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Classic TV: When The Boat Comes In – James Bolam – S04 E01 – Back To Dear Old Blighty


Great series


When the Boat Comes In is a British television period drama produced by the BBC between 1976 and 1981. The series stars James Bolam as Jack Ford, a First World War veteran who returns to his poverty-stricken (fictional) town of Gallowshield in the North East of England. The series dramatises the political struggles of the 1920s and 1930s and explores the impact of national and international politics upon Ford and the people around him.

The majority of episodes were written by creator James Mitchell, but in Series 1 north-eastern writers Tom Hadaway, Sid Chaplin and Alex Glasgow contributed episodes, and in Series 3 Jeremy Burnham and Colin Morris shared writing duties with Mitchell. Mitchell also wrote three tie-in books to the T.V. show: When the Boat Comes In, When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years and When the Boat Comes In: Upwards and Onwards. The final book brings the reader up to date with the end of the second series of the TV show.

The traditional tune “When The Boat Comes In” was adapted by David Fanshawe and sung by Alex Glasgow for the title theme of the series. Fanshawe also composed the incidental music. The BBC revived the series in 1981, with the fourth series telling the story of Jack Ford as he returns to Britain penniless, after six years spent bootlegging in the United States, and follows him as he sets up in London

Core Cast

  • James Bolam as Jack Ford (1976–77,81 / Series 1-4 / 48 episodes)
  • James Garbutt as Bill Seaton (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 39 episodes)
  • Jean Heywood as Bella Seaton (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 39 episodes)
  • John Nightingale as Tom Seaton (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 39 episodes)
  • Edward Wilson as Billy Seaton (1976–77, 81 / Series 1-4 / 35 episodes)
  • Malcolm Terris as Matt Headley (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 34 episodes)
  • Susan Jameson as Jessie Ashton née Seaton (1976–77, 81 / Series 1-4 / 30 episodes)
  • Madelaine Newton as Dolly (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 30 episodes)
  • Basil Henson as Sir Horatio Manners (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 25 episodes)
  • Geoffrey Rose as Arthur Ashton (1976–77 / Series 1-3 / 18 episodes)
  • Rosalind Bailey as Sarah Headley née Lytton (1977, 81 / Series 2-4 / 23 episodes)
  • William Fox as the Duke of Bedlington (1976–77 / Series 2-3 / 13 episodes)
  • Lois Baxter as Lady Caroline #2 (1977, 81 / Series 3-4 / 15 episodes)
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