt

"Bella" [Isabella] May Seaton - Jean Heywood

Tom Seaton - John Nightingale

Mary Seaton [nee Routledge] - Michelle Newell  [until Paddy Boyle's Discharge]

Billy Seaton - Edward Wilson

Matt Headley - Malcolm Terris

Dolly [Mather?] - Madelaine Newton  [Introduced in Fish and Woolly Jumpers]

Sir Horatio Manners - Basil Henson  [Introduced in Swords and Pick Handles]

Arthur Ashton - Geoffrey Rose  [Introduced in Empire Day on the Slag Heap]

Regular Crew 

Series Created by James Mitchell

Theme Music - David Fanshawe - Sung by Alex Glasgow

Script Editor - William Humble

Produced by- Leonard Lewis

Major Reginald Leslie Pinner (Roger Hammond)

Lashing out: William Scrimgour (James Bate)

William Scrimgour (James Bate) on trial.

Jack Ford (James Bolam) confronts victorious election candidate Major Pinner (Roger Hammond), watched by P.C. Price (Richard Griffiths).

Episode 1: 

A Land Fit For Heroes and Idiots

Original TX date: 8/1/76

Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Ray London

Director - Ronald Wilson

"He was mad, Mrs Seaton. Mad in the service of his country. Some men gave their lives, some gave their sight, their arms, their legs. Will gave his senses". - Jack Ford


1919. Sergeant Jack Ford returns to the mining town of Gallowshields, on "leave pending discharge". Visiting the cinema to see Chaplin's Easy Street, he encounters school teacher Jessie Seaton, who doesn't share Jack's amusement at the newsreel footage of troops at the front. Jack follows Jessie, her brother Tom and his fiancée Mary to the pub, where he begins to endear himself. Jessie invites Jack to supper.  On the way they encounter a shell-shocked soldier, Will Scrimgour, who is startled by a passing motorcycle. Will had served in Ypres and the Somme. He was buried alive during a German attack, and Jack had helped to dig him out. The event has traumatised Scrimgour, who hasn't been able to make the transition back to civilian life.

Jack quickly ingratiates himself with Jessie's parents, Bella and Bill, with the help of a bottle of whiskey. After dinner, Jessie and Jack share a dance, and a kiss, which leaves Jessie flustered.

The next day Jack meets an old friend, his Corporal, Matt Headley, who has Will Scrimgour with him. Matt is now a maintenance man at a local colliery. Matt takes Scrimgour home, to his wife, Lucy. Matt returns to the pub, where he waylays Jack, who is on his way to attend Tom and Mary's wedding.

On their way to the wedding, Jessie and her medical student brother, Billy, heckle Major Pinner, the local Liberal candidate standing in the imminent election, over his party's rhetorical promises of "a land fit for heroes", and about his reluctance to give women the vote.

At the wedding Tom takes Jack aside, to talk to him about Mary's brother. Jack was present when Mary's eighteen-year old brother Joe was killed at the Somme, on July 31st, 1916. He was in the same company as Jack and Matt. Tom has heard that Joe was "a Nancy, that he went with men". Jack tells Tom that Joe was "as straight as a die". After Tom has left, Bill insists on hearing the truth. Jack tells him the truth: when Joe's body was found, he was in the arms of another soldier. 

Scrimgour is frightened by a group of boys, who are running along railings with a stick. Scrimgour snaps, and brutally beats one of them, John William Francis. 

Billy tries to get Jack interested in working for the local Labour party. They are interrupted by Matt, who takes Jack to see Scrimgour, who is hiding in his bedroom, believing himself to be back in the trenches. Jack plays along with Scrimgour's delusion, telling him that the company has been relieved. Two policemen arrive, and take Scrimgour away. One of the policemen, P.C. Price, tells Jack that Will will be tried in the morning, by Major Pinner, who is also the local magistrate. Price warns Jack that Pinner may be resentful, because, unlike Scrimgour, he wasn't decorated during the war.

Jack attends Will's trial. Doctor Lang gives the facts of the case, stating that Will caused the boy actual bodily harm. Jack tells the court that Will won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, (the second highest award for gallantry, after the Victoria Cross), for rescuing a colleague under fire. Will is committed for trial, and kept in custody. Pinner says that Will chose to beat the boy, and that his actions were "self indulgent". Jessie is incensed, and Jack vows "to fettle old Pinner".

Jack and Matt enlist the help of their fellow soldiers, who attend the election result announcement. The soldiers flank the exit as Pinner leaves, victorious. Jack confronts Pinner, saying he understands that Pinner didn't get any medals: "Well, you can have mine, and Will Scrimgour's!" Jack and the other soldiers throw their medals on the ground, humiliating Pinner. Furious, Pinner turns to P.C. Price for help, but Price adds his support by throwing his own medals to the ground.  

Additional cast:

William Scrimgour - James Bate

Lucy Scrimgour - Valerie Georgeson

Major Reginald Leslie Pinner - Roger Hammond

Doctor Lang - Jeffrey Wickham

P.C. Price - Richard Griffiths

Clerk of Court - David Hartley

Defence - Alec Sabin

Prosecution - Trevor Ainsley

Francy - Alan Snell



Tom Seaton also served in Jacks Regiment, but in a different battalion (the 9th), and didn't go to France. Jack served under Captain Peter James Bertram Manners, MC. 

The Seatons live at number 37. 

Mary is an orphan: her father was torpedoed while serving in the Merchant Navy, and her mother died of tuberculosis. 

Matt lives in Temple Street, and has a sister. 

Before returning from the trenches, Jack made a detour via Russia (explaining why he hadn't seen Matt for some time).

Will Scrimgour has a son in Jessie's class, Fred. 


Richard Griffiths, who would later star in his own TV series Pie in the Sky, and in films like Sleepy Hollow and Withnail and I, appears in a small speaking role, as P.C. Price. He's now known to a whole new generation of fans for his role as Uncle Vernon, in the Harry Potter movies.

James Bate, who gives a memorable performance as the addled Scrimgour, appeared in the 1984 Doctor Who series Planet of Fire, and was also in the second series of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, in 1986.

Jeffrey Wickham, who plays Doctor Lang (credited simply as "Doctor", and as "Jeffry Wickham") has a long career of playing upper class characters in films and TV series like Lillie and The Sweeney (in Faces). His credits also include roles in Sapphire and Steel and in the 1964 Doctor Who story The Reign of Terror

Alec Ringway, who plays Will Scrimgour's defense counsel, is another actor with a Doctor Who credit, for the 1982 story Earthshock. He's also appeared in Bergerac (The Messenger Boy, 1981) and Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1980).

Roger Hammond (Major Pinner) has more than fifty film and television credits, including roles as Professors, Dukes, Princes, Lords, Priests, Kings and Archbishops. He, too, has been in Doctor Who (as Francis Bacon, in the 1965 Dalek story, The Chase, and in the 1983 Peter Davision story Mawdryn Undead). Other credits include The Avengers (in the 1967 story Return of the Cybernauts), in the 1980 Thames TV mini-series Edward and Mrs Simpson, and alongside Jeremy Brett in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as The Red-Headed League's Jabez Wilson. 

Poverty and hunger: Bella and Harry encounter a beggar outside the tailor's shop.

Father Keenly (Tony Doyle) visits Bill Seaton (James Garbutt), and admires the family photo.

Father Keenly (Tony Doyle)

Bella Seaton (Jean Heywood) cares for Harry (Jeremy Watkin)

On the verge of tears: Bella Seaton (Jean Heywood) bids farewell to Harry.

Episode 2: 

Say Hello... ...Say Tirra

Original TX date: 15/1/76


Writer - Tom Hadaway

Designer - Barry Newbery

Director - Gilchrist Calder


Bella is visited by young Harry, who tells her his mother is "asleep...she'll not waken up". Bella visits Billy's home, where she finds his mother, Connie, dead in bed, probably as the result of poverty and hunger. 

Bill, Jack, Tom and Matt attend a meeting of the Gallowshield Labour Party and Worker's Council. They are petitioning the Board of Guardians for an increase in the Poor Law rates, and for greater social equality. Jack admits that politics isn't really his game. Bill invites Jack back for a meal. 

Returning home, Bill discovers that Bella has taken Harry, now an orphan, under her wing. Bella takes Harry to the fairground ("the hoppins"), and buys the urchin a new ten shilling coat.

Father Keenly visits, suggesting that it might be best if Harry is deported to a facility in Melbourne, where he'd be able to continue his Catholic upbringing. The alternative would be for Harry to be permanently adopted by the Seatons, which would be a considerable strain on their resources. 

Bill and Tom return to work at the pit. Jessie tells her mother that, by caring for Harry,  she is neglecting her family. Harry injures his knee, preventing Bella from visiting Mary in the hospital, with Jack, Tom and Jessie. 

Harry steals a red dress from Mrs Palmer's washing line, knowing that Bella would like it. Bill and Bella argue about punishing the boy. Despite being short of money - and the rent - Bella buys Harry some expensive grapes, to cheer him up. Harry steals money from the greengrocer's stall, and is arrested by the police. Bella realises that Harry is too much of a handful. Father Keenly tells Bill that the court will allow Harry to stay with the Seatons, but, reluctantly, Bella and Bill have decided to follow Father Keenly's deportation plan. Keenly tells Bill that he shouldn't reproach himself.

A football talent scout arrives in town just as Tom is about to attend a union rally, but there are more pressing matters: Mary is in labour.

Additional cast:

Harry [McGlade - sic?] - Jeremy Watkin

Father Keenly - Tony Doyle

Mrs Palmer - Kay Hall

Chairman - Roger Avon

Street Trader - Ray Grayson



This episode evidently takes place some time after A Land Fit For Heroes and Idiots. Mary is in hospital, about to give birth, and Jack is practically a member of the Seaton family (he's been there long enough for Bill to nag Jessie about them getting engaged). 

Bill Seaton is the Union's lodge secretary.

Both of Jack's parents are dead. Jack's mother was buried as a pauper.

The title Say Hello... ...Say Tirra is a phrase used by Tom, to note how briefly the miners will see the sun that day.


Billy is in Edinburgh, studying to become a Doctor, explaining Edward Wilson's absence from this episode.

Roger Avon (Chairman) was a familiar face to TV viewers in the 60s and 70s. His credits include two 1965 Doctor Who stories (The Crusade and The Daleks' Master Plan), Dead of Night (Return Flight, 1972) and Department S (One of Our Aircraft is Empty, 1969), as well as a slew of popular sit-coms (including episodes of Dad's Army, Bless This House, Steptoe and Son and Blackadder the Third). His film work included roles in Quatermass and the Pit, Curse of the Crimson Alter, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D and Burke and Hare. Roger Avon appears again in episode eleven, Happy New Year, Some Say, playing what's presumably the same character, Mr Redshaw.

Tony Doyle (Father Keenly) is probably best known to British TV viewers as Brian Quigley in Ballykissangel, although the Irish are more likely to recall him as Father Sheehy in the long-running RTE soap The Riordans. He also played the ruthless Chief Superintendent John Deakin in the first season of Between The Lines (1992). He died in 2000, aged 58. His daughter, One of his daughters, Susannah, is an actress, who featured as Joy Merryweather in the comedy series Drop The Dead Donkey.

Jack (James Bolam) and Jessie (Susan Jameson) discuss parenthood.

Billy (Edward Wilson) and Jack take a break, during their "hike" to Morpeth.

Bella (Jean Heywood) feeds soup to the sickly Mary (Michelle Newell).

Jack (James Bolam) takes his pleasure where he finds it: in this case with Matt's sister, Dolly (Madelaine Newton).

Tom Seaton (John Nightingale) on the "trench raid" to steal sheep.


Episode 3: 

Fish In Woolly Jumpers

Original TX date: 22/1/76


Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Peter Brachacki

Director - Paul Ciappessoni


The miners have been on strike for a month, over a pay claim. Tom, now supporting a wife and son, borrows some money from Jack, who, despite being out of work for two months, doesn't seem to be short of a few bob. Jessie and Jack discuss having a baby, but Jessie says that her entire family is relying on her income. Jack claims that he's got money put by, and is supplementing this with "odd jobs". 

Mary is sick: she has tuberculosis, but won't acknowledge it, claiming it's just a cold.

Jack, Matt and a couple of other men meet at the pub. Matt is concerned by a remark the barmaid has made, about them being "flush". They agree that they should change their meeting place. They conspiratorially discuss their next job, but Jack warns that the conditions aren't right.

Matt and Jack return to Matt's home, where Matt's sister Dolly Mather has prepared a steak and kidney pie. Dolly, whose husband was killed in Ypres, flirts with Jack, before retiring to bed. Jack and Matt drink on, into the night. Later, Dolly brings Jack another blanket, and they share another cigarette. They kiss. They are overheard by Tom, who has followed Jack and Matt from the pub. 

Billy and Jack discuss Mary's condition. Jack invites Billy out for "a hike", in Morpeth. Tom has left Jack a veiled message, about finding Bert Mather's widow. Tom confronts Jack, who tells Tom that he can't help him. Tom threatens to reveal Jack's liaison with Dolly: "You were doing alright, helping her..." Tom wants to be included in whatever scam it is that Jack is running.

Jack and Billy roam the countryside, armed with Captain Manners' binoculars and some mutton sandwiches. Billy tells Jack that Mary is dying, and rages against the inequality of wealth that's put her in that condition. Billy tells Jack that he wants him to fight for people like Mary "because you're a leader". A local policeman warns them to keep moving: "we don't want tramps". Billy affects "a posh voice", shows the him Captain Manners' binoculars, and the policeman apologises 

Jack visits Dolly again, and they make love.

Jack, Matt, Charlie and Paddy [Boyle] discuss their next "trench raid": they are rustling sheep. Jack tells them that Tom will be joining them. 

Jessie says she's willing to have a child with Jack. Jack invites Tom to a "fishing" expedition. 

At dead of night, the gang begin catching and killing sheep. They prepare to leave, but Tom has forgotten one of the buckets (for the blood). He goes back to collect it, but is confronted by a patrolling policeman (the same policeman who had approached Billy and Jack). Tom struggles with the policeman, before Jack clubs him with a pick handle. 

Jack takes the injured Tom back to be treated by Billy. Jack admits to Jessie that they've been stealing sheep, so he couldn't take Tom to a hospital. Jack is expecting a sharp rebuke, but Jessie approves of his Robin Hood-style plan.  

Additional cast:

Paddy [Boyle] - Ralph Watson

Charlie - Michael Wardle

Policeman - Hugh Turner



Tom is twenty-four years old. 

Mary is twenty-two.

Matt's sister, Dolly, is being courted by a bank clerk.

Matt has known Jack for almost six years.

Dolly's husband, Bert, was killed in Ypres, four years earlier, after they had only been married for three months.

The sign on the side of the van used by the sheep rustlers says "Trailer Specialists... Trading Estate Peterhead".

Jessie refers to Jack as her "husband". 

The episode title is explained by Jack, who says that they dumped the guts of the sheep and their hides into the North Sea: "If the fish round here could knit, they'd all wear woolly jumpers!" 


Polish-born Designer Peter Brachacki worked - rather reluctantly - on the first ever episode of Doctor Who, in 1963. He designed the interior set for the TARDIS, which, with its distinctive hexagonal central control panel and walls with circular indentations, remained basically unchanged for more than twenty-five years!    

Jack (James Bolam) pays a suprise visit to Dollly (Madelaine Newton).

Jessie (Susan Jameson) watches as Jack (James Bolam) restrains Bill (James Garbutt) from attacking Tom.

Sir Horatio Manners (Basil Henson).

Striking miners on the picket line.

Tom (John Nightingale) is attacked by striking miners.

Episode 4: 

Swords and Pick Handles

Original TX date: 29/1/76


Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Barry Newbery

Director - Gilchrist Calder


Jessie chastises Bella for taking the baby to the off-licence, leaving Mary alone. Tom has a job, even though the pits have been closed because of the strike for seven weeks. Jessie suspects that Tom is strike-breaking.

Jack visits Dolly at her place of work, and teases her about her bank clerk suitor. Jack learns that Captain Manners' father, Sir Horatio, is due to visit, and senses an opportunity.

Jack arrives at the Seaton house carrying a sword he's bought for five bob, from Sammy Foster, an alcoholic who's fallen on hard times. Jack sets about cleaning it. Tom arrives, and a furious row breaks out when Tom admits to being a scab. Tom is defiant, even though Jack warns him that the striking miners may attack him if they discover he's crossing the picket lines. 

Jack visits Sir Horatio, bearing the sword. Sir Horatio is intrigued, having heard about Ford in correspondence from his son. Ford tells Manners that his son died in his arms, and that his last words were "What the hell am I doing here, Sergeant, I said I'd be at the Saville". Jack tells Manners his son died quickly. Sir Horatio warms to Jack. Manners is planning to open a factory. Manners sees through Jack's scam with the sword, as Jack suspected he would. Manners offers Ford a job: "don't sound so surprised, it's what you came here for, isn't it?" Jack realises that the whole meeting has been a job interview.

Tom and the other blacklegs, from all over the United Kingdom, are bussed into the pit, with a police escort.

Jessie tells Jack that Tom's hardship case is far from unique, and tries to rally Jack into doing something about changing the system. Jack tells Jessie he has a job, as a boss, admitting that he has joined the system, and will be in charge of Sir Horatio's non-union labour. Despite the lure of a healthy income, and the prospect of a house in London, Jessie is incensed, and Jack storms out. 

Bella urges Jessie to stick with Jack, and use her womanly wiles to change him over time. 

One of Jessie's students blurts out that Tom is a scab. Suddenly the class is un-cooperative. Later, when she leaves, the children chant "Scab! Scab!"

Jessie tells her father that everyone knows Tom is a strike-breaker. Bill sends her to find Jack. 

Jessie begs for Jack's help.

Tom is attacked by striking miners, but is rescued before any serious injury is sustained by Jack, armed with a pick handle. Jack drags off the mob's leader, Davy, to see Mary. Davy promises Mary that there'll be no [more] trouble, but warns Jack to keep hold of the pick handle. Jack and Jessie are reconciled. 

Mary catches Tom with more than £30, which he has stolen: "You know what, Mary?  Working's a mug's game".

Additional cast:

Police Inspector - Eddie Silver

Picket Leader - Richard Henry

Pickets - Gary Roberts, Tom Dickinson

Leslie - Alex Turner

George - Kevin Gray

Walter - Carl Wilson

Andy - Stephen White



This episode takes place three weeks after Fish in Woolly Jumpers.

Sir Horatio served in the army for twelve years, as a Sergeant. After being discharged he went into business, using his savings and wits to become a rich man.

Jack will be paid £7 a week during his three month trial period, working for Sir Horatio. After that he's promised £450 a year, plus expenses.

Jessie's headmaster, Mr Ashton is mentioned for the first time.


Malcolm Terris (Matt) and Edward Wilson (Billy) do not appear in this episode.   

Bill (James Garbutt) visits Sep Walker (Dick Irwin).

Jack (James Bolam), leaving with his unwelcome gift, says goodbye to Jessie (Susan Jameson).

On the trail of the leek thieves: Tom (John Nightingale) and Billy  (Edward Wilson).

Widow Elsie Carter (Elizabeth Proud).

Digging for coal: Bill Seaton (James Garbutt).

Episode 5: 

Coal Comfort

Original TX date: 5/2/76


Writer - Alex Glasgow

Designer - Ray London

Director - Ronald Wilson


Billy returns home to find an empty house, and no coal for the fire: the strike has been running for two months. Billy tells Jessie that he's leaving university, fed up with being patronised. 

Bill visits an old colleague, pigeon fancier Sep Walker, hoping to find, and re-open, a coal seam that was closed fifty years earlier, the waterlogged "Sammy" pit. 

Billy is caught trying to break into a coal yard by a former schoolmate, Police Constable Robson. After a brief lecture on politics from Billy, Robson lets him go: he's under instructions to treat people stealing coal as if they were schoolboys stealing apples.

Jack brings the Seatons half a hundredweight of "best roundies". Bill arrives with some logs, but says they're not for burning. Bill refuses Jack's gift, telling him that black market coal is no better than coal mined by blacklegs. Bill tells Bella to roll up the carpet in the front room, telling her that there may be coal under the floorboards. Jessie tells Jack and Bill that Billy is quitting university.

Someone has stolen leaks from Tom's allotment. Tom investigates, and is told that Arty Stephenson may know something about it. Arty tells Tom that he chased off two children. Following Arty's lead, Tom and Billy find leak leaves in a dustbin, but tempers cool when they discover the culprits: two emaciated children. Their father was killed whilst off-duty, so their mother, Elsie Carter, doesn't receive a widow's pension. Tom tells Elsie that she's welcome to his leeks.    

To everyone's surprise, Bill doesn't seem to mind that Billy is quitting university. Bill and Tom dig for coal, but the hole soon starts to fill with water. Bill refuses Billy's offer of help, telling him he's "bloody useless". Bill continues to belittle Billy, hoping to shame him into going back to university. After pumping out the water, Billy finds coal. Jack arrives, bearing poached rabbits and pheasant. 

Additional cast:

Sep Walker - Dick Irwin

Elsie Carter - Elizabeth Proud

P.C. Robson - John Trigger

Mrs Stephenson - Joan Rutherford

Arty Stephenson - Vernon Drake



This episode takes place a week after Swords and Pick Handles.

Police Constable Robson is earning £3 10s a week. 

The Seatons rent their home from Lord Lampton.

Billy tells Tom and Bill that troops are preparing to quell civil unrest. 

Several references are made to the Bowes-Lyon family, and to the romance blossoming between Elisabeth Bowes-Lyons and Prince George, the Duke of York.

Malcolm Terris (Matt Headley) does not appear in this episode.

Elizabeth Proud (who played Elsie Carter) has recorded many audio books, and radio plays. She's also been the Chairwoman of the Barbara Pym Society, and adapted Pym's novels No Fond Return of Love and Some Tame Gazelle for BBC radio.



These first five episodes of When The Boat Comes In are available on Acorn Media UK's When The Boat Comes In - A Land Fit For Heroes and Idiots DVD (AV9223).

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