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

Mr Ashton (Geoffrey Rose) leads his school pupils in a spirited rendition of "Land of Hope and Glory".

The children at Jessie's school celebrate Empire Day.

Mr Ashton (Geoffrey Rose) courts Jessie Seaton (Susan Jameson) over dinner.

Bill Seaton (James Garbutt), in hospital following his mining accident, is visited by Bella (Jean Heywood) and Billy (Edward Wilson).

Jack Ford (James Bolam) gives the engagement ring to Dolly (Madelaine Newton).


Episode 6: 

Empire Day on the Slag Heap

Original TX date: 12/2/76

Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Peter Brachacki

Director - Paul Ciappessoni

After eight weeks, the miners' strike is over, but the pitmen have settled without gaining anything. ("It was either that or starve", admits Bill).

Empire Day ("the day that we remember our Empire. The British Empire. The greatest the World has ever seen") is celebrated at Jessie's school: the headmaster, Mr Ashton, leads the children in a spirited, patriotic rendition of Land of Hope and Glory.

Mary is feeling better, and hopes that Tom will be allowed to return to work (after strike-breaking).

Jessie still resents Jack working for Sir Horatio. Bill warns that "Jack is only one side, pet, his own... I can't say I blame him". Although engaged to Jack, Jessie has arranged to go to dinner with Mr Ashton ("an old man").

Manners is pleased with Jack's progress, although voices some concern that Jack is dating "local girl" Jessie, believing that Jack will soon outclass her. Jack tells Manners that he loves Jessie very much, and that he won't find any better.

Jack visits Bill and Bella, who evade Jack's question about Jessie's whereabouts. Bill and Jack have reached an understanding. Bill realises that, although Jack will be one of the bosses he despises, he'll be able to offer Jessie security and a chance to escape her humdrum life.

Over dinner, Mr Ashton, who still refers to Jessie as "Miss Seaton", asks Jessie if she will marry him, offering her "respect, admiration, and, if I may say so, devotion".

Jessie defends her decision to have dinner with Mr Ashton, telling Bella that he made her feel special, telling he that Jack: "is very kind, but he doesn't think I'm that important". Bella warns her about diverting her attention from Jack. Jessie tells her that Ashton asked her to marry him.

Jack visits Matt, who is becoming slightly resentful that Jack is getting on so well with Sir Horatio, Jack's "fairy godfather". Matt tells Jack that Dolly is pregnant: "it was you who was waving his magic wand over my sister". Jack is the father. Dolly had asked Matt for money for an abortion (a very dangerous proceedure). Jack tells Matt that he will accept responsibility, offer to marry Dolly, and break up with Jessie. 

Bill and Tom return to work. A pit prop collapses, breaking Bill's back. Bill is taken to the hospital, where he is attended by Bella and Jessie.

Mr Ashton offers Jessie his support, and his savings, but Jessie politely refuses.

A representative from the mining company arrives offering a settlement for Bill's injury: one hundred pounds, if Bill will sign "a receipt" (which is actually an admission of blame, and absolves the company from any further claims). Jack arrives, calling the man a "ghoul" and a "vulture". Bill, taking Jack's advice, refuses to sign. Later, bella admits that they'd be lost without Jack, boss or no boss.

Billy returns to Gallowshield. He still wants to leave University, and is using Bill's accident as an excuse. She updates Billy on Jack's progress, telling her brother that she intends to marry him.

Jack visits Mr Crawford. Bill's Area Secretary. Jack wants to know why Crawford wasn't there to support Jack. Jack and Tom shame Crawford into action. Tom begins taking statements from the miners who witnessed the accident.

Jack visits Dolly, and tells her he'll marry her. Dolly admits she's not sorry about her condition: "I wanted you the minute I laid eyes on you". He gives Dolly an engagement ring, a ring he'd bought for Jessie. This new situation puts Jack's ambitious plans in jeopardy. 

Jack breaks the news to Jessie: "I've got a girl into trouble and I'm going to have to marry her...you could wait, I couldn't, I'm sorry". Jack says that he'll have to stay in Gallowshield:  "there's work to be done here, and I can do it better than most". Jessie is upset, but is also pleased that Jack is staying to fight for the workers. 


Additional cast:

Crawford - Lewis Teasdale

Mine Owners Representative - Richard Butler

Turnball - Keith Morrison

Sid - Pete Marshall

Overman - John Cannon


There are references to Tom strike-breaking (Swords and Pick Handles), the sheep rustling (Fish In Woolly Jumpers) and digging in the front room for coal (in Coal Comfort).

This episode introduces Mr Ashton, the headmaster at Jessie's school, first mentioned in Swords and Pick Handles. He was born in Kent. He was stationed in Gallowshield during the war, where he met his wife, who is now deceased. He is 43, and holds a second class honours degree in history from the University of London, and earns £370 per annum.

Jessie is 25.

George Irwin is a pupil at Jessie's school. Mr Huxpeth (presumably a teacher) plays the school piano. Two teachers were killed in Flanders: Mr Smithers and Mr Watson. Other teachers include Mr Gregg [sic?]. The deputy headmaster is Mr Turnball, who fought in South Africa.

Matt and Dolly's parents are still alive.

Mary (Michelle Newell), French onion seller Pierre (André Maranne) and Bella (Jean Heywood).

Mrs Fairbairn (Margaret Heery).

Handyman Jack Ford (James Bolam).

Ronnie Fairbairn (Tony Nelson).

Mr and Mrs Jack Ford (James Bolam and Madelaine Newton) share a bottle of champagne.


Episode 7: 

A First Time For Everything

Original TX date: 19/2/76

Writer - Alex Glasgow

Designer - Fanny Taylor

Director - Gilchrist Calder

Bella is visited by a French onion seller, Pierre. Bella has an idea to open a shop, using the front room, and some of the money they've received for Bill's accident. Bill is due home from the hospital, but doesn't know of her plan.

Despite Jessie's best efforts a talented fourteen-year-old pupils, Ronnie Fairburn, is leaving the school to start work down the pit. Jessie and Mr Ashton visit Ronnie's mother, a widow. Jessie tells her that she's trying to get him a job as an apprentice draftsman. Her eldest son had left for America. Ronnie is looking forward to doing "grown-up" work. Jessie tells Ronnie to call on Tom at 3.30am the next morning, and he'll walk Ronnie through his first day.

Jack and Dolly have made arrangements for her wedding, at the registry office, the next morning. 

Mary and Bella make a "clippie mat" out of scraps and rags, for sale in the shop. Bella's also bought some cheap linen, to make hankies, and some surplus kitchenware. They're visited by a rather sheepish Jack, who notes that Mary is looking gravely ill. Bella asks Jack to put some shelves up for her. Jack is currently "on the dole". Bella offers Jack five pounds, "two week's wages". Jack tells her that the shelves will be "as solid as the Moritania". Bella shows Jack how to get rid of fleas (using a candle and a plate of water). Jack slyly suggests that for another five pound, he and Dolly could emigrate to Australia, to help spare Jessie's disappointment. 

Bill returns home, wheelchair-bound. He's furious with Bella, who threatens "It's either the shop, or I walk through that door and don't come back". Bill has to admit that they need a steady income. Later, Bella lovingly washes Bill's feet for him, something she hasn't done for twenty years.

Mr Ashton apologises to Jessie, for proposing to her. Jessie invites him to ask his question again.

Tom and Ronnie arrive at the pit. Tom negotiates with the deputy for a decent job for Ronnie, but has to settle for carrying water. Tom is concerned that he won't be able to keep a close eye on Ronnie, who'll be working twenty yards away. Tom tells Ronnie to watch out for the "chummins" - empty coal carts that speed by on the tracks, telling him that before they pass, there's a warning rap on the pipes. Ronnie is enthusiastic, and asks Tom how he can join the union.

Bella has her first customer, Sarah Robinson, and sells her some matches. Later, Bella sells her the clippie mat for three and a tanner.   

Ronnie dodges the chummins, but is startled by a rat. He falls onto the line, and is killed. Tom is shattered, and vows not to return to the pit. He asks Jessie to break the news to Ronnie's mother.

Matt and Dolly nervously wait for Jack at the registrar's office. Jack arrives at the last minute, bearing a bouquet. Later Jack tells Matt and Dolly that he was delayed by a broken-down tram, and that had to hitch a ride with a passing rag and bone man. Jack gives Dolly the five pounds - the first five pound note Dolly has seen, telling her it's a wedding present (although he declines to tell her from whom). Matt and "Mr and Mrs Ford" share a bottle of champagne.

Additional cast:

Ronnie Fairbairn - Tony Nelson

Mrs Fairbairn - Margaret Heery

Pierre - André Maranne

Sarah Robinson - Lyn Douglas

Deputy - Roy Pattison


Following Jack's intervention, Bill received £300 compensation for his accident (three times the company's original offer). 

The episode's title comes from Bill's admission that he was wrong about Bella's idea about the shop.


Edward Wilson (Billy) does not appear in this episode.

André Maranne appeared regularly on TV during the sixties, seventies and eighties, and was almost invariably cast as a Frenchman. His roles include appearances in Doctor Who (The Moonbase, 1967), Jason King (Wanna buy a television series?, 1971) and Lord Peter Wimsey (Clouds of Witness, 1972). He's probably best known as French chef André in the Fawlty Towers episode Gourmet Night (1975), and for the recurring role of François in the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies.

At peace: Mary Seaton (Michelle Newell).

Irish nationalists Michael Lynch (Eamon Boyce) and Paddy Boyle (Ralph Watson).

Harry Bartram (Patrick Durkin) and Sid Hepburn (George Irving) wait nervously at the railway station, unaware that Michael Lynch (Eamon Boyce) and Paddy Boyle (Ralph Watson) are stalking them.

Captain Leslie (Terence Hardiman) shoots Paddy Boyle and Michael Lynch.

End of the line: Harry Bartam (Patrick Durkin) and Sid Hepburn (George Irving).


Episode 8: 

Paddy Boyle's Discharge

Original TX date: 26/2/76

Writer - James Mitchell

Designer - Geoffrey Patterson

Director - Leonard Lewis

Mary has died. 

Jack is joined at the pub by an old army friend, black and tan soldier Sid Hepburn. Jack is surprised to hear that he's being paid ten bob a day, all found. Tom and Bill arrive, and Jack hears about Mary's death. Bill calls Jack a "fornicating bastard". Jack leaves. Sid is joined by a loutish colleague, Harry Bartram. Another man eavesdrops, Paddy Boyle [one of Jack's sheep-rustling gang in Fish in Woolly Jumpers]. 

Matt, Dolly and Jack are decorating. Dolly is being especially argumentative. Jack gets a letter, inviting Jack to a meeting. 

Sid Hepburn wants a discharge from the army, and has been offered this if he can recruit a suitable replacement. 

The eavesdropping man, Paddy Boyle, is joined by a like-minded Irish colleague, Michael Lynch. They plan to track down and execute the two soldiers, who, back in Cork, have committed rape, arson and murder.

Tom wants to invite Jack to Mary's funeral. "If he goes, I won't", Jessie threatens, "I couldn't bear to be in the same room with him ever again". Mr Ashton, who is now engaged to Jessie, calls to pay his respects. 

Paddy Boyle visits Jack, enquiring after Sid Hepburn. Jack is suspicious, realising that Paddy is a member of Sinn Féin. Jack "accidentally" paints a yellow streak on the arm of Paddy's coat. Tom visits, to explain that he wants to invite him to Mary's funeral, but it will be awkward. Jack says he understands.

Hepburn and Bartam report to Captain Leslie. Bartram says that Sergeant Ford had a reputation for being soft, and that there were half the charges in Ford's platoon, compared to others. Hepburn tells Leslie that, on the contrary, Ford was ruthless, but only if you crossed him. Leslie expresses an interest in recruiting Jack.

Jack shares a drink with Sid Hepburn, dressed in civvies. Sid offers him a job in Ireland: and "twelve bob a day, plus kit, rations, allowances". Sid invites Jack to a meeting with Captain Leslie. They are followed from the pub by Paddy Boyle, but he is spotted, and confronted. Jack stops the soldiers from giving him a serious beating. 

At the hotel, Jack is being waited for by both Manners and Leslie. Jack apologises in person for turning down Manners' job offer. Manners tells him there's a local property deal brewing, and that there might be something in it for him.

Jack meets Leslie, who offers him a Warrant Officer Class 2 position, with special  responsibility for interrogating political prisoners. Leslie tells Jack he also has a job for Matt and Charlie Stobbs, if they want it. Jack says he'll think it over, and let Leslie know the next evening.  

Jack and Matt discuss Leslie's offer. Jack will be turning it down, to Dolly's disappointment. Matt tells Dolly that Paddy once saved their lives, by throwing back a German stick bomb. 

Jack visits Paddy, returning a medal that Paddy lost in the struggle with Hepburn and Bartram. Jack is buttonholed by Lynch, who wants to know where Leslie, Hepburn and Bartram can be found. Paddy saves Jack from being attacked.

At Mary's wake, Jessie is told that Jack might be joining the black and tans. Jessie leaves, intending to talk him out of it.

Matt tells Jack that he visited Paddy the night before. Jack realises that Matt can be loose-tongued once he has a drink or two in him, and may well have told Paddy where Bartram, Hepburn and Leslie might be found. Jessie arrives, and is reassured to find that Jack has no intention of joining Hepburn's unit. 

Jack and Matt rush to the railway station, but they are too late. Lynch and Boyle shoot the two black and tans, but are themselves shot by Captain Leslie, despite a warning shout from Jack. "At least Sid Hepburn got his discharge. Pity poor Paddy had to get his 'n all".

Additional cast:

Paddy Boyle - Ralph Watson

Captain Leslie - Terrence Hardiman

Sid Hepburn - George Irving

Harry Bartram - Patrick Durkin

Michael Lynch - Eamon Boyce

Barman - Gordon Faith


The members of B Company who pledged never to go hungry again were Jack, Matt, Charlie Stobbs, Sid Hepburn and Paddy Boyle. 

Jack is reading an unbound copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Jack had been seconded to an intelligence unit in Murmansk, as an interrogator.


This episode does not feature Edward Wilson (Billy), and is the last to feature Michelle Newell (Mary).

I believe this is the first episode to mention Mr Ashton's Christian name: Arthur. 

Ralph Watson reprises the role of Paddy Boyle, who first featured in Fish in Woolly Jumpers

Terrence Hardiman (Captain Leslie) has built a solid body of work since the mid-70s, mostly playing upper class, stiff-upper-lip-type roles in TV series like Bergerac (Avenge, O Lord, 1985), Inspector Morse (Last Bus To Woodstock, 1988), Jonathan Creek (The Eyes of Tiresias, 1999), and as Major Hans Dietrich Reinhard in Secret Army (1977). He also appeared as Hauptmann von Bulow in the Enemy at the Door episode The Prussian Officer in 1978. In the mid-90s he gained a new generation of fans in the title role in the popular BBC children's series The Demon Headmaster.

Tom (John Nightingale) takes a bath, aided by Bella (Jean Heywood).

Mick Murphy (J.G.Devlin) is visited in hospital by neighbour Jimmy (Alan Hockey), Bella Seaton (Jean Heywood) and Ralph Murphy (John White).

Bella (Jean Heywood) comforts Uncle Mick (J.G.Devlin).

The undertaker, Mr Cribb (Patrick Newell), the gravedigger (Cameron Miller) and Bella (Jean Heywood).

An ill-timed romance blossoms between Tom Seaton (John Nightingale) and Rosie Trotter (Judi Lamb).

Episode 9: 

Angel on Horseback

Original TX date: 3/3/76


Writer - Sid Chaplin

Designer - Michael Young

Director - Bill Hays


Miner Ralph Murphy has been off work, following an accident with a full coal tub, but he's well enough to be visiting the pub, and is moonlighting as an illegal bookie's runner, to Matt and Tom's disapproval. Tom asks Ralph to visit Bella's uncle, Mick Murphy, a widower who left his position as secretary of the union following accusations of embezzlement.  

Tom is staying with his parents while his roof is being fixed. The Seatons are visited by Rosie Trotter, a young nurse, who has been summoned back to Gallowshield by one of the local hospitals (at Westbourne). Rosie had been taught by Jessie, and, despite her mother being their next door neighbour, Tom hasn't seen her for many years. Tom is attracted to her, but Bella warns him that it's too soon after Mary's death. 

Mick Murphy passes on racing tips to his neighbour, Jimmy. Soon afterwards Mick keels over with a stroke.

A few days have passed. Bill is jealous when Bella goes to visit Mick in hospital: Mick has been a rival for Bella's affections. 

Bella is joined at the hospital by a dapper-looking Ralph. Mick places a five bob accumulator with him, despite the long odds: "If I have to gam, I'll gam with a bang, like an angel on horseback". Since he doesn't expect to be around to collect his winnings, he places the bet in Bella's name. Soon afterwards Mick dies, with Bella at his bedside. 

During a train journey Tom and Rosie discuss getting married.

Bella makes arrangements for Mick's funeral with the undertaker, Mr Cribb. His "first class for every class" funeral will cost fifteen pounds. Mick's insurance policy will only cover ten pounds. Bill reluctantly offers the balance from his compensation money, but Bella refuses. She takes a cleaning job, working for the boss's wife, and relishes the independence it gives her. Bill is furious, but his overriding emotions are feelings of helplessness, self-pity and despair.

Tom tells his mother that he plans to marry Rosie, and move to Edinburgh for a fresh start. Rosie tells Tom that both their mothers are against the marriage, and that their opinion carries a lot of weight. Rosie tells Tom he must wait for a year: "I'll never forget me pitman". 

Mick's funeral is well-attended. It is partly funded by the union, who also provide the pallbearers. 

That evening Ralph, who didn't attend the funeral, visits the Seatons, explaining that he and the bookies he worked for had been locked up and, although Mick's combination bet was a winner, he wasn't able to place Bella's bet, and returns her stake money.

Additional cast:

Rosie Trotter - Judi Lamb

James Michael ["Uncle Mick"] Murphy - J.G.Devlin

Ralph ["Ralphie"] Murphy - John White

James Benson ["Jimmy"] - Alan Hockey

Mr. Cribb - Patrick Newell

Gravedigger - Cameron Miller




Mick Murphy is Bella's uncle (Tom and Jessie's great uncle).

Bella gives her full name to the undertaker as Isabella May Seaton.

This is a rather confusing episode, with odd narrative jumps in order to progress the rather forced relationship between Tom and Rosie. Rosie seems too old to have been taught by Jessie, and although the age difference between Rosie and Tom is supposed to weigh against their chances of having a successful relationship, she doesn't appear to be substantially younger than Tom, either!  

James Bolam (Jack Ford) and Madelaine Newton (Dolly) do not appear in this episode.

Irish-born actor J[ames].G.Devlin (Mick Murphy) had a career that spanned five decades, but it seems he never progressed from playing supporting character roles. His appearances include TV favourites The Sweeney (Nightmare, 1978), The New Avengers (Faces, 1978), Dad's Army (Absent Friends, 1970) and The Champions (The Body Snatchers, 1969). However, he'll probably be best remembered for his role as an escaped convict, alongside Leonard Rossiter, in the Steptoe and Son episode The Desperate Hours (1972). He was born in 1907 and died in 1991.

Character actor Patrick Newell (Mr Cribb) was a familiar face to TV viewers during the sixties and seventies, and gained a degree of fame playing the eccentric "Mother" in almost twenty episodes of The Avengers (he also played two other characters, in earlier episodes). His other credits include episodes of Danger Man  (Battle of the Cameras, 1965), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (The Man From Nowhere, 1969), The Persuaders (That's Me Over There, 1971), Doctor Who (The Android Invasion, 1975), Nigel Kneale's Kinvig (1981) and two episodes of The Young Ones (Boring and Oil, 1982). He also gave a memorable performance as the twitchy Blessington in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes story The Resident Patient, in 1985. Newell evidently had an affinity for Holmes roles: he also appeared in Barry Levinson's movie Young Sherlock Holmes (1986), in the little-seen 1982 Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson TV series (as Inspector Lestrade), and in the 1965 Holmes / Jack The Ripper movie A Study In Terror. Newell died in 1988, aged 56. 



These four episodes of When The Boat Comes In are available on Acorn Media UK's When The Boat Comes In - Empire Day on the Slag Heap DVD (AV9224).

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