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

Jack Ford (James Bolam) and Sir Horatio Manners (Basil Henson) arrive at the Calderbeck mansion.

Jane Cromer (Lesley-Anne Down)

Dinner at the Calderbeck mansion, with guests Jack Ford and Sir Horatio Manners.

Shooting party: Freddy Calderbeck (John D. Collins), Sir Horatio Manners (Basil Henson) and Jack Ford (James Bolam).

Tarzan and Jane: Jane Cromer (Lesley-Anne Down) seduces Jack Ford (James Bolam).


Episode 10: 

King For A Day

Original TX date: 11/3/76

Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Paul Joel

Director - Paul Ciappessoni

Manners visits the recently-married Jack and Dolly. Dolly is heavily pregnant, but Jack looks leaner than Manners remembers. Manners offers Jack whisky and smoked salmon sandwiches, and a job: £20 for a week's work. He wants to buy a house from Lord Calderbeck, and wants Jack to act as a front-man. 

Bill refuses to serve Dolly, who is feeling ill, and cannot afford to see a doctor. Bella, who had cravings for strawberry jam when she was pregnant, is more sympathetic.

Jack tells Manners the good news, and asks her to help him practicing being "la di da".

Tom is prospering, with a tailor-made suit, and shoes to match (which he tells his parents he bought at a jumble sale, to avoid embarrassing them). Bella catches him with more than seven pounds: "I suppose you're going to tell me you got that at a jumble sale 'n all?"

Jack and Manners visit the Calderbeck mansion. Believing himself to be alone in the greenhouse, Jack gives a Tarzan-like cry... and turns around to discover...Jane. He also meets Lord Calderbeck's nephew and heir, Freddy. Freddy confides to Jane that he's going to ask Jack for £70,000 for the house. (Manners wants to pay no more than £50,000). Manners tells Jack that Jane was recently widowed. Jack is posing as a working-class chap who's made a fortune from making automobile spares. 

After dinner, Jack and Jane escape the pack, to Freddy's irritation. Jane flirts with Jack, so Jack kisses her. Jane later tells Jack that they'll get on famously, if he can be discreet. 

Freddy gives jack a polite warning, telling him that he and Jane are "more or less engaged". They encounter Billy, herding cows, but Jack bluffs his way through, pretending that Billy used to work for him: "I used to have some agricultural interests... sheep, you know..."

Jack meets Billy in the pub. Billy gives Jack a few tips that will help him establish how much Calderbeck's house is worth, and to the family's financial standing. 

Jack delights in shocking his hosts over dinner, with tales of his impoverished upbringing. Later that night Jack finds Jane in his bed, and they spend the night together. Jack learns that Lord Calderbeck resents Freddy, because the war claimed the lives of his three sons. Jack takes Jane to the local pub, signaling Tom to ignore them. Jack meets with Rogers, a man recently dismissed from Calderbeck's employ, who is bearing a grudge, leaving Jane at the bar. Jack meets with Manners, to tell him what he's learnt: that Calderbeck is willing to sell, to fund his retirement in the south of France, but feels he has to provide for Freddy. However, Jack has manoeuvred Jane into marrying Freddy, who is grateful to Jack. Jack renegotiates his deal with Manners, earning himself £150 for sealing the sale for £35,000.

Jack receives an urgent telegram. Dolly has had a miscarriage, and will not be able to have children. Manners has arranged for her care in a private ward. 

Additional cast:

Jane Cromer - Lesley-Anne Down

Freddy Calderbeck - John D. Collins

Lord Calderbeck - John Welsh

Major Rupert Routledge - John Lee

Mrs Lucinda Routledge - Helen Lindsay

Lady Calderbeck - Sylvia Barter

Doctor - Edward Dentith


Jessie and Arthur were married in the week before this episode takes place: married in St Oswald's (sic?) "honeymoon in Scarborough, reception at the Station Hotel".  Although they married off-screen, there's a scene in this episode where the Seatons receive the wedding photo's, showing the cast in suitable costume (left). 

Tom pays five bob a month rent to his parents. 

Jack's sly reference to his "agricultural interests" is a nod to his sheep-rustling days (see episode 3: Fish In Woolly Jumpers).

Jessie (Susan Jameson), Arthur (Geoffrey Rose) and Matt (Malcolm Terris) do not appear in this episode.

Veteran Irish actor John Welsh (who played Lord Calderbeck) had a career spanning five decades, but will probably be best remembered as the truculent butler, Mr Merriman, in the BBC drama series The Duchess of Duke Street (1976-77). Other roles include appearances in Bless This House (A Matter of Principle, 1976), and Rumpole of the Bailey (Rumpole and the Younger Generation, 1978). Other prestigious productions Welsh appeared in include Brideshead Revisited (1981) and To Serve Them All My Days (1980, as Cordwainer). He also appeared in numerous films, including the Hammer movies Rasputin - The Mad Monk (1966), Nightmare (1964) and The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958).

Lesley-Anne Down (who played Jane Cromer) became a household name - and a fixture of the tabloid newspapers - in the 70s, as Georgina Worsley, the glittering ward of the Bellamy family in LWT's long-running domestic drama series Upstairs, Downstairs, a role she played for three seasons, between 1973 and 1975. Other notable British TV roles include the BBC science-fiction anthology series Out of the Unknown (To Lay A Ghost, 1971), The Sweeney (1975) and the 1978 Thames TV play The One and Only Phyllis Dixie, which charted the life of the Britain's most famous striptease artiste.

The enormous success of Upstairs, Downstairs on both sides of the Atlantic led to a string of roles in high-profile, but mediocre, films like The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), The First Great Train Robbery (1979) and Sphinx (1981). After gaining something of a reputation as a wild child, she relocated to America, becoming a regular fixture in soap operas like The Bold and The Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, Sunset Beach and Dallas. She also appeared in three series of the American Civil War drama series North and South, as Madeline Main, between 1985 and 1994. Her second marriage, to The Exorcist and The French Connection director William Friedkin, ended in an acrimonious  and well-publicised divorce. She has two sons, the second by her current husband Don Fauntleroy, who she married in 1986.

John Lee (who played Major Rupert Routledge) was born in Tasmania in 1928, and is another character actor with an impressive résumé of British TV credits dating back to at least 1960, including roles in Danger Man (View From The Villa, 1960), Doctor Who (playing Alydon in the second Doctor Who adventure, The Daleks, in 1963), two episodes of Man in a Suitcase (Why They Killed Nolan in 1967 and Variation on a Million Bucks in 1968), The Avengers (The Bird Who Knew Too Much, 1967), three different roles in three different episodes of Doomwatch (The Plastic Eaters in 1970, The Web of Fear in 1971, and Cause of Death in 1972). He played Lieutanant-Commander Bill Kiley in all four seasons of the BBC's excellent Royal Navy drama series Warship (1972-78). He appears to have retired in the early eighties, and died in Australia in 2000. 

New Year's Eve party in Jessie and Arthur's front room.

Guest speaker at the Conservative Unionist Women's Association meeting Richard Harley Evans (James Grout).

Visiting Glaswegian socialist Sandy Lewis (Bill Simpson).

Bill Seaton (James Garbutt) performs his party-piece, as a schoolmaster.

Sandy Lewis delivers a message to a shopkeeper who has reported Bill Seaton for late trading: "HAPPY NEW YEAR". 

Episode 11: 

Happy New Year, Some Say 

Original TX date: 18/3/76

Writer - Alex Glasgow

Designer - Austin Ruddy

Director - Bill Hays

It's New Year's Eve. Three young boys (Davie, Tich and Jacker) steal bottles from the Seatons' yard, to claim the ha'penny deposit, to spend on Bella's cinder toffee. Bill remonstrates with Bella for giving neighbour Sarah Robinson credit ("tick"). The boys repeat the scam, but Bella has rumbled them.

Jack and visiting Glaswegian socialist lecturer Sandy Lewis visit The George Hotel bar, where Billy is working. Tom is there. The Seatons are going to Jessies that evening, to celebrate the New Year. Tom lurks at a the Conservative Unionist Women's Association annual shindig, where Richard Harley Evans is guest of honour, celebrating the party's recent election win. Tom sneaks into the cloakroom, stealing items of value. He is interrupted, and narrowly escapes capture, by slipping into Sandy Lewis's lecture.

Jessie and Arthur prepare for a family gathering. Billy takes Bill to the party, despite his protests. Each guest gives their party-piece. Arthur reluctantly recites a monologue. 

After the lecture Sandy and Jack share a bottle of whisky, and Sandy tells Jack that the Labour party is in the ascendancy. They find no-one at home at the Seatons' home, so Jack takes Sandy to Jessie's house, where he joins the party. 

Bill performs his party-piece: playing a headmaster in a comedy skit. 

The next morning the police arrive, with a summons for Bill, for opening his shop too long (he's supposed to close at 8pm). Bill suspects that the owner of a nearby sweet shop, J.L.Davidson, has reported him. 

Sandy throws a brick through the rival shop's window. It has a message attached to it: "HAPPY NEW YEAR".


Additional cast:

Sandy Lewis - Bill Simpson

Richard Harley Evans - James Grout

Mr Redshaw - Roger Avon

Sarah Robinson - Lyn Douglas

Pianist - Tom McCall

Miss Barrington - Anne Jameson

Policeman - Neil McCaul

Davie - Stephen Little

Jacker - Kevin Dryden

Tich - Douglas Wilson


Presumably this episode takes place some time after the previous episode, since Billy has a new job. 

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

Jessie has an uncle named Bob, (possibly Bill's brother, since Bob usually performs the other half of Bill's headmaster sketch).

The summons is addressed to William Seaton (I believe this is the first time Bill is referred to by using full surname)..

Former BBC Scotland announcer Bill Simpson (who played Sandy Lewis) was typecast early in his career playing the title role in the enormously popular BBC period drama series Doctor Finlay's Casebook, which ran between 1962 and 1971. Simpson played a keen young doctor sharing a practice with a long-established, set-in-his-ways doctor (played by Andrew Cruickshank). Subsequent roles were few, but included the 1979 HTV adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped (alongside David McCallum as Akan Breck). He had an un-credited role in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1959). He died in 1986.

Gallowshields men playing "pitch and toss".

Lizzie Armstrong (Val McLane).

Bright young thing Robert Armstrong (Richard Glasgow).

Tom (John Nightingale) is threatened with a cutthroat razor by thugs Dodger Green (Peter Bartle) and Dickie Edgar (Peter Thornton).

Matt (Malcolm Terris) and Jack (James Bolam) watch as Green and Edgar are "tin panned".

Episode 12: 

Heads You Win, Tales I Lose

Original TX date: 25/3/76

Writer - Sid Chaplin

Designer - Geoffrey Patterson

Director - Leonard Lewis

Tom and a group of other men are on moorland, illegally gambling on a game of Pitch and Toss. Handfuls of notes change hands. Tom leaves the men with his winnings (about sixty pounds) but his good fortune isn't appreciated by two sore losers, Dodger Green and Dickie Edgar. 

Matt and Jack have been at a memorial gathering for Harry Armstrong, where they've raised less than three pounds for the widow and children of a man killed in a pit accident six months earlier. A former "outside man", Mr Gibson, who used to work with Harry, makes a handsome contribution.  

Jessie visits Tom's home, where Daisy Meadows is house-sitting. 

Jessie then visits Lizzie Armstrong, and her son, Robert, who is excelling at school, and may be eligible for a scholarship. Matt and Jack are there, which makes for an uncomfortable atmosphere. Matt agrees to baby-sit for Lizzie, so that she can attend the annual Labour Party meeting, where she'll second Jessie's nomination for the Executive. Jack senses romance blossoming between Matt and Lizzie.

Tom has been forced into hiding, in the stables. Billy finds Tom, who is planning on escaping to London. 

Dolly resents Jack's support for Jessie's political aspirations. They argue, and Jack storms out. Later Jack meets Matt in the pub, and is warned that tongues are wagging. Matt doubts that Jack is motivated by politics. 

Jessie is elected to the Executive. Arthur doesn't approve.  

Jack employs Robert and another boy to keep an eye on Tom's hiding place, from a nearby pigeon coup. 

Jack and Matt return from a day at the pit, to find themselves locked out by Dolly. Jack bursts his way back in, warning her never to do it again. 

Lizzie expresses her concerns about her developing relationship with Matt, who proposes marriage. She tells Matt that there's no room in her life for new man. 

Jack has arranged a safe route to the docks for Tom. Green and Edgar catch up with Tom, but they have a surprise in store: a "tin panning", which means they're hounded home by the womenfolk, bashing pots and pans. 

Jack returns home to find Dolly apologetic, and a hearty meal on the table. Lizzie arrives with a letter from Mr Gibson: she's been offered a cleaning job paying a very respectable "fifteen bob a week...half a man's wages".


Additional cast:

Lizzie Armstrong - Val McLane

Robert Armstrong - Richard Glasgow

Dodger Green - Peter Bartle

Dickie Edgar - Peter Thornton

Daisy Meadows - Connie Merigold

Bebber - Peter Marshall

Mr Gibson - Shay Gorman


This episode does not feature James Garbutt (Bill Seaton) or Jean Heywood (Bella Seaton).

Irish actor Shay Gorman (who plays Mr Gibson) appeared in several key drama series during the 1960s and 1970s, including Danger Man (The Sanctuary), The Saint (Little Girl Lost), Softly Softly (No Life For A Woman), and The Sweeney (Taste of Fear). He's also appeared in Minder (Why Pay Tax) and Boys from the Blackstuff (1982, as Malloy). Horror fans may recognise him from the 1966 film Island of Terror, or his voice from his uncredited narration on Jacques Tourneur's 1957 classic Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon). More recently he featured as Father Jim Sutton in the 1995 Father Ted episode Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest.

Actress Val McLane played Dennis' sister Norma Patterson in the second season of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, but is, in fact, married to Jimmy "Oz" Nail. She's appeared in a couple of Catherine Cookson Tyne Tees TV mini-series (The Rag Nymph and The Moth  in 1997, playing Aggie Winkovski, and in 1991's The Black Velvet Gown, as Annie Griston). She was also in LWT's 1997 adaptation of Jane Eyre (which starred Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds), and featured in the landmark 1996 BBC drama series Our Friends in the North in 1996, as Rita Cox. 

Mrs Downey (Pamela Ruddock) seeks solace in the Bible.

The union workers vote against strike action.

In the dock: John Ford (James Bolam) on trial.

Jack (James Bolam) and Tom (John Nightingale) exercise in the prison yard.

King for a day: Jack (James Bolam) returns home in triumph.

Episode 13: 

Kind Hearted Rat With A Lifebelt

Original TX date: 1/4/76

Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Paul Joel

Director - Paul Ciappessoni

A strike is brewing at Whitely's Shipyard. Union Branch Chairman Les Mallow offers Jack the position of District Secretary. Discovering that Jack's not interested, Les asks if Jack will run as his deputy, a post that pays £5 a week. 

Stolen goods have been found in Tom's possession: the police had been tipped off ("hunger breeds envy, Jessie, and envy breeds anonymous letters"). Tom is making his situation more difficult by refusing to reveal where other items lost in the same robberies are. He claims he sold the rest to a man in a pub.

Dolly visits a God-fearing widower, Mrs Downey, and her two children, who are living off a handout of twenty shillings a week. She's in danger of being evicted. Dolly brings Downey's situation to the attention of Les Mallow.

The miners are put on notice: short-time for two weeks, then the sack. Mallow calls a strike meeting, to discuss taking strike action. 

Jessie visits Jack, to let him know about Tom's predicament. 

At the branch committee meeting, Jack tables a motion preventing industrial action, seconded by Matt. As Chairman, Les's hands are tied to intervene. The workers vote against striking. Jack brings Mrs Downey's plight to the meeting's attention. Jack's advocacy wins him the support of the rank and file members. It may count for nothing: Downey's landlord has locked her out. Jack seizes a hammer, and sets off to reclaim her furniture.

As Jack prepares to break into Downey's home he discovers that she wrote the letter to the police, informing on Tom. After clearing the flat, Jack waits for the landlord, and the police (to give Matt time to get away with the reclaimed furniture).

Jack is arrested, and put in a cell with Tom. The next day Tom is brought before the court, and, despite the best efforts of his solicitor, Martin Hopkins, is sentenced to three months' imprisonment. Jack is next to be tried, and the magistrate simply repeats, word-for-word, his summary of Tom's trial. Jack refuses to accept the validity of the court: "It's all very well to say we're equal under the law, but when you're starving you're only equal to the next poor bugger who's starving". Jack is sentenced to one month in prison: a martyr. Jessie is impressed: "Bastard! You wonderful, cunning bastard!"  

Jack and Tom are taken to H.M. Prison Durham. 

Mallow visits Dolly with an offer of financial assistance from the Union, but Matt senses that Mallow is looking to take political advantage of the situation, and turns down the offer. Matt tells Dolly that Jack helped Downey to manoeuvre himself into a position where he can be elected as District Secretary.

After serving his sentence, Jack is released from prison. Matt has arranged for a welcoming procession, including a colliary band! Jack is paraded through the streets as a "The People's Friend", hammer in hand. 

Jessie tells Jack she doesn't entirely approve of his new-found power, or the way he got it, hoping that he won't forget the people he's going to represent. "Don't you worry, bonnie lass, they'll get their share... eventually". 

Additional cast:

Les Mallow - John Woodvine

Mrs Downey - Pamela Ruddock

Mrs Downey's Children - Margaret Leonard, Tommy Pender

Poskett - John Malcolm

Herbie - Andy Mulligan

Martin Hopkins - John Graham

Magistrate - Gerald Case

Policeman - Neil McCaul

Musicians - The Boldon Colliary Band


Jack makes yet more references to the sheep-stealing raids in Fish In Woolly Jumpers. There's also a veiled reference to Tom strike-breaking in episode 4, Swords and Pick Handles. Dolly says that Jack still has some of the money given to him by Sir Horatio in King For A Day.

Mrs Downey's husband Joe died of consumption. He was a union member for seventeen years. 

The title is derived from Jessie's appraisal of Jack's survival instincts: "When the ship sinks, he'll be the only rat with a lifebelt".

Jack is tried using his real name, John (I believe this is the first time in the series that this is stated).

The previous District secretary was named Norman Taylor. 

Les Mallow was a pacifist during the war, and went to prison for it. 

There are two very well-known faces among the cast for this episode.

John Woodvine (who played Les Mallow) was born in County Durham in 1929, and has appeared in a wide variety of television series, including appearances in three episodes of The Avengers (Dead of Winter in 1961, The Murder Market in 1965 and Look (stop me if you've heard this one) But There Were These Two Fellers... in 1968), The Saint (The Queen's Ransom, 1966), The Champions (The Search, 1969), Doctor Who (The Armageddon Factor, 1979) and Knights of God (as Prior Mordrin, 1987). He's also appeared in several films, including The Devils, for Ken Russell and An American Werewolf in London, for John Landis. He also featured in two prestigious BBC series, Elizabeth R (as Sir Francis Drake, 1971) and Edge of Darkness (playing Assistand Chief Constable Ross, 1986). Proving he's equally adept with comedy roles, he gave a memorable performance as a barking mad senior police officer, Sir Malachi Jellicoe, in the first episode of The New Statesman, Happiness is a Warm Gun ("You struck a blow for justice and Jesus today... have a pork scratching, says the Lord!"). 

John Malcolm (who played militant union member Poskett) was born in Stirling in 1936, and has appeared in many memorable TV series, including Jason King (To Russia With Panache, 1971), Target (Fringe Banking, 1978), Minder (Willesden Suite, 1985), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (The Naval Treaty, 1984) and Inspector Morse (The Way Through the Woods, 1995). He played Oberleutnant Kluge in both seasons of Enemy at the Door. Other roles include the anthology series Out of the Unknown (Andover and the Android, 1965), Dennis Potter's Pennies From Heaven (1978) and Jack Gold's ground-breaking 1975 play The Naked Civil Servant. His feature film roles include a role in Amicus's horror anthology film The House That Dripped Blood (1970).



These four episodes of When The Boat Comes In are available on Acorn Media UK's When The Boat Comes In - King For a Day DVD (AV9225).

Unless explicitly stated, DVD screen captures used in the reviews are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to be accurate representations of the DVD image.   While screen captures are generally in their correct aspect ratio, there will often have been changes made to the resolution, contrast, hue and sharpness, to optimise them for web display.

Site content copyright © J.A.Knott - 2002-2004