Early soap style drama series telling episodes in the life of the people living in the rural town of Bellbird. As an indicator of storylines the biggest incident in the show was probably the surprise death of Charlie Cousens in a ‘wheat silo’ accident, the ABC’s programme guide TV Times received more letters about his death than any other topic for months.
Another big plotline featured the arrival of an Aboriginal to the town, Gerry Walters (who also had a white wife) to work with solicitor Gil Lang. Walters soon had the locals up in arms with his belligerent attitude.
A film version called Country Town appeared in 1971. (The plot of the film had the residents battling against a severe drought, the film had a budget of $70,000).
Bellbird being a rural soap was more popular in rural areas of Australia than anywhere else. Main players of the series were Joe and Olive Turner and executive producer Davern later went onto create A Country Practice. The local paper was The Bellbird Clarion. Bellbird initially played for 15 minutes just before the evening news but later the series expanded in length. The show was seen four times a week, all year round except for a short Christmas break.
The show was often likened to long running rural radio show ‘Blue Hills. Many of the location scenes were filmed in Cranbourne on a huge dairying estate, scenes were also filmed at Sunbury just north of Melbourne. Bellbird was Australia’s longest running series until it was usurped by A Country Practice, of course soaps like Neighbours and Home and Away have been on the air far longer than either these days.
Sadly many of the episodes no longer exist, the ABC copied the BBC and decided to re-use their tapes. In fact the whole run was thought to be lost for ever until a cache of episodes were discovered when ABC’s Gore Hill studios closed.
Australia / ABC / 1697 episodes made up of 1508×15 minute episodes 53×60 minute episodes and 134×30 minute episodes / 1967-77 mostly Mondays to Thursdays 6.45pm
Executive Producer: James Davern
Maurie Fields as John Quinney
Carl Bleazby as Colonel Jim Emerson
Lynette Curran as Rhoda Lang
Elspeth Ballantyne as Lori Chandler
Gerda Nicolson as Fiona Davies
Peter Aanensen as Jim Bacon
Carmel Millhouse as Marge Bacon
Moira Charleton as Olive Turner
Terry Norris as Joe Turner
Robin Ramsay as Charlie Cousens
Penne Hackforth-Jones as Ginny Hill
Ian Smith as Russell Ashwood
Anne Phelan as Kate Murray
Dennis Miller as Constable Des Davies
Michael Preston as Father John Kramer
Gabrielle Hartley as Maggie Emerson
Tom Oliver as Tom Grey
Sean Scully as Ron Wilson
Brian James as Ian Bennett
John Stanton as Leo Hill
Rod Mullinar as Scott Leighton
Maggie Millar as Georgia Moorhouse
Sheila Florance as Dossie Rumsey
Brian Hannan as Roger Green
Anne Charleston as Wendy Robinson
Louise Philip as Christine Jackson
Patsy King as Kate Andrews
Bob Maza as Gerry Walters
Alan Hopgood as Matthew Reed