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When The Boat Comes In (BBC Drama, James Bolam)



In excellent between the wars series When The Boat Comes In Sgt Jack Ford (James Bolam) returns home to the North East of England, Galashields, embittered after the end of World War One, he is determined to make something of his life.

Meeting teacher Jessie Seaton (Susan Jameson) he falls in with her and plays a pivotal part in the fortunes of her and her family. The series was as much about the Seatons as it was Jack Ford. Besides Jessie there was her put upon Mum Bella (Jean Heywood), her hardworking coalmining father Bill (James Garbutt) (who during the course of the series was injured in a mining accident and confined to a wheelchair; he would go on to become a miserly businessman opening a string of shops on the compensation he received), idealistic soon to be doctor youngest son Billy (Edward Wilson) and miner Tom (John Nightingale).

Much of the first season was about hard times for the Seatons and Jack but as the series progressed Jack became a union official in the shipyards, becoming hooked up with the plans of Sir Horatio Manners (Basil Henson).

Jack ended up losing Jessie when he got Sir Horatio’s maid Dolly pregnant and married her, albeit for a short while ( a feeling neglected Dolly ended up going off with young Tom Seaton, she would later get a divorce from Jack and marry Tom.)

Throughout the series Jack was always looking for the main chance and by the middle of season three he was moving inn high circles, romancing the titled Lady Caroline (Initially played by Isla Blair and then Lois Baxter). By the end of this season however, Jack’s business plans had gone somewhat awry and he decided to start a new life in America and it seemed like a good place for the series to end.

Four years later the show was back, Jack returned from America having got into trouble with gangsters there thanks to his bootlegging activities. He got involved once more with the Seatons, it was now also the mid 1930’s and Jack found himself persuaded by Jessie and her brother Billy to get involved in the Spanish Civil War, running guns to the anti government forces. Again mainly motivated by money Jack agreed but this ended up having tragic consequences for him.

When The Boat Comes In ended with Jack being killed in an ambush, dying in Jessie’s arms, although downbeat it seemed like the right way for Jack to go and for the series to end.

Locations used in the show include North Shields: Howden Road; Howard Street; Chirton Broadschool; Whitley Bay: Spanish City; Wallington Hall; Wallsend: Joan Street; Cullercoats and Easington coal beaches

Cast: JAMES BOLAM as Jack Ford; SUSAN JAMESON as Jessie Seaton; JAMES GARBUTT as Bill Seaton; JOHN NIGHTINGALE as Tom Seaton; EDWARD WILSON as Billy Seaton; JEAN HEYWOOD as Bella Seaton; MALCOLM TERRIS as Matt Headley; BASIL HENSON as Sir Horatio Manners; ROSALIND BAILEY as Sarah; MADELEINE NEWTON as Dolly; ISLA BLAIR as Lady Caroline (1976); LOIS BAXTER as Lady Caroline (1977)

Creator: James Mitchell / Theme Sung by Alex Glasgow / Music: David Fanshawe / Script Editor: William Humble / Titles: Colin Cheeseman / Producers: Leonard Lewis, Andrew Osborn, David Maloney

UK / BBC1 / 51×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 1976-1977 and 1981