Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Beryl's Lot

From Yorkshire Television came this London-based comedy drama (it was NOT a sitcom!), which ran from 1973-1977.

Remember that theme tune?

"La-la-la-la-la-la..."

Beryl Humphries (Carmel McSharry), a Battersea milkman's wife, mother-of-three grown-up children, and char, woke up to the prospect of her 40th birthday and decided to broaden her horizons at evening classes.

Husband Tom (Mark Kingston) was happy with his milkround (oh nostalgia - in episode one, an advertisement on his milk float read "It's All At The Co-op" - remember the TV ad jingle: "It's All At The Co-op NOW!") and the odd tip from local bookie Wacky Waters, but accepted Beryl's wish to get educated.

Tom and Beryl's lodger, and soon to be son-in-law Fred (Robin Askwith), worked for Wacky Waters. Fred rode off into the sunset with the Humphries' daughter Rosie at the end of series two, and cinema-goers saw a lot more of Robin Askwith (literally) in the Confessions films.

Trev (Tony Caunter, later Roy of EastEnders) and Vi (Barbara Mitchell) Tonks were the Humphries' neighbours. Trev kept a low profile, whilst gossipy Vi galumphed around the neighbourhood, putting her foot in it. Vi became quite affected by Beryl's efforts to better herself and, following Beryl's lead, began to read books. However, doomwatch literature of the time and her difficulty in keeping things in perspective drove Vi to contemplate suicide. She had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Fortunately, Beryl's desire to broaden her horizons did not always have such a negative effect on her friends and neighbours, but it did cause something of a stir!
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The fictional story of Beryl Humphries was inspired by the true story of Margaret Powell (née Langley), a milkman's wife and former domestic servant. Margaret originally wanted to be a teacher, but her parents could not afford for her to continue her education to gain the necessary qualifications.

She rose from the position of kitchen maid to cook during her time in service, before meeting and marrying Albert Powell.

Having three sons who had all won scholarships to grammar school, Margaret decided to brush up her education at evening classes so that she would be able to converse with them. She went on to take O and A levels.

She was discovered in the mid-1960s when Leigh Crutchley from the BBC took her from a discussion group and invited her to talk about her life. This led to her BBC debut.

Margaret, who had a charming personality, a great sense of humour and honesty, and a very infectious and distinctive giggle, became an authoress, writing several books about her life and travels, and TV and radio personality.

Appearing on everything from Woman's Hour and Blankety Blank to a Paxo stuffing advertisement, Margaret was greatly loved.

She died in 1984.
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In the 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, just about every TV series/serial was accompanied by a series of novels. Video recorders were rare and expensive beasts (only 5% of UK households had them by 1980), so novels filled the gap later occupied by videos.

Beryl's Lot had three novels to accompany it, by Margaret Powell, "with" Lee McKenzie, who apparently wrote tough crime thrillers under another pseudonym!

The cover of the third and final Beryl's Lot book states that it is: "Based on a series originated by Kevin Laffan".

Mr Laffan was better known as the creator of Emmerdale Farm, which began in 1972.

From the "Sun", November 15, 1973. The late Barbara Mitchell was great as Vi Tonks - my favourite character, in a series which contained many favourites.

2 comments:

Steve Ashworth said...

Thanks for the excellent text & photo's of what was one of my favourite programmes. However, I can't bring the theme tune to mind. Any idea what it was called or where it can be heard?

Anonymous said...

I am in the middle of writng my postgraduate dissertation around Maragaret Powell's autobiography. Any information you, or anyone reading this, has on Leigh Crutchley's involvement in publishing her story would be much appreciated. please email hs602jm@gold.ac.uk if you can help at all.