Parsley Sidings

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Jim Eldridge

Parsley Sidings was a BBC Radio sitcom created by Jim Eldridge. It starred Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender (who were also starring in the television wartime sitcom Dad’s Army at that time), together with Kenneth Connor from the Carry On films.

The scripts are by Jim Eldridge (who would later go on to write for many more series, the most successful being the BBC’s King Street Junior). The show is set in a sleepy out of the way railway station on the main line between London and Birmingham, in the Midlands.

The main characters are the station master, Mr Horace Hepplewhite (played by Arthur Lowe); his son, Bertrand (Ian Lavender); station porter Percy Valentine (Kenneth Connor); Mr Bradshaw, the signalman (also played by Kenneth Connor); and station tannoy announcer Gloria Simpkins (Liz Fraser, who was also in the Carry On films, and appeared in the Dad’s Army feature film). The guest cast in some episodes included Bill Pertwee (also from Dad’s army, appearing in episode 11) and Roger Delgado. The announcer for the programme was Keith Skues.

Parsley Sidings – The 1890 Rocket (1972-01-02)

psid_105 THE 1890 ROCKET_ Parsley Sidings

Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender

The series was produced by Edward Taylor, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 2. Due to the BBC’s former practice of wiping tapes after the broadcast of a show, only a minority of the 21 episodes produced are still in their archives  – Goodbye, Parsley Sidings and The Entente Cordialare aired on BBC 7 occasionally and have always been in the BBC archives, while A Night OutA Bird in the Hand and The Secret Agent were recovered between 2001 and 2003 as off-air recordings from members of the public. These episodes too have been aired, in early 2007, on BBC 7. All the other episodes are known to exist in private hands.

Many of the voices were acted by Kenneth Connor

In 2008, more episodes were ‘discovered’, including the pilot and “The New Level Crossing”. It is not yet known whether these other episodes will be repeated.

You can hear Parsley Siding on the British Comedy Channel at the following times:

Weekdays at 16:00 GMT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episodes Guide

Series 1
Title Recorded First broadcast
Pilot Unknown 1971-02-28
The Market Special Unknown 1971-12-05
The Postal Express Unknown 1971-12-12
The Beauty Queen Contest Unknown 1971-12-19
The Inspector Calls Unknown 1971-12-31
The 1890 Rocket Unknown 1972-01-02
The Excursion Unknown 1972-01-09
Cricket, Lovely Cricket Unknown 1972-01-16
Who’ll Be Mother? Unknown 1972-01-23
The Concert Unknown 1972-01-30
Goodbye, Parsley Sidings Unknown 1972-02-06
Series 2
Title Recorded First broadcast
Pass The Parcel Unknown 1973-09-29
The Flower Show Unknown 1973-10-06
The Entente Cordial Unknown 1973-10-13
A Night Out Unknown 1973-10-20
The Goods Train Unknown 1973-10-27
A Bird In The Hand Unknown 1973-11-03
The Purity League Unknown 1973-11-10
The New Level Crossing Unknown 1973-11-17
The Film Makers Unknown 1973-11-24
The Secret Agent Unknown 1973-12-01
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It Sticks Out Half a Mile

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It Sticks Out Half a Mile was a BBC Radio sitcom created by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles as a sequel to the television war sitcom Dad’s Army, for which Snoad and Knowles had written radio adaptations.

The Main Cast

The original pilot episode, set in 1948, involved former bank manager and Home Guard Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) deciding to renovate a decrepit seaside pier in the fictional town of Frambourne-on-Sea, only to find when applying for a bank loan that the manager of the local branch is his former chief cashier and Home Guard Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier).

The pilot, recorded in 1981, was not used and Lowe died in April 1982, ending production. But Lowe’s widow had enjoyed the show and persuaded the writers to start again with a new cast. You can download the original pilot starring John Lowe from our download section.

The Series

Bert Hodges (Bill Pertwee), former ARP warden in Dad's Army

The new version involved Bert Hodges (Bill Pertwee), former ARP warden and nemesis of Mainwaring’s Home Guard unit, approaching “stupid boy” and former Home Guard Private Frank Pike (Ian Lavender) with a proposal to renovate the pier at Frambourne. In order to finance this plan Pike has to approach bank manager Wilson (Le Mesurier), who just happens to be his “uncle” (publicly a friend of his mother’s, but strongly hinted to the audience to be Pike’s father), for a loan.

Wilson suspects the only reason Hodges approached Pike was to get to the bank’s money through him. Nevertheless, Pike and Wilson put aside their wartime quarrel with Hodges – more or less – and the renovation begins.

Some different actors were used for some of the minor parts, for example Mrs Fox, who was played here by Mollie Sugden.

Broadcast

Due to the death of Arthur Lowe, the original pilot was not broadcast. The master recording was apparently wiped, but co-writer Snoad kept a copy which he later returned to the BBC. A short excerpt was played on a documentary entitled Radio’s Lost Property on 1 November 2003, with the complete programme heard on a BBC 7 compilation entitled Some of Our Archives were Missing on 29 May 2004 and again on 17 June 2008 to kick off a rerun of the entire series.

Actor John Le Mesurier played Bank Manager Arthur Wilson

The series proper was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 13 November 1983 and ran for 13 episodes. It was subsequently repeated again on BBC Radio 2, but an apparent mix-up between different BBC departments resulted in most of the original masters being wiped.

The series featured some of John Le Mesurier’s last performances and many listeners were shocked to discover that the BBC was still wiping material as late as the 1980s.

The BBC’s Treasure Hunt has unearthed off-air recordings of a great many shows that would otherwise have been lost, including It Sticks Out Half a Mile, and the digital radio archive channel BBC 7 has broadcast the recovered copies of the series. Some of these are of variable quality, but according to a message on the BBC 7 message board better quality versions have now been located.


Remakes

There were two attempts to adapt the show for television – without the Dad’s Army characters. The first was a BBC pilot, Walking the Planks, starring Michael Elphick.

The BBC decided not to commission a series, so Knowles and Snoad took the concept to Yorkshire Television, where a seven-episode series (now titled High & Dry) was made, with Bernard Cribbins taking over Elphick’s role. Richard Wilson and Vivienne Martin appeared in both versions.

Listen out for ‘It Sticks Out Half a Mile’ on the British Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

Ian Lavender plays 'Pike'

 

Arthur Lowe made the original pilot episode but passed away not long afterwards
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